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COLUMNIST KEN BUCKLEY

From my seat: Sunderland (H)

By Ken Buckley :  26/02/2011 :  Comments (19) :

Back to basics Blues gain a solid win

We all assembled on a sunny afternoon and the line-up showed a 4-4-2 formation in a bid to capitalise on home advantage and move up the table and put some daylight between us and a relegation spot.

From the off, it looked as though Sunderland had come to make a game of it despite their poor record at Goodison but, by the end, it was normal service resumed.

They could and should have gone ahead within the first five minutes when, for what was to be the only time in the game, our defence seemed at sea, allowing Richardson the freedom of our area from an astute pass but, fortunately for those of a Blue persuasion, he dragged his shot horribly wide. We responded well from that scare and were looking all over the park a team determined to attack and defend as a team in our position should.

Fellaini started to boss things and the rest took his lead, Osman was a threat and on 8 mins his clever reverse ball into the Sunderland box was left by Saha, did he get a call from Beckford? But the upshot was Beckford got a shot on goal which struck Bramble and trundled into the net. One up and we don?t care how they go in so long as they go in, in fact the goal was as good for us as a 40-yd screamer.

This visibly stunned the Black Cats and Saha and Beckford, playing as a two for only the second time this season, were pulling Sunderland all over the place thanks to the promptings of in the main Arteta, Osman and Fellaini yet all were playing their part. We were on top and bossing the game but Sunderland gave us a scare when their number 28 hit a screamer from 20 yds for Howard to make a truly magnificent save, tipping it onto the bar and away.

This galvanised us again and, in no time at all, Arteta took centre stage as he went past two defenders and, in a powerful run, left Mensah for dead, crossed for Beckford who had got into an excellent position ,allowing him to fire left-footed past the keeper, not the sweetest of strikes but who cares, 2-0.

Saha then came to life and had a shot blocked and one wide as the Blues ended the half well in control. Just before the break, Fellaini went down for treatment twice and the second time was replaced by Rodwell as he limped off with what looked like an ankle injury. We can only hope it is not too serious as he had looked a class above most in midfield from either side.

Half-time saw most satisfied and the highlight was the subs out on the pitch keeping loose as a game of ?hit the crossbar? broke out between Heitinga and Mucha from near the half way line and by my calculation Jonny won it 2-0; he celebrated in good humoured fashion with arms held aloft.

Second half and, within minutes, Beckford should have recorded his first hat-trick when he blazed over after some scintillating stuff from Osman to put him in. We were now playing some fine stuff and had the chance to go 5 up when Osman volleyed wide and their keeper saved well from both Coleman and Saha.

Rodwell was looking powerful with some runs but his passing was that of a man short of matches due to injury, Arteta was having his best game since last season, and Osman was looking more like the player he can be. The back two of Jags and Distin along with Baines and Neville gave those forward of them confidence.

Then, on 70 mins, we had our second injury, causing a player to leave the field, when Beckford pulled up and was replaced by Cahill. I got the impression the manager would rather that had not've  happened but, in our position, the points were paramount. It seemed Cahill used no more than his experience to get through the game was no more than a threat the Sunderland defence could not ignore. We remained on top and on the 80-min mark Saha was wrapped in cotton wool and replaced by Bilyaletdinov who quickly had a shot crash wide after some superb passing and approach play featuring the excellent Osman and Arteta.

The clock was ticking down and the game was as routine as we have expected many times only to be disappointed... but today we saw it out and at the death that man Osman, after another super one-touch passing move, danced into the area, rounded the keeper and smashed it goalwards only for Sunderland to have got 3 men back on the line and one of them headed away. After 4mins of extra time, the final whistle and all left with that feeling of ?At last? a routine home win.

A very welcome 3 points and the table looks better but more of the same will be required as we get to the business end of the season. MotM was very difficult today as players all over the pitch put in performances that we have expected of them previously and played as a team together without anyone really being classed as outstanding. Fellaini would have been in the frame had he not succumbed to his pre-match injury but over the piece I would go for Arteta purely on the basis that he put in his best shift of the season and had influence in the centre of the park, on the other hand I would not argue too much with anyone?s nomination. Distin and Osman were on the lips of many on the way down Spellow Lane.

