Saturday’s 4-0 dismantling at the hands of Portsmouth was one that would normally have been hard to swallow.
That’s not to say that it isn’t - in fact, it was hard to fathom what exactly had gone wrong down in Hampshire, but at the end of the day we are still joint top after ten league matches.
The completely unexpected nature of the defeat had shades of a loss during our last promotion campaign of 2006/07. It was our 44th game of the season and we were on a 17 game unbeaten run.
The Premier League was within touching distance, and a trip to Layer Road, home of Colchester United, a side who had the slimmest of chances to make the playoffs.
Just over 6,000 fans were crammed into the ground, which was the sort of venue Sunderland had rarely visited. With the fans practically on top of the pitch, the Sunderland side chosen by Roy Keane to take us one step closer to promotion lined up as follows:
Darren Ward, Dean Whitehead, Jonny Evans, Nyron Nosworthy, Danny Collins, Carlos Edwards, Grant Leadbitter (Stephen Elliott 85), Dwight Yorke, Daryl Murphy (Anthony Stokes 73), Stern John (Ross Wallace 60), David Connolly. Unused subs: Marton Fulop, Liam Miller
Losing was not something we were familiar with at this point in the season. In fact, we were yet to lose in 2007 with our last defeat coming at home to Preston North End on 30 December.
When Wayne Brown put the hosts into the lead, there was little concern. This was seemingly rewarded 10 minutes into the second half when Dwight Yorke levelled things up from a Daryl Murphy cross. Parity restored and all was well, for about 20 minutes anyway.
A point wouldn’t have been a terrible result, but in the final 10 minutes things fell apart in an uncharacteristic way for a Roy Keane side. Richard Garcia put the U’s back in front and just a minute from time, Jamie Cureton sealed the win from the penalty spot after a foul by Dean Whitehead.
The defeat felt as though it came at a costly time in the season and although we slipped up, it was still in our hands. Fortunately, no more slip ups would occur. A 3-2 win at the Stadium of Light against Burnley courtesy of THAT Carlos Edwards goal followed by a 5-0 romp away at Luton sealed promotion and the title.
Although the timings of the Colchester defeat and the Portsmouth drubbing this season were very different, they both came off the back of good runs in the season. Before the Pompey trip, we’d lost just one in 9 since the start of the season.
Back in April 2007, we didn’t let a surprise poor showing knock us off track. It is important that we don’t let the defeat at Fratton Park do the same to us. In all honesty, I’ve got the faith in this squad and manager that I have not had since dropping into League One.
Who knows, maybe we might go on another 17 game unbeaten run as we did in the Championship days of Nyron Nosworthy and Dean Whitehead? We can certainly dream.