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Quick Kicks: Thoughts And Reaction From Bolton Wanderers 2-2 Sunderland

Saturday's 2-2 draw with Bolton showed the best and worst in Sunderland over the course of 90-minutes, and of course we have plenty to say about it. Here's what we've been mulling over since then...

Mark Thompson

What The Gaffer Said

Martin O'Neill spoke with the club's official website after the game and seemed to be happy just to stay in the hat for the next round;

I'm delighted with the second half performance and that we are still in the competition.

It was a stirring effort and the players did magnificently.

They found some energy from somewhere to dig deep and fight back after conceding two sloppy goals and lose a couple of more players to injuries.

Just after their second goal we perhaps could have been forgiven for packing in, but we didn't and neither did the crowd.

The second half was non-stop.

We had chances to go on and get a winner, [James] McClean went close and so did Titus [Bramble] when he had a header from a tight angle.

We fought really strongly and I'm delighted with the effort from the team and crowd.

Connor Wickham did very well when he came on. It was great for him to get the goal and [Craig] Gardner's was a very special strike.

It rocketed into the back of the net - a truly terrific goal.

Bolton's goalkeeper made a number of good saves to keep them in the game towards the end. He was outstanding for them.

We looked like we had ran out of energy at Anfield earlier in the week but today we found some resource and determination to go on.

To be in the hat for the next round is what we wanted and we've achieved that.

It's a fairly accurate summing up of affairs from O'Neill, although you can't help but feel he was slightly too polite about our first hour's performance in the brief mentions of it. I'm sure stronger words have have been said behind the scenes though.

A Strange Game

The first half was absolutely awful. In fact, the first hour was awful. As awful as it's ever been in my time supporting the club and that goes back to the late eighties. We simply couldn't pass the ball ten yards to each other and looked completely devoid of inspiration. All the more annoying as Bolton were no great shakes themselves.

The last 30-minutes or so though, as O'Neill points out above, was the polar opposite of the first hour. Free flowing and attacking football which could have seen us go through without a replay as enough chances were created. Just another afternoon where you wonder how or why we got ourselves in such a position.

Vaughan Proves His Worth

Much to the delight of many, David Vaughan was given a start. I wasn't quite as excited but certainly intrigued to see if he lived up to the 'hype' which had been created by everyone in crying out for him to get games. He certainly lived up to the hype, and exceeded my expectations.

Even during the dire first hour Vaughan was the only one on the pitch who could have had his head still held high. Vaughan moved the ball around superbly - much quicker than Colback or Larsson seem to managed. The Welshman came into his own as we pushed for an equaliser as his all action style kept the tempo going and was a big part of why we were able to get level.

Wickham A Game Changer

The "injury" to Carlos Cuellar proved to be a very lucky break, and credit has to go to Martin O'Neill for being brave enough to put Wickham on when Matt Kilgallon was a more natural replacement.

Wickham's introduction caused havoc for the Bolton defence, who has coped pretty well with just Steven Fletcher on his own for the most part of the game.

O'Neill has now hinted that Wickham and Fletcher could play together and following this outing I don't think anyone would be against it.

Crazy Carlos Cuellar

In the early part of the season Carlos Cuellar was superb. In fact comfortably our best defender, but recently he seemed to have tailed off and Saturday was a spectacularly bad performance.

Concerning Bolton's opening goal, the blame has to lie 110% with Cuellar. Having got the ball back from Simon Mignolet there was a clear shout and point from Mignolet to get rid. We heard this in the stands, so it's no surprise that Titus Bramble wasn't paying much attention having thought Cuellar would follow orders rather than play it across the box.

What he was thinking I've no idea. The problem lies in that we've little other options we can use at the moment.

Bardsley To Be Nosworthy The Second?

Now this isn't exactly the cure to all our problems, more just something that dawned on me during the game. With Cuellar off nursing an injury and Connor Wickham entering the fray, Phil Bardsley was moved to central defence alongside Titus Bramble, where he did much better than he had at right-back.

Now it wasn't a marked improvement, nor was it the catalyst for any comeback, but it was an improvement. Perhaps there's a future for Bardsley in the centre of defence?

Craig Gardner has comfortably out-performed him at right-back this season and the same can be said of Danny Rose and Jack Colback at left-back. Many speculate that Bardsley could be on the way out, myself included and I wouldn't really miss him, but this could be a lifeline for him if he works at it.

Much like Nyron Nosworthy, he may prefer himself at full-back but it doesn't really work. One of Bardsley's many problems is getting forward and doing nothing, and also taking pot-shots which never really come off. Taking away his time on the ball and time to really think or over-think a situation might be addition by subtraction for Sunderland.

The Fans

Anything pertaining to Saturday's game can't go without a mention to the fans who were simply unbelievable. When things were at their worst and the game looked dead and buried they continued to believe and you think that must have had an effect on those on the pitch.

It's cliched to say that fans can make a difference, but Saturday proved that with support difference can be made. For the last half an hour our encouragement certainly helped to gain an equaliser while's Botlon's disinterest seemed to spread to their players too.

Bramble's Past Unworthy Of Song

(From Roker Report guest, author, journalist, and Sunderland fan Mark Metcalf)

Well done to those Sunderland fans who successfully challenged last weekend at Bolton those singing the disgusting ‘Titus Bramble sex songs', which have become some sort of badge of honour in an ill-judged campaign to annoy Newcastle fans. Bramble himself should also know better than to acknowledge those doing the signing as no-one singing the songs is doing it because they think he is a good player.

It was particularly clear from the reaction of many female fans at the Reebok that they do not like the song and would like it stopped. The song also tarnishes the growing reputation Sunderland fans are rightly getting for their vocal support away from home, with Sunderland fans at Man Utd, St Mary's, Anfield and at the Reebok simply superb in the non-stop noise they created. Brilliant, let's keep it up, but let's bin the Bramble chants.

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