Saturday 6th November 2010: Kick off 15:00
Line ups: Mignolet, Onuhoa, Turner, Mensah (Ferdinand), Bardsley, Elmohamady (Zenden), Cattermole, Henderson, Malbranque (Richardson), Gyan, Welbeck.
Begovic, Huth, Collins, Shawcross, Faye, Wilson, Whitehead (Delap), Sanli, Etherington, Walters (Fuller), Jones.
At risk of tempting fate, this week’s opponents Stoke City have failed to win a league game at the Stadium of Light since it’s opening. A string of 2-0 home wins over the Potters - plus a 4-0 and 3-1 victory here and there too - have meant we have some sort of hoodoo over them up on Wearside.
An attendance of 36,541 was smaller than the usual crowds we had been producing that season. It was the beginning of November and we were sitting pretty in 7th place with only three defeats to our name - but in that last sentence lies the problem. The weekend beforehand we had been absolutely hammered by that lot up the road - a 5-1 defeat at the home of your local rivals is enough to take the stuffing out of any fanbase, and this game was one the fans simply demanded a performance from.
The team line up barely changed from the previous weekend - only Titus Bramble missed out through suspension - and our top scorer Darren Bent also missed the game through injury as he nursed a hamstring strain. He was replaced in the line up by our record signing, Asamoah Gyan, for his first league start at the club.
Stoke had their own record signing in their team, namely our former striker Kenwyne Jones, who lined up alongside former Sunderland captains Dean Whitehead and Danny Collins - it was a period where any team they lined up with seemed to have a host of former Black Cats in amongst them.
A decent start by the away team was given an early blow as we took the lead through Gyan in the ninth minute. An attempted shot from Onuoha was blocked, only for the loose ball to be gratefully turned in by the Ghanaian.
We could have doubled our lead shortly afterwards as Gyan made a nuisance of himself in the box again and won a penalty, a foul from Jonathan Walters resulting in the referee pointing to the spot. The cult hero that is Steed Malbranque stepped up to take it, but his tame effort was easily palmed to safety by Asmir Begovic.
With the home team now far in the ascendancy, the crowd seemed a little unnerved due to the previous weekend's capitulation.
Tony Pulis’ Stoke side came out of the traps fastest in the second period and should have had a chance to level the score but for some poor refereeing from Martin Atkinson. A goal mouth melee from a corner ended up with Kenwyne Jones’ header being knocked off the line by the arm of Lee Cattermole. As he waived away appeals for a spot kick, instead giving a corner, the crowd breathed a sigh of relief knowing we had escaped a cast iron penalty.
Despite strong protests from the visitors, Atkinson would not be moved on his decision, even after a consultation with his linesman. The resulting corner almost resulted in a goal - another Jones header was cleared off the line, this time by the boot of Phil Bardsley.
However, the Lads weathered the typical Tony Pulis aerial onslaught and managed to break free in the Stoke City half with around ten minutes to go. The energetic Danny Welbeck forced Ryan Shawcross in to a foul, meaning a second bookable offence left Stoke to finish the game with ten men and again, Asamoah Gyan took full advantage.
With four minutes to go a deflected pass from our substitute Kieran Richardson fell into the path of the World Cup star, and he leathered home into the bottom corner with all the class you’d expect from a £13 million pound signing.
The win was wrapped up and whilst the pain of the weekend previous weekend not erased, it at least subsided. We went home and spoke of the excitement at seeing our big summer buy finally show his quality as we shared a few pints, which admittedly tasted a little better than they had done for a good few days.