Had it not been for our win over Reading in mid-September 2007, the picture would’ve looked pretty bleak for Sunderland by the time of this fixture against Lawrie Sanchez’s Fulham.
Admittedly, performances had not been terrible, but Roy Keane’s men were losing matches by the odd goal and were struggling to catch a break.
Despite decent performances during the games against West Ham and Arsenal, we left the capital empty-handed, leaving us languishing closer to the bottom three than we perhaps deserved.
This game, therefore, was seen as the perfect opportunity for us to get back on the horse and pick up a crucial three points, with a tougher run of fixtures on the horizon.
On a typically blustery October afternoon with the wind swirling around the Stadium of Light, it was the visitors who started menacingly, with Clint Dempsey heading a Simon Davies free-kick straight at Craig Gordon, and David Healy dragging a shot wide with his left foot following a poor clearance from Danny Higginbotham.
Sunderland, meanwhile looked devoid of ideas, and our passing was sub-par, leaving Kenywne Jones and Michael Chopra frustrated at the lack of chances that were being created for them.
On the half hour mark, Fulham took the lead through a Davies free kick - and what a free kick it was. From almost thirty yards out, he curled the ball into the top left corner as Gordon desperately tried to get across his goal.
In truth, it was well deserved, and we were fortunate to only be a goal down at the break. As the whistle blew, it was hoped and expected that Keane would tear into the players and that they would respond in the second half, but unfortunately, it didn’t happen.
There was little in the way of creativity on display from the Black Cats, and Fulham could’ve gone further ahead, but Dempsey sent an overhead kick too high.
Things got worse before they got better, with Greg Halford picking up a second yellow card. This dismissal, the second of his Sunderland career, ultimately spelled the end of his torrid time at the club after only eleven games.
With five minutes to go, and with our first meaningful opportunity of the game, we grabbed an equaliser.
Having scored twice during the previous two games, Jones was becoming a bit of a talisman, and he got us out of jail in this game, too.
An inswinging cross from Grant Leadbitter was met by the Trinidad and Tobago international, who rose highest to direct a header past Antti Niemi in the Fulham goal.
Bizarrely, it appeared that playing with ten men had sparked us into life, and we were extremely unfortunate not to win the game late on when Anthony Stokes was put through, but his scuffed shot was smothered by Niemi.
Jones had rescued a point, but in the context of this game it felt like three, and afterwards, Keane was surprisingly upbeat, despite a fairly inept performance.
In the first half we were disappointing and our passing wasn’t up to scratch.
But I thought we showed great character and we dominated the second half, particularly after going down to ten men, and we were unfortunate not to win.
It shows the type of players we have and I thought our fans were different class too. They stayed behind them.
Sunderland: Gordon, Halford, Nosworthy; Higginbotham, Collins, Leadbitter; Etuhu (Stokes 61’), Miller, Wallace; (Harte 71’), Jones, Chopra (Murphy 61’).
Subs not used: Ward, Connolly.
Sent off: Halford.
Goals: Jones 86’
Fulham: Niemi, Omozusi, Hughes; Stefanovic, Bocanegra, Davies; Davis, Murphy, Dempsey; Kamara (Ki-Hyeon 82’), Healy (Kuqi 69’).
Subs not used: Warner, Smertin, Ashton.
Booked: Dempsey, Davies, Stefanovic, Bocanegra.
Goals: Davies 32’
Ref: Andre Marriner (W Midlands).