The way things were, I was delighted with 3 points, disappointed with 1, and gutted to come away from the Britannia with nothing. Mind, it didn't help that SAFC were up against 12 men all afternoon...
SAFC started with a line-up very different to what I was expecting. 3 at the back! It was like a flash back to 1996 when everyone was doing it. I can see Bruce's logic, 3 defenders good in the air against the long balls of Stoke hoofed towards Jones & Carew. Sulley Muntari also made a start, whilst Sessegnon & Richardson were given license to roam behind Asamoah Gyan in attack.
In what is becoming a trend, SAFC got off the mark early doors. Only 3 minutes on the clock when Gyan bundled the ball to Kieran Richardson, who lashed an unstoppable drive in to the top corner from about 8 yards out. Fantastic stuff.
Sunderland dominated the game until the 30th minute or so...
Then enter Lee Probert for his first error. Stoke found an equalizer on the half hour through new boy John Carew. Was Craig Gordon impeded as he went to clear Rory Delap's long throw, or was Carew off side when he hooked it in from less than a yard out? You could take your pick really, Probert chose none, and we were all level.
Not a great deal more action for the rest of the half, Muntari had a wild slash from distance that went narrowly wide, but the half kind of petered out with both teams seemingly settled for 1-1.
As the half time whistle came, SAFC fans near the players tunnel voiced their discontent towards Probert, who aside from the goal, had been booking people, avoiding giving freekicks, and generally being a boob.
Now, if I were a ref, and I was getting shit from the fans, I'd keep my head down, go down the tunnel, take it like a man, and continue to do a professional job. Probert however, chose to stare down the SAFC fans, almost goading them. I couldn't see from my position if words were exchanged, but I wouldn't have been surprised if they were.
I'm not suggesting Lee Probert held this against us, but he wasn't exactly our friend in the second half.
And again, SAFC started the secone half like they did the first. 3 minutes gone, and Muntari's ball over the top is aimed towards Gyan, Huth looked the comfortable favourite for it, but Gyan got the better of him, and slammed it home, sending the SAFC faithful delirious as he showed us some moves. Also kissed the badge too, for those interested.
Stoke continued to pump ball after ball into the box, but Gordon appeared to be dealing with them well. Brucey must have had a word at half time, becuase he was catching everything, as opposed to punching.
The game was a bit 50-50 at this point, and if anything Stoke coming more into it. The ball kept coming, and SAFC trying to hit them on the counter. Richardson, Gyan & Sessegnon working well together to provide options and all three looked a threat every time they got the ball.
This all changed in an instant, as Stoke City found another leveller in the 83rd minute. Again in controversial circumstances. Another soft freekick is floated in towards Carew, who carefully handled the ball on the general direction of Robert Huth, who managed to turn the ball in, again from less than a yard out. Probert turns yet another blind eye to the incident. 2-2.
So after letting the lead slip twice, and only a few minutes remaining I thought to myself 'Alright then, lets get out with a point'... I was denied this wish.
In the 93rd minute or whatever it was, a copy of Huth's first, as another soft freekick goes floating in, and this time Huth is on hand to steal a march on Titus Bramble, and score. Got no complaints really about this one, just poor defending.
So the final whistle goes, and we're all a bit gutted. Still 6th though for now. Come on Chelsea tomorrow.
01 Gordon - 6/10 - Punched a bit too much. Had very little protection, but not his best day today.
02 Bardsley - 7/10 - Another solid performance, just about his standard.
03 Richardson - 8/10 - All over the park, great goal, full of energy. Contender for MOTM.
05 Mensah - 7/10 - Making his return he did pretty well, very calm, no major errors.
10 Henderson - 5/10 - Looked off the pace yet again, for love of God Brucey, give the lad a rest!
11 Muntari - 7/10 - Good debut, some great passes, but still slightly off pace. Will be a good signing though.
15 Onouha - 6/10 - Not great in the wing back role. Fine defensively, poor going forward.
19 Bramble - 6/10 - Decent, but terrible defending for the winner.
28 Sessegnon - 8/10 - Star of the show, always a threat and played well with Gyan. Just wait til he's settled!
29 Ferdinand - 7/10 - Nothing wrong, fairly competent in all that was asked of him.
33 Gyan - 8/10 - Much better than against Chelsea, chased down lost causes, and got a great goal.
07 Zenden - 5/10 - Not on long enough to do anything.
08 Malbranque - 5/10 - See Zenden
And so another game is in the books. No points to show, and a shocking referee to boot. Steve Bruce summed things up perfectly after the match - "We were not strong enough to deal with Stoke's long balls into the box. We also needed an official to be strong, that didn't happen either."
I'd hate to wonder what Cesc Fabregas would have made of Lee Probert today, but enough about that bumbling boob, let's look forward.
Spurs next week is now a massive game, and we desperately need the 3 points having got nothing today. We head into that game still 6th provided Chelsea beat Liverpool, but our grasp is slipping. Let's get back to winning ways.
Keep the faith everyone.