With around twenty minutes to go in the game tonight, whilst such a wonderful display of football was going on, I actually felt a little sad inside. Why? Because quite simply this was such a fantastic performance from us I didn't want it to end.
Everything about tonight's performance was spot on. The passing was slick and effective, we looked dangerous every time we had the ball, and some of the goals were out of this world. So come and recap a wonderful night at the Stadium of Light with our full match report...
Three changes for the lads, and all enforced through injury as Jack Colback replaced David Vaughan, Michael Turner came in for Wes Brown and Fraizer Campbell got his first start in blooming ages ahead of Connor Wickham who was only fit enough for the bench. Joining him on an attacking looking bench was new boy Wayne Bridge, and young striker Craig Lynch.
We certainly enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges at the Stadium Of Light. Inside the opening five minutes Fraizer Campbell had two efforts, both blocked by John Ruddy. The first a shot from outside the area which was eventually deflected for the keeper to make a comfortable save. The second a header at the front post following a wonderful ball from James McClean, a little more testing.
Sebastian Larsson was keen to get in on the act too, first of all whipping in a delicious free-kick which only needed a touch to find the net, alas none came. Secondly he was picked out expertly by Stephane Sessegnon in the area, but dragged his shot wide when he should have done better. All this with only ten minutes played, we were certainly ahead on points if nothing else.
Despite the chances, it was Norwich who forced the first meaningful save of the game. Grant Holt, a man of size, seemed to go completely unnoticed by Michael Turner in the area, forcing Mignolet into a point blank save to keep us in it. Thankfully Andrew Surman's follow up was well wide of the mark but signs were there that despite the early dominance, Norwich are, and remain, a good side, not one to be taken lightly.
Things had gone a little quiet after that, but it didn't last long as Fraizer Campbell scored what one Soccer Saturday drunkard would no doubt call "an absolute worldy"...
Clever thinking by Kieran Richardson to take a throw quickly and feed McClean down the wing. McClean found Campbell twenty or so yards out. One touch to control, then the sweetest of half volleys saw the ball loop over Ruddy and into the net, instantly bringing up memories of Kevin Phillips against Chelsea ten or so years earlier. The "Goal Of The Season" contenders continue to rack up.
Whilst we were still marveling over Campbell's goal, he reminded us he has a few other tricks up his sleeve as he turned provider for Stephane Sessegnon to make it 2-0.
Sess' magic started it however, with the ball on the half-way line nutmegged Bradley Johnson and played it first time to Campbell waiting out wide. As the first time cross came in, the writing was on the wall. You knew it was going to be a second goal before it even landed inch perfectly on Sessegnon's head and later nestling in the bottom corner.
Barring that earlier Holt chance, it was a thoroughly deserved lead too as we'd spent most the first period camped in the Canaries half.
That was it for the half. Craig Gardner's potshot went wide of the mark, as did Russell Martin's for the visitors but we were certainly good value for the lead having defended resolutely (in the main) and looked like scoring with every wave of attack.
The second half started much as the first finished, breaking at pace, with style and continuing to look dangerous. The most notable of these when Craig Gardner broke into the box and saw his low drive well saved by Ruddy at the front post, the next shot to go into the front post though left Ruddy with no chance.
Superb work down the right involving Larsson and Bardsley, lead to the right-back being fed the ball in the area. his blast from near the byline was diverted in to the net via the thigh of Daniel Ayala, 3-0. No matter how hard Bardsley celebrated, I don't think he'll be given that one at the end of the day. The build-up work really cannot be underestimated though, wonderful passing to get Bardsley in the position in the first place.
To borrow yet more from Sky Sports employee's, one tax-dodger's son might have said we were literally, dripping with confidence. I think we might have been to be honest. Every single attack looked destined for the net, and it was almost four a minute later as Seb Larsson nipped in ahead of the defender to lay the ball across on a plate for either Sessegnon or McClean to finish. Sess nearly did but couldn't connect, which in itself was enough to put McClean off stride and the chance went begging.
From then on it was almost like we were seeing out time. The visitors had a decent chance when Steve Morison's header when millimeters past the post, Craig Gardner had yet another sighter go wide of the mark, even Jack Colback had a shot easily saved. The only real incident happening as Phil Bardsley took a knock and gave us a little bit of a worry but was OK to continue, elsewhere Ji Dong-Won replaced Fraizer Campbell who left the pitch to a well deserved standing ovation as we entered the final fifteen minutes.
To be honest, for those final fifteen minutes things were outright sloppy. Passes seemed to go astray, but to be honest who really cared? We'd certainly earned the right to make the odd mistake having gone 80 or so minutes without one. Aaron Wilbraham had a shot easily saved, Wayne Bridge and David Meyler came on for cameo appearances and a nice little run around.
Team (Ratings in brackets)
Starting XI: Mignolet (7), Bardsley (7), Turner (7), O'Shea (7), Richardson (7), Larsson (8), Colback (7), Gardner (8), McClean (8), Sessegnon (8), Campbell (8)
Subs Used: Dong-Won (6), Meyler (6), Bridge (6)
Man Of The Match: Fraizer Campbell - His remarkable comeback just keeps getting better and better, borderline fairy-tale stuff. An incredible opening to get things going, and managed to even nab an assist by pinging in a great ball for Sessegnon to nod home. A threat nearly all night, and you have to wonder if Kevin Davies would have afforded the same sort of performance. I'd wager not.
What a game, what a result. Made even better by us popping into 8th position. The SoL is well on its way to becoming a fortress once again. I'm still slightly pinching myself that this is, in the main, the same plodders who were destined for relegation under the watch of Steve Bruce.
Sunderland is left smiling from ear to ear tonight. I've run out of superlatives for this game now. Everything's just bloody brilliant.
Party With Marty.