During recent times, Sunderland have been deprived of the so-called ‘magic of the FA Cup’, and only twice in our last ten seasons had we progressed to the fourth round of the iconic tournament.
We were knocked out by Mansfield Town in consecutive seasons and before that, we came unstuck against Walsall and Gillingham.
Therefore, to say that the love of the competition had faded on Wearside was an understatement.
However, after a win over Shrewsbury Town in the previous round, the magic of the FA Cup was reignited, the prospect of a trip to Craven Cottage to visit high-flying Fulham was tantalising, and it lived up to the billing during an enthralling encounter.
This was the Sunderland that we’re used to seeing in the Championship: making their presence felt, playing high-intensity football and with our youthful core impressing once again.
It would’ve been easy for Tony Mowbray’s side to roll over after Ross Stewart departed with little over twenty minutes on the clock, but it didn’t happen.
We reverted to a ‘false nine’ approach, with Amad taking up the role of the main forward, and the interplay between himself and Patrick Roberts was clinical. With the former Fulham winger having arguably his most dangerous game for the club and Amad in a blistering run of form, Marco Silva’s team simply couldn’t handle them.
If there were any negatives, it would be the fact that we missed some good chances but it was to our credit that we racked up seventeen shots against a usually resilient home defence.
Silva made seven changes to his starting eleven, but the second-half introductions of Aleksandar Mitrović, Willian, Bobby Decordova-Reid and Harrison Reed simply highlighted the quality of our performance.
This wasn’t a Fulham side who are struggling at the bottom of the Premier League, either.
Silva’s players are fighting for European football, which made this result all the more positive, and it was a day where everyone played their part.
Anthony Patterson had one of his best displays in a Sunderland shirt, and Dan Ballard and Danny Batth continued to develop their defensive partnership, with Dan Neil and Edouard Michut doing the same in the centre of the park.
Not long ago, we might’ve been just a tad off the pace without Corry Evans, but Neil has begun to fill that role impressively, and Michut’s adjustment to the English game is looking ever more impressive.
All in all, there was a huge sense of pride about this Sunderland display.
Our attacking brand of football is starting to capture people’s attention, and so it should, because this performance against one of the Premier League’s surprise packages was one that made Mackems across the world proud of their team.
After so many years without it, it seems that the magic of the FA Cup is still alive!