After the excitement of Chelsea, a packed Goodison seemed satisfied with today?s performance and were in relaxed mood long before the end and this was illuminated when the Park End got fed up with the away fans chants of stereotypical taunts regarding Liverpool people and responded with a wall of noise that left them in little doubt such things were not well received and we heard little of them until the end.

Reading next on Tuesday night and the team selection will be interesting as we seem to have got more injuries than we would like. Still, we go with what we have got and, whoever plays, if today?s attitude prevails, so will we. 7:30 KO so a quick dash and I am hoping for a win that sees Wembley ever closer and also a fervent hope that our local ?ale house? does not run out of beer as they did today.

See you there
UP THE BLUES

Reader Comments

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Jimmy Hacking
1   Posted 27/02/2011 at 00:44:19

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All I've seen are the highlights on MotD but some of our passing play was sumptuous. Season's not over yet! COYB
Albert Perkins
2   Posted 27/02/2011 at 01:46:59

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I always thought Beckford could do it. He's not class, like Saha, but he gets in there where it counts and throws himself about enough to get on the scoresheet. He misses far more than he scores, but he gets into the places from which he has the chance to score. He's done enough to keep in the side for an extended run. And he looks like a player that could be reasonably injury-free.
Beckford is a good foil for Saha who can tie up a couple of defenders and leave some space for Becks.You can't leave Saha alone on the edge of the box in his present form, scares the hell out of them.

The best part of the game for me was Arteta's form. The way he challenged for the ball in midfield and the way he went past the defender, that extra little step, look-up and slide-rule pass to Becks that he couldn't miss with. Mikel is a joy and I hope he is getting some of his old form back. When Mikel plays well I feel so happy. It must be love.

It's been a torrid time for the Blues and I'm hoping the corner has been turned. A good end to the season will settle my butterflies.
Matt Traynor
3   Posted 27/02/2011 at 03:26:22

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A solid performance, and welcome "run of the mill" win. Not had any of them this season at home, except maybe the Derby!

Disturbing statistic thrown out by the Beeb pre-match, had we lost we would have become the first team in the Premier League to lose 100 games at home...

One to check, but a statistic that no doubt will hang over us for a while.
Owen De Asha
4   Posted 27/02/2011 at 04:13:55

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"Disturbing statistic thrown out by the Beeb pre-match, had we lost we would have become the first team in the Premier League to lose 100 games at home..."

Not too fussed about that, 14 consecutive years in the top flight of the best league in the world... it was bound to happen eventually.

Plus, stats dont win or lose you points!
Tony Cheek
5   Posted 27/02/2011 at 07:17:42

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I have openly criticized both Howard and Osman on this site, but was really impressed with both yesterday. Howard is playing out of his skin and I really hope it's the last time i will be dissapointed to see Osman's name on the team sheet. Now, if he can just learn to shoot....
Paul Olsen
6   Posted 27/02/2011 at 09:59:05

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Solid game, one of our better this season.

Howard 7 super save in the first half and solid
Neville 6 decent
Jagielka 7 some of his trademark last ditch tackles
Distin 7 overall solid
Baines 6 not one of his best games
Fellaini 6 neat until the injury
Arteta 7.5 Clearly coming back to his better form
Osman 8 Great energy, great work.
Coleman 6 Lots of trademark runs, but also some really poor passing and control
Beckford 7.5 great awareness on his goals
Saha 7 Caused quite a bit of grief to the Sunderland defence
Rodwell 7 Good game, showed lots of energy.
Ben Ellis
7   Posted 27/02/2011 at 10:02:07

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I can't remember the last time I was relaxed as that in the second half as I was today. Great football at times, Beckford must start every game as he consistently gets in goalscoring positions. I am suddenly optimistic
Peter Webster
8   Posted 27/02/2011 at 09:55:25

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Good game all round I thought. Like Tony (4) I've never been Ossie's biggest fan, but credit to the lad, he played well yesterday and it's a shame his play didn't end in a goal.
Terry McLavey
9   Posted 27/02/2011 at 11:00:38

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Maybe light at the end of the tunnel! Like Jimmy (#1), I only saw highlights on MotD but it looked a promising performance, amazing what belief can do!

