I went into this game thinking it would be a boring, nothing game with nothing happening, wishing I was sitting enjoying 'Survival Sunday' with everyone else... I'm so glad I wasn't. This was an absolute belter of a game. End to end for long periods, and a wonderful performance from SAFC.
So, why not recap that performance...Returning for Sunderland from injury were Asamoah Gyan & Anton Ferdinand. The (pointless) furore continued about Bruce 'rushing people back' and we all feared the worst. The other notable in the team was the absence of John Mensah from the 18. It would appear we've seen the last of Big John, and to be fair, he wasn't needed at all today.
In the opening exchanges, the best chances fell to Gyan. Firstly he snapped at shot a little early, secondly he failed to connect with any venom to a chance created by Steed Malbranque. Good he was in positions, but clearly lacked sharpness having been out for a few weeks.
Only second later Simon Mignolet was called into his first action of the game, diving well at the feet of Piquionne to deny the striker, quickly followed by a very smart diving save to deny Freddie Sears a goal following an effort which was curling towards the top corner.
West Ham turned up the pressure, Thomas Hitzlsperger stinging the palms of Mignolet with a vicious drive which Nedum Onouha scrambled away.
All this in the opening 10 minutes of a 'nothing game'... I was quite enjoying this!
Enjoying it even more so on the 16th minute, when who else but Bolo Zenden put us ahead. Ahmed Elmohamady sent in a stunning cross and the Dutchman, on his final appearance in the clubs colours rose above James Tomkins and Danny Gabbidon to loop a header over Robert Green. 1-0, celebrating in front of the travelling fans, his team mates held him aloft. Fingers crossed he'll change his mind?
The game from then became a little bit quieter, the best we offered was a wayward freekick from Phil Bardsley, but the lads were certainly in full control of this one. A tactical shift also occured early in the first half, with Jack Colback going to left back, Bardsley to right back and Elmohamady pushed into midfield. It worked very well actually.
As said, the first half couldn't keep up the frenetic pace, and it the half came to a close with Simon Mignolet making yet another fantastic save. Piqionne sending the ball across the six yard box to strike partner Zavon Hines, who got in ahead of Nedum Onuoha but the shot was blasted off the legs of Mignolet.
Into half-time we went. 1-0 up, looking fairly decent and praying there's no second half collapse which has become the norm.
Second half started in much the same tone as the first half. West Ham on the attack early, and Jack Collison's free kick saved well by Mignolet low down to his right.
A minute later, it was game over. 2-0 to the lads, happy days and checking the other scores commenced. Oh, yes the goal. A belter from Stephane Sessegnon. The Benin international picked the ball up on the half way line, and as West Ham retreated, he just ran and ran at them before thinking "you know what, I'm gonna hit this"... and so he did from all of 25 yards into Robert Green's bottom corner.
The Hammers rang the changes soon after the second goal, but it made little impact as Gyan sent another shot narrowly wide following yet more good work from Ahmed Elmohamady.
Jack Colback nearly grabbed his first goal for the lads when found in acres of space by Jordan Henderson, and forced Green into a smart diving save.
Sunderland had begun playing with a swagger and confidence not seen in weeks, you felt for the first time in a while we could score on every single attack.
Another reshuffling of the back as Sunderland made a pair of subs. Jordan Cook on to replace Asamoah Gyan, and Cristian Riveros on for Phil Bardsley, which meant another re-shuffle. Elmo switched to right back, Henderson out wide and Riveros slotting in the middle, as the game entered a quiet period.
Jordan Cook showed plenty of confidence cutting in from wide left to fire a right footed shot towards goal, however it was easily gathered by Green. Neat work from the youngster.
As time expired, and Sunderland seemingly set on seeingn out time, West Ham running out of ideas, the icing was put on the cake with the last kick of the game.
3-0 to the good guys, as Cristian Riveros slammed home his first goal for the lads. Jordan Henderson sending in a lovely cross, some awful defending from the hosts, and Riveros was there to take a touch and half-volley home left footed.
With that the game, and the season was over. News filtered through to the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand, Wigan won at Stoke City, Manchester City had beaten Bolton... What of Newcastle and West Brom? Newcastle were 3 goals to the good last we heard... Step forward Somen Tchoyi. He'll never have to buy a drink in Sunderland any time soon, as his second half hat-trick forced the draw we need to finish above both of them.
Black Cats, Top Dogs (again).
22 Mignolet - 9/10 - Superb when called up on, which was more frequently than we would have wanted.
02 Bardsley - 7/10 - A quiet one for Bardo, but he did pretty well all game.
07 Zenden - 8/10 - Great goal, and the man will be greatly missed by the SAFC faithful.
08 Malbranque - 8/10 - Excellent I thought, especially winning the ball in the West Ham half.
10 Henderson - 8/10 - Another bright game for the England international.
15 Onuoha - 7/10 - Generally solid, only one or two shakes.
25 Colback - 7/10 - Quiet, but thats how he would have wanted it in unfamiliar left-back role.
27 Elmohamady - 8/10 - Got forward with purpose, and defended well all game.
28 Sessegnon - 9/10 - Wonderful display, full of running and took goal very well.
29 Ferdinand - 8/10 - Solid at the back again. Could he still have a future here?
33 Gyan - 7/10 - Understandably off the pace for large parts, but at least he was there for chances.
16 Riveros - 6/10 - Scored a good goal, didn't do much else. Bruce seemed delighted though.
26 Cook - 6/10 - Aside from that shot not really involved, but that moment was encouraging.
And that's it. We're done. The season is officially over, and thank the lord we went out with a bang rather than whimper. We can all go on our jolly's feeling good about the club.
Hands up who would have took top ten, and finishing above them at the start of the season? I would, and you're bloody too right I would have after the injuries and everything.
On a personal note I want to thank everyone for reading these reports over the season. I hope you've enjoyed them as much as I have writing them. Don't worry, we'll be back next year, and prattling about all other SAFC stuff over the summer each and every day.
Take for example next week... Look what we've got lined up... CLICK HERE