Sunderland travelled to the East Midlands to take on Derby County in Sky Sports' Good Friday late kick off.
Jake Clarke-Salter was ruled out to suspension, Joel Asoro to injury and Darron Gibson was released by mutual consent. Lynden Gooch started along with a return for Aiden McGeady and Donald Love, who replaced Adam Matthews.
Pride Park is close to a Harvester pub, which attracted most travelling supporters in search of a drink. Around the ground was not much more than an industrial estate; with the newly named iPro Stadium, replacing the Baseball Ground, in the centre. The train station is close to the ground as well as a Burger King and Pizza Hut. Ideal. The ground itself is similar to Boro's Riverside but with black seats, the away support is placed in the South East corner; with 1900 Black Cats making the trip from Wearside. Surprisingly, there was a good choice of pies, including a 'Stand up pastie' which I was clueless to what the contents were!
Sunderland looked shaky to start especially after Ashley Fletcher failed to capitalise on a defensive error. Derby looked as if they could've been three up in the opening exchanges but the Mackems took the lead on the 10 minute mark through academy graduate George Honeyman.
After a dangerous cross by Northern Irishman Paddy McNair was turned wide by Scott Carson, the resulting set piece was turned out to Honeyman by Lee Cattermole. Honeyman unleashed a mouth-watering strike to the far corner but a deflection off left back Craig Forsyth's head wrong-footed ex England shot-stopper Carson. An unlikely lead sent the travelling fans into raptures.
10 minutes before the break, after Sunderland missed about half a dozen chances, Fletcher eventually proved me wrong and struck his first goal for Sunderland. On loan from Tony Pulis' Boro, he picked the ball up after Richard Keogh lost possession before shrugging off three Rams defenders and slotting it past ex Liverpool goalie Scott Carson at his near post with a very skilful strike.
Not long after, Lynden Gooch nearly added a third but unfortunately was a whisker away from reaching Fletcher's fizzing cross.
Most fans were in heaven with Sunderland being 2-0 up. Let’s face it, it's not exactly a regular occurrence! However, Czech striker Matej Vydra scored an absolute thunderbolt from the edge of the area to put Coleman's men on edge. Poor defending by the Black Cats' centre back John O'Shea, and Bryan Oviedo being outjumped at the back post, combined with Cattermole failing to block or charge down Vydra and his effort flew in the top left corner past the helpless Camp.
Just five minutes in and Gooch was brought down by Craig Forsyth inside the penalty box and the referee didn't hesitate to point straight to the spot. McGeady stuttered in his run up before smashing it low past Carson at his right hand side.
Sunderland picked up four yellow cards in the space of 13 minutes with Lamine Kone, O'Shea, Cattermole and Love all having their names taken by the referee.
Fletcher came close to a brace when he rattled the post with a long distance effort but the fourth just didn't seem to be coming. This became more apparent when Paddy McNair's looping header, from a corner, clattered the crossbar; it just didn't seem to be happening for Sunderland and as the game progressed. To some, a big self-destruct button was still in the picture.
Derby did miss a massive chance when Vydra failed to convert from 6 yards out, a chance you'd have put your house on for him scoring.
It wasn't until 15 minutes from time when skipper O'Shea turned in from close range to seal th deal. That was after centre half partner Lamine Kone hooked the ball back across the goalmouth from a corner. A surprising win to say the least but something that will seem pointless unless followed up on.
As I say, this massive win will be meaningless unless we manage to beat fellow strugglers Sheffield Wednesday on Easter Monday. Wednesday also won 4-1 on Good Friday, Jos Luhukay's men beating Preston at Hillsborough.
Cookie's rallying call to the fans may be answered at the Stadium of Light, hopefully, as Sunderland need to take maximum points from the match due to Birmingham's win over Ipswich. Despite leapfrogging Burton Albion and off the foot of the table, Sunderland are still five points from safety with a similar goal difference to Garry Monk's Blues. Monday will be a make or break game and could possibly hint to our fate. No matter what league, who the owner or players or manager are, there'll always be the fans and days like Friday are the days for the fans, especially our loyal travelling support which, considering the circumstances, is one of the best in the country.
Thanks for reading and all the best!