Given that our opponents today are Plymouth Argyle, it seems fitting that we reflect on one of the many important victories that Sunderland earned in the topsy-turvy 2006-07 season.
In what is one of the longest trips in English League football, Roy Keane’s men travelled to play Ian Holloway’s Argyle, who were in a rich vein of form.
That said, so were we.
After another busy transfer window, the team looked in a great position to push for promotion on the back of securing the signatures of players such as Danny Simpson and Jonny Evans on loan from Manchester United, along with the purchase of young talent Anthony Stokes, who was coveted by a number of teams in the Premier League.
The Arsenal youngster had scored 16 goals in 18 games for Falkirk, gaining attention from far and wide.
Stokes chose Sunderland due to the opportunity of playing under his fellow Irishman Keane, He’d been given a handful of starts without hitting the back of the net, so started this game on the bench.
In the first half, Sunderland looked like a team that had completed an arduous journey to fulfil this fixture. Slow, lethargic and lacking creativity, the team had goalkeeper Marton Fulop to thank for keeping them in the game.
Argyle strikers Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Rory Fallon were a constant menace for the Sunderland defenders. Their physicality and pace ensured Fulop was kept busy by the Plymouth strikers.
On the stroke of half-time, however, Stern John’s header from a corner almost gave us an unlikely lead. Argyle goalkeeper Luke McCormick stretched his hand behind his head to push the ball away from the goal line, though replays suggest that, if VAR was in place, it would have counted.
After a first half of hard work, Sunderland’s quality shone through in the second 45, with Keane’s substitutes making the eventual difference.
Moments after coming on, Stokes showed the reason why so many teams wanted to sign him with a neat strike from outside the box, before David Connolly doubled the Sunderland lead after latching onto a neat pass from John and rounding McCormick.
The win was a further signal of intent from Keane’s men, who were putting together an incredibly impressive run of form at exactly the very right time. Post-match, Connolly suggested that we were the fittest team in the league.
The lads are very fit - there’s so much energy. We’ve got all stats for how far we run and about fitness levels.
There’s no doubt we’ve got a fit team and in the last half-hour that paid off.
We’ve scored quite a lot of goals in the second half and the latter stages of games. The manager’s enforced on us that we have to be patient.
Roy Keane heaped praise on his Sunderland side for getting the job done against a Plymouth team that had proven to be tough opponents.
We did the hard work in the first half and in the second half looked even better.
We’ve done the job I wanted us to. We’ve come in, got the result, got the points and are getting back out of here again.
I’m sure we all would take a similar win today against the same opposition!
Plymouth: McCormick, Connolly, Doumbe, Timar, Capaldi, Norris, Buzsaky (Summerfield 72), Nalis, Halmosi (Sinclair 61), Fallon, Ebanks-Blake (Gallen 72).
Subs Not Used: Sawyer, Gosling.
Sunderland: Fulop, Simpson (Liam Miller 89), Evans, Nosworthy, Collins, Edwards, Whitehead, Yorke, Hysen (Stokes 66), John (Leadbitter 74), Connolly.
Subs Not Used: Carson, Cunningham.