After a convincing defeat at the hands of Manchester United on Boxing Day, Roy Keane would’ve been desperate to pick up a much-needed victory when Gary Megson’s Bolton Wanderers visited the Stadium of Light on December 29.
Apart from a late win against relegation-bound Derby County in early December, Keane’s men were struggling and we found ourselves in the dreaded bottom three by the time this game came around.
Despite many close calls, it seemed that we simply weren’t equipped to take on the big boys in the Premier League- something that wasn’t helped by a lengthy injury list that was only beginning to ease.
Summer signing Kieran Richardson had barely played a game for the club since arriving on Wearside, but he made his return against Manchester United on Boxing Day, which was an enormous boost to a team who lacked real quality in attack.
And so it proved in this game, when Richardson’s first major contribution as a Sunderland player was to score a vital goal in a 3-1 win.
We took the lead inside fifteen minutes when Kenwyne Jones - our best player of the season up until this point - slipped in Richardson behind the Bolton defence to wallop a shot into the roof of the net.
Relief was written all over Richardson’s face and it appeared as though he’d finally arrived as a Sunderland player. The former United man then followed this up with a fantastic assist for the talismanic Jones, who doubled our lead.
Sunderland have relied heavily on the twenty three-year-old Trinidadian this season and he was on hand again in the 32nd minute to meet Richardson’s corner with a thunderous header and double the lead.
As was typical of Sunderland at the time, we were as fragile as a piece of blown glass, having conceded more goals than every Premier League club bar Derby up until this point, and just before half time, Bolton were back in the game.
After Liam Miller’s foul, El Hadji Diouf’s free-kick from the left channel eluded everyone before nestling into Craig Gordon’s net. It was another example of a completely avoidable goal that we conceded that season.
The second half was a tense affair for Keane’s men and with so few victories in 2007/2008 so far, the tension was palpable inside the Stadium of Light with everyone desperate for the win.
To Bolton’s credit, they didn’t sit back and responded strongly despite going two goals down, and Megson’s men absolutely dominated the second half without really threatening Gordon’s goal.
That said, they could and perhaps should’ve snatched an equaliser though when Diouf fired wide after collecting a Nicholas Anelka flick on sixty one minutes, which turned out to be their best opportunity in the second half.
In added time, Daryl Murphy added a third.
After Jones knocked down a long ball, the Irishman showed immense strength to hold off Danny Guthrie before he smashed the ball into the net.
This was a fantastic win for Keane’s men, and was enough to move us out of the bottom three.
With some big signings in the January transfer window, the team appeared to have a better grasp of the league in the second half of the season, as we eventually finished fifteenth overall.
Saturday 29 December 2007
Barclays Premier League
Stadium of Light
Sunderland: Gordon, Whitehead, McShane; Higginbotham, Collins, Miller; Richardson (O’Donovan 70’) Etuhu, Chopra (Leadbitter 46’); Cole (Murphy 57’), Jones.
Subs Not Used: Ward, Waghorn.
Goals: Richardson 13’, Jones 32’, Murphy 90’
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Samuel (Guthrie 56’), Meite; Andrew O’Brien, Gardner, Joey O’Brien; McCann, Nolan (Campo 87’) Diouf, Anelka; Davies (Giannakopoulos 73’)
Subs Not Used: Al Habsi, Michalik.
Booked: Davies, Diouf.
Goals: Diouf 41’
Ref: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)