A crucial win, a gutsy win, and a win that proved beyond any doubt that even when results and performances are erratic, this Sunderland team has the heart for the fight, and the ability to dig deep and grind out results when needed.
After a dismal first half and a much-improved second, the Lads left Yorkshire with all three points and the huge confidence boost that winning a game like this can provide.
Pre-match, Mowbray’s selection of Leon Dajaku, as well as a place on the bench for Jewison Bennette and the omission of Edouard Michut from the matchday squad raised one or two eyebrows, but as ever, the head coach would either stand or fall by his decisions.
Indeed, the temptation to slip into ‘I’ll take a draw tonight’ mode was strong, but a glance at the table suggested that this was a game from which the three points needed to be banked. With Huddersfield mired in the bottom three and Cardiff next up on Wearside, it was a good chance to get back to winning ways and continue to recover from the sickening defeat to Burnley.
The early stages at a rainswept and sparsely-populated John Smith’s Stadium were reasonably uneventful.
We retained possession of the ball quite comfortably but an early run from Patrick Roberts was stopped by the linesman’s flag, and at the other end, a Jack Rudoni shot whistled over a bar after a neat turn on the edge of the box by the former Wimbledon midfielder.
Despite their lowly league position, Mark Fotheringham’s side had started brightly, and we did look slightly fragile at the back and too open in midfield as the Terriers tried to ramp up the pressure. A handball claim against Luke O’Nien - who’d started brilliantly - was waved away by the referee after an early scare.
Just before the twenty minute mark, a decent chance fell to Dennis Cirkin, who flashed a shot across the face of goal after an accurate cross, but that was a rarity - it wasn’t really clicking for the Lads, and ten minutes later, there was more frustration.
Despite some crisp passing in and around the Huddersfield area, Leon Dajaku’s shot was frustratingly off target after Corry Evans’ effort had been parried.
Frankly, by the half hour mark, the game had descended into a grind, with nothing to get excited about.
There was little action of note, the increasingly torrential rain made it difficult for both teams to find a rhythm, and when half time finally arrived, it was a relief, because from a Sunderland point of view, it had been a first half to forget.
Too many of our players had made little to no impact, and we looked disjointed and generally out of sorts. There was no lack of effort, summed up by a gritty performance from O’Nien, but it just hadn’t come together in key areas.
Mowbray changed things up ahead of the second half, as Ellis Simms entered the fray for Dajaku, but the first two chances fell to Huddersfield, as Ibrahima Diarra almost got on the end of a left-wing cross and Rudoni saw another shot drift wide.
Eventually, after fifty five torturous minutes, we made the breakthrough, and you couldn’t have written the script any better.
Ten minutes after he somehow kicked himself in the leg and fell over, Alex Pritchard was on hand to stab home the opening goal after some good work down the right wing from Patrick Roberts and Amad.
It was a brilliant moment for the former Huddersfield player, who’d been booed all evening and whose recent form had been patchy, but this was an ideal way to ram a few critical sentiments back down people’s throats.
After taking the lead, the question was whether we could hold our nerve and see the game out, ideally with another goal, and the introductions of Dan Neil and Abdoullah Ba - who continues to impress with every game he plays- hinted that attack was the plan.
Indeed, when Amad curled a shot wide of the right hand post, the lead was almost extended, but the tension lingered as the home team battled gamely to rescue something from the game. However, the on-loan Manchester Utd attacker was not to be denied.
With the clock running down and Huddersfield pushing for an equaliser, Simms slipped the ball to his teammate, who calmly stroked home our second goal, to the delight of another superb and relentlessly vocal away support.
Job done, and now it’s on to Saturday, where we have another chance to continue to build some momentum. We’ve responded well to the Burnley defeat, with a solid draw and a well-earned victory, and hopefully the league table will continue to look more favourable before we pause for the World Cup in just over a week’s time.