In my experience of support Sunderland AFC, the football usually spoils a good day out. The optimism and anticipation of the journey down often evaporates after two early goals from the opposition. But, after 90 minutes of defiant chanting and a journey home drowning our sorrows and murdering as many songs as possible it’s hard to not feel a sense of pride after arriving home from an away game.
This makes our 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace back in 2014 stand out more than most - we were the better team, we won and made history in the process by achieving our first televised Monday night Premier League success.
That said, the journey home was anything but enjoyable.
After experiencing an 8-0 defeat in our last away game followed by a 2-0 reverse at home to Arsenal, confidence was at an all-time low on Wearside. With Gustavo Poyet under pressure to find a quick fix to our growing problems, a trip to South London to face a Neil Warnock managed Crystal Palace was not the most appealing of prospects.
Ahead of the game the Sunderland manager made changes, most notably handing free signing Anthony Reveillere and Costel Pantilimon their first league starts for the club.
Omens did not look good for Sunderland and hearts were in the mouths of the over 2,000 travelling supporters as Fraizer Campbell went down in the area under a challenge from Santiago Vergini - fortunately, the referee did not point to the spot.
After half an hour Sunderland took the lead when Steven Fletcher nodded a Patrick Van Aanholt cross back across the face of goal in to the bottom left hand corner, which gave the Black Cats the lead at the break. Thankfully, the striker refrained from cupping his ears to the Sunderland fans as he ran over to celebrate in front of the away end.
After 54 minutes Crystal Palace were level, Wes Brown cruelly wrong footing Pantilimon and turning the ball in to his own net.
We know all know what happens next, don’t we? Sunderland sit back, invite pressure, defend for our lives and just when it looks as though we will emerge with a point, we concede a soft goal in the 90th minute.
Except, this fixture seemed to hold little regard for tradition - The Wearsiders stayed in the game and in the 78th minute Jordi Gomez’s sweet strike put Sunderland back in front.
Even more remarkably, the remaining minutes were relatively pain free. Palace launched a series of looping long balls into the penalty area which were easily claimed by Costel Pantilimon.
With Palace committing men forward in search of an equalizer, Sunderland took advantage of the lack of numbers at the back when Steven Fletcher slotted home his second of the night from a Liam Bridcutt pass, and the points were secure.
For myself, though, things soon turned sour as we attempted to head back North after the match.
One of the massive lads in our travelling party had managed to get return train tickets from Leeds to Kings Cross to Leeds for £20. Our designated driver then had a relatively stress-free drive back to the north east, with very little traffic on the roads.
That was the plan, anyhow. We were on a tight schedule and after the game we had to get a train which took us to the London Underground before a tube to Kings Cross… before 11.30. Typically, we missed the first train by seconds.
As we arrived at Kings Cross it looked increasingly unlikely that we would make the train home in time. As soon as we got off the tube we sprinted up the escalators and onto the platform, to see the guard preparing to allow the train to depart. Unfortunately, two of our contingent hadn’t made it in time and our pleas fell on deaf ears and, just as the stragglers made it to the only train in England to depart on time, it pulled away.
After much swearing and ranting we eventually found a way to get home - a Mega bus to Leeds was to leave London Victoria at midnight. So, grudgingly, we made our way to the bus station to commence upon the longest six hour journey of our lives.
By the time I arrived back at my flat in Sunderland it was around 10am on Tuesday morning, 24 hours after I had left Sunderland for the game.
Ah well - at least we won, and we can laugh about it now.