It’s not often that you’d describe a 1-1 home draw with Wigan on a cold day in February as “entertaining”, but a game played out between Sunderland and Bobby Martinez’s side on this day eleven years ago was a real end-to-end affair, with Kenwyne Jones’ second half equaliser sending the Sunderland fans home happy, having trailed from the 20th minute.
Before we start...
Let me just reel off some of the team and squad from that day, because it’s a reminder of how decent we actually were back then. Craig Gordon, Jordan Henderson, Bolo Zenden, Lorik Cana, Andy Reid, Lee Cattermole, Darren Bent, Kenwyne Jones, Phil Bardsley, Steed Malbranque, Fraizer Campbell.
Not bad, eh?
The game marked the first appearances in a Sunderland shirt from Alan Hutton - signed on loan from Spurs - and Benjani, the Zimbabwean forward brought in from Manchester City.
Hutton, of course, was a total success at Sunderland and most of us were gutted he never signed permanently that following summer. His great runs forward, linking up with Henderson down the right-hand side, were a real delight that season, and that particular combination was first seen in this game - Hutton providing Henderson with the pass that led to Sunderland’s eventual goal.
The less said about Benjani the better, really. He was dross.
Sunderland: Gordon, McCartney, Turner, Kilgallon, Hutton, Henderson, Cana, Reid, Cattermole, Bent, Jones. Subs: Fulop, Bardsley, Da Silva, Zenden, Malbranque, Campbell, Benjani.
Wigan: Kirkland, Caldwell, Scharner, Boyce, Bramble, Figueroa, Thomas, N’Zogbia, McCarthy, Diame, Rodallega. Subs: Stojkovic, Melchiot, Moses, Gomez, Sinclair, Scotland, Moreno.
Anyway, back to the match. The game was an entertaining affair, with Darren Bent coming close early doors after connecting with an Alan Hutton cross - hit shot going straight at Chris Kirkland in the Wigan goal.
Wigan gave as good as they got, however, and really should have gone ahead after Paul Scharner fluffed his lines from close range.
The pressure from the visitors continued, and after some good work down the left from Figueroa and former Sunderland captain Charles N’Zogbia, Wigan eventually managed to make Steve Bruce’s side pay for allowing them so much of the ball.
After dispossessing Lorik Cana in the centre of the park, Mo Diame carried the ball through the Sunderland defence before lashing an unstoppable shot from the right-hand side of the box, and beyond Craig Gordon to give Wigan the lead.
Sunderland didn’t let that get them down though, and came back just as hard.
Kenwyne Jones - who was really up for it on the day - responded by going on a mazy run of his own, beating a number of players before batting a shot towards goal which flicked off Figueroa and onto the outside of the post.
Darren Bent then stuck the ball into the back of the net soon after, going round Kirkland to tap it in, but the flag was up for offside - a decision that the replays showed was incorrect.
Soon after Wigan almost doubled their lead, but thanks to the legs of Craig Gordon, James McCarthy’s shot was saved and the score remained the same.
Sunderland finally got their goal with 64 minutes on the clock, Kenwyne Jones connecting with an excellent Jordan Henderson cross to score and bring things level.
It wasn’t all great for Henderson though, as he picked up an injury that forced him off, though his replacement, Bolo Zenden, wasn’t a bad player.
The two sides laboured for the rest of the game but weren’t unable to take the lead, with Sunderland nabbing a point as their struggles in the league continued.
They hadn’t won in the league since beating Arsenal in November, and pressure was really starting to ramp up on Steve Bruce.
We wouldn’t win again until beating Bolton Wanderers 4-0 in March - Bruce’s side going over three months without picking up three points.
Some would say he’s got form for this sort of thing...
What the managers said...
Sunderland boss Steve Bruce:
I am not enjoying it. I’m not unduly worried, but I am not enjoying it, that’s for sure.
The one thing I am not going to do is give up on it - I have never given up on anything in my life, so I am not going to start now.
We have got to make sure we are ready for the challenge ahead. We won’t give up on it, that’s for sure and we will turn it around.
Wigan boss Roberto Martinez:
The hardest thing coming away from home is scoring that first goal and once we did that, we coped really well in the first half with Sunderland’s threat.
But the disappointment is that we needed to score that second goal. If you score that second goal, the whole games changes and everything is a little bit easier for you.
We are getting punished for very, very little and it seems we need a lot to take our chances.