Unpredictably, we started sluggishly and in the first twenty minutes we really struggled to control the ball as Palace pressed early. As early as about 25 seconds, as Santiago Vergini surprisingly scythed down former Black Cat Frazier Campbell inside the penalty area – thankfully Phil Dowd had a shock up his sleeve as he waved away the penalty claims despite it being a rather blatant one. Palace continued to pile on the unpredicted pressure but other than some decent deliveries they failed to create any opportunities.
From nowhere we took the lead with a superb finish. Patrick van Aanholt, who was easily our best player up to that point, did well to keep himself onside and was amazed by the acres of space he had to cross to Fletcher, whose header was a bit special. Measured and precise, the Scot nestled it into the bottom corner as we took the lead.
Almost immediately after the goal, van Aanholt might’ve conceded an unlikely penalty as he suffered a suspected dislocated shoulder. He was promptly stretchered off, to some embarrassing boos from the home crowd, and rushed off to hospital. Fingers crossed he is okay.
The injury forced the surprising new signing Anthony Reveillere into an less familiar left back role, that didn’t stop the 34 year old displaying a hugely assured performance. Not sure if anyone else noticed but he has unerring accuracy with his throw-ins!
The second half started as the home side immediately took the game to Sunderland, throwing players forward and forcing set-piece after set-piece. It took its toll in the end with a completely unexpected result. Palace took a free-kick on the edge of the area quickly, catching us napping but Costel Pantilimon – on his Premier League debut – pulled off an unbelievable save initially only for Wes Brown to bundle home Campbell’s back-heel. To be fair, Brown was unlucky and nobody expected it.
So, there we were, staring down the face of our own gun ready and willing to fire it right between our own eyes. But, with typical unpredictability, that didn’t happen.
The second goal shocked us all and was a joy to watch, you always hear about chances where players have had ‘too long to think about it’ but Jordi Gomez was in his element. Will Buckley, anonymous throughout, made a good run before poking the ball to Gomez, also generally anonymous, he allowed the ball to run across him before finishing with aplomb. It’s lovely when those unexpected moments go well for you.
Palace tried to turn the screw to find an equaliser but it never really happened. Mike Jedinak received a second yellow card for kicking out which was effectively the end of the game, in truth he was lucky it wasn’t a straight red. More surprises were to come.
The third was a combination of unprecedented anticipation from substitute Liam Bridcutt who stole possession before playing Fletch in, he grabbed his brace with a neat finish with the outside of his foot.
We can’t underestimate just how big this result was. On the back of two defensive shambles against Southampton and Arsenal, to come here and repel so many set plays and score three goals is a huge, huge confidence boost. There are three more tough November fixtures remaining but this is a fantastic start.
As always, if you predict anything to do with Sunderland you’re usually wrong or at least very stunned when you’re not!