From The Durham Times: Time To Build On Great Away Day

Julian Finney

Every week we provide our views to top local newspaper The Durham Times. It's out on a Friday, and this is the delayed version, so make sure you get yourself to your local shop next week and get a copy. The local press are a valuable asset for football fans, so give them 50p! Here's our latest piece.

One decision can change everything in the ‘beautiful game', and that was the case as Sunderland picked up their first away victory in 14 attempts at Craven Cottage on Sunday.

Brede Hangelaand's red card divided opinion on Twitter. Some thought that it was harsh, and that the defender took the ball, others would argue that by jumping in with two feet off of the ground, he sacrifices control of the situation, making the tackle dangerous and deserving of a sending off. For my money, he had to go.

While Sunderland were excellent in the second half, it is difficult not to claim that the sending off changed the game. Fulham were on top before the referee showed the red card, but we can only beat what is in front of us, and be it ten men or 11 - and to be fair, it's been 10 on both occasions this season - and that is what we did.

Things finally began to click in Adam Johnson's game, and the winger can be delighted to finish the match with two fine assists. I realise that some people would claim it as three, but it would be a disservice to Stephane Seggegnon to claim that his goal owed thanks to anyone else. But, however spectacular Sess's strike was - and it really was an incredible hit - our opening goal must have been the most pleasing of the three in Martin O'Neill's eyes.

Newspapers around the country rejoiced in being able to label it a £22m goal thanks to the two players involved, but it was a counter-attacking strike of great beauty, and showed what both Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher are capable of. Johnson's pass was one that you would be happy to watch on repeat for hours, it oozed class and was almost inch perfect, considering the distance that it covered, and it deserved the kind of finish that Fletcher provided. The big Scot proved once again that he is a centre forward who thrives on good service, and he made light work of what was still an extremely difficult chance.

Of course, it wasn't all plain sailing. The defending for Fulham's equaliser was amateur at best, and while Carlos Cuellar tried to play everyone onside, John O'Shea forgot that defenders are meant to play to the whistle. I learnt that at school, and it seems a shame that the European Cup-winning defender seemed to have temporarily forgotten that it's important.

Of course, huge praise should also go to Simon Mignolet. The young Belgian proved once again that he's among the finest goalkeepers in the league, and if we can keep him a relative secret - which seems unlikely in his current form - then it can be considered something of a minor miracle.

We must now build on this result in our forthcoming home games, starting with a very tough game against West Brom. They have started the season strongly, but their bubble will burst at some point, and there is no reason that it can't be on Saturday in front of the Sky cameras, again.

A good result against Steve Clarke's Baggies would put us in a superb position ahead of the visit of Queens Park Rangers, a game that each and every one of us should expect us to win.

It's not time to get carried away, Fulham played 60 minutes with 10 men, but signs of improvement were evident against Everton, and we built on that at Craven Cottage. It's onwards and upwards from this point.

DAN WILLIAMS

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