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Roker Report End Of 2016 Awards - SAFC's Best Away Game

It's almost time for us to say hello to the New Year - and, with that in mind, we polled our readers to find out which away game they felt was the best in 2016.

Norwich City v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

In Fourth Place...

Watford 2-2 SAFC, 15th May (9%)

You could be forgiven for forgetting what happened on the pitch when Sunderland travelled to Watford. Just days earlier, we'd confirmed survival in style by demolishing Everton and relegated our closest rivals in the process. That meant it was party time in the Vicarage Road away end.

There was a pre-season feel to that day - there were daft chants (We're staying up, they're going down...), a lot of youngsters in the squad and it was boiling hot. Jack Rodwell put The Lads ahead in the first half, only for Sebastian Prodl's header to cancel it out.

Watford v Sunderland - Premier League

We were back in front three minutes later though, when Jeremain Lens put a well placed effort into the bottom corner. Watford managed to rescue a point through a Troy Deeney penalty, the striker blasting the spot kick past Jordan Pickford.

As I said though, it was off the pitch where the fun was. The fans finally getting to relax and just enjoy themselves, knowing whatever the results, the spirits couldn't be dampened.

In Third Place...

AFC Bournemouth 1-2 Sunderland, 5th November (14%)

Or as it should be known - Victor Anichebe Day.

Big Vic inspired Sunderland to fight back from 1-0 down to claim their first win of the season at The Vitality Stadium. The referee felt so sorry for Bournemouth that he tried give them a chance by reducing The Lads to ten men, but the force that was Anichebe couldn't be halted.

After thundering a strike in off the post to equalise, Anichebe was then fouled for the penalty which Jermain Defoe dispatched to put Sunderland ahead. The "Karma Chameleon" inspired Cheebs song rang around Bournemouth all afternoon as defenders kept bouncing off him and he kept dictating Sunderland's play.

AFC Bournemouth v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Alex Morton/Getty Images

It was fitting that the final whistle went with Anichebe holding up the ball in front of the travelling band of Mackems. It was a Didier Drogba-like performance and, no matter what he did after it, Anichebe had already earned cult hero status, playing through most of the game with a rib injury.

Jordan Pickford earned his share of the plaudits too, pulling off a world class save towards the end of the game to keep The Black Cats in front. We had a man stronger than a brick wall up front and a goalkeeper who offered even more protection than one. It was a long journey home but the performance that day had us floating back to Wearside.

In Second Place...

Swansea 2-4 Sunderland, 13th January (16%)

If you travel all the way to Swansea, on a Wednesday night, just after Christmas, when the game has been pushed back with little notice, you deserve to see someone score a hattrick.

It wasn't the greatest performance from Sunderland but they had two players in unstoppable form at the time - Jermain Defoe and Patrick van Aanholt.

Swansea City v Sunderland - Premier League R during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Sunderland at Liberty Stadium on January 13, 2016 in Swansea, Wales (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

A hattrick from Defoe was the headline grabber, the second one being a lovely finish after breaking the offside trap. The flying Dutchman was just as important though, setting up Defoe for his third and it was his deflected effort that put The Lads back on level terms just after the break.

How many times have we all made journey's like this, only to watch us get torn apart? Well not on that cold Wednesday in South Wales. The hardcore travellers were rewarded with a very memorable win.

And The Winner Is...

Norwich City 0-3 Sunderland, 16th April (61%)

This was the game where it looked like Sunderland had the mettle to survive. Travelling to fellow strugglers Norwich, the fight in the team was shown in the first five minutes when a meaty challenge on DeAndre Yedlin led to a Western Saloon like brawl. Sam Allardyce was quick to get involved, backed up by John O'Shea leaping off the bench to stick his oar in. That set the tone, Sunderland were going to fight harder than the home side and they would be leaving Carrow Road with all three points.

In the stands, the travelling Wearside faithful were ignited by the earlier scrap and it kept us behind the team as Norwich pushed forward. For all the Canaries dominated possession early on, they were failing to break through sufficiently in the final third. Their best chance came when Vito Mannone had to react quickly to a cross which deflected off the knee of Younes Kaboul but that was as close as they came to breaking the deadlock in the first half.

Sunderland took the game by the throat either side of half time. A late challenge by Andre Wisdom on Fabio Borini gave the Italian the chance to put Sunderland ahead on the stroke of half time. A trademark, stuttered run up, spot kick saw Borini bury the shot and he would turn provider 12 minutes later. A great challenge in the middle of the pitch from Jan Kirchhoff won possession, as the cultured midfielder set Borini away down the right. Barely even needing to check if Jermain Defoe would be there to get on the end of it, Borini whipped a low cross to the back post where Defoe stuck his toe on the ball to make it 2-0. Arm in arm, Defoe and Borini jubilantly drank in the scenes in front of the away end, with Sunderland in pole position to take a huge three points.

Norwich City v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images

A spell of Norwich pressure followed, Nathan Redmond hit the foot of the post and Lee Cattermole was forced to make what seemed like 20 goal line clearances in the space of 20 seconds. Again the fight in the squad was being displayed, Catts slapping anyone in red and white on the back of the head as he demanded their focus. Basically, it was what Steven Gerrard wished he could have inspired with his "this doesn't slip now" speech.

With gaps opening up as Alex Neil's men desperately sought a way back into the game, substitute Duncan Watmore was beginning to exploit that space. In a bid to whip up Carrow Road into a frenzy, Norwich handed out "clappers" and inflatable canaries to the home fans before kick off. They would be left discarded on the edge of the pitch though, as Watmore wrapped up proceedings and handed control of the race for survival to Sunderland.

It can't be said enough just how big this win was. It put Sunderland one point behind Norwich, with a game in hand, and two points better off than Newcastle who were yet to play, due to this game being the days early kick off. The fans who made the journey to East Anglia knew that as well, with songs of confidence being yelled from the away end while the home fans had to face the grim reality of their situation.

For a travelling fan, this is the away game you dream of. Going on a long, arduous journey, for an important game, having pints with mates/family and being able to laud the result over the locals because your team were better and wanted it more than theirs.

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