Ironic considering the size of a goalmouth Ossie manage to find a space exactly the size of a defenders head! Also think Beckford will be a force eventually, then we have the usual tussle of fending off "bigger" clubs (not City! will never consider them a bigger club despite wot Sparky said! I really must learn to let things go! How long ago was that!!!!) to keep hold of him.

On another subject, is it me but does Ashley Young go over far to easily? I seem to remember him at Goodison getting a penalty for fuck all! Perhaps there was a strong breeze... cheetin' twat! Anyway onwards and upward!! COYB!!

Colin Malone
10   Posted 27/02/2011 at 11:13:11

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The spine of the team were back to their best: Jags, superb, with Distin, Arteta, was given the freedom to roam and was class, still my fav player and Saha, he's like a new player, like all of them yesterday, he put a full shift in from start to finish.

Ken, you can call it a 4-4-2 formation, which is correct, but when Sunderland had the ball, Beckford and Saha were coming into midfield and helping out, which gave us more room to break.

That's all we ask: go out there and give it your all for 90 minutes ? 90 of a full working week, dogs of war attitude mixed with class ? then i believe we return to were we left off last season, with a fantastic chance of getting to Wembley. Well done boys.

Trevor Lynes
11   Posted 27/02/2011 at 11:45:43

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Best performance for yonks... but we need to get maximum points at home for the rest of the season. We still have to play Man Utd, City and Chelsea so it's imperative that we don't lose consistency.

Osman was a revelation and fully deserved his selection. Arteta seemed to enjoy himself too and is much better when he creates goal scoring chances than he is when he is played too deep.

I just hope that Fellaini and Beckford are both OK as we need to see an extended run of games with Beckford and Saha playing together (Beckford is not a lone frontman). Saha is so clever and the perfect foil for the emerging new Lineker (wishful thinking)...

Steve Higham
12   Posted 27/02/2011 at 13:46:24

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A very professional and pleasing performance from the blue boys yesterday. First game all season when I felt relaxed throughout the game.

Nice to see us play 4-4-2 and can see a good partnership developng between Saha and Beckford. Just hope Felli and Beckford fit for Tuesday.

Dan Brierley
13   Posted 27/02/2011 at 15:06:49

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So here we are, 6 points off 6th place, with the shite being two-nil down. Next league games are:

Newcastle (a)
Birmingham (h)
Fulham (h)
Villa (h)
Wolves (a)
Blackburn (h)

A decent string of results will see us in that 6th spot. I still see our side being stronger than the Shite, Newcastle, Bolton and Sunderland. But conversely, a bad run will see us near the bottom again. I think this run of fixtures will define our season. It's in our own hands now, come on you blue boys!!
Lyndon Lloyd
14   Posted 27/02/2011 at 17:42:43

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Matt: Disturbing statistic thrown out by the Beeb pre-match, had we lost we would have become the first team in the Premier League to lose 100 games at home...

Following on from Owen's comment, by virtue of being ever-present since 1992 and struggling off and on in that time, we've also lost more Premier League games than any other team.
Dan Brierley
15   Posted 27/02/2011 at 18:47:00

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I think we are under no illusions that we have not been a force since the Premiership inception.

But I was surprised to find out that we are the highest scoring top flight club in history, scoring 6517 goals in 4200 matches. If you know your history?

http://www.myfootballfacts.com/All-TimeTopFlightPointsTable1888-89to2010-11.html
Tommy Gourlay
16   Posted 28/02/2011 at 09:26:46

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@9 Terry McLavey

"Does Ashley Young go over far to easily" ? DEFINITELY!!

I've always hated that about him, although I thought the penalty on Saturday wasn't one of his more obvious dives.

Osman again proved if you let him come inside and don't expect him to track back at 100mph, he can really do some damage, brilliant stuff.
Mike Green
17   Posted 28/02/2011 at 16:16:16

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Matt (3)

Alternatively - the team to have lost the most matches in Premier League history but never go down?

Out of curiousity does anyone know how many of the Premier League clubs are ever presents and who they are?
David Thomas
18   Posted 28/02/2011 at 20:02:52

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Mike 17,

7 teams

Everton
Liverpool
Aston Villa
Spurs
Chelsea
Arsenal
Manchester United
Brian Denton
19   Posted 28/02/2011 at 23:03:10

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Aaaargh - DON'T pander to 'football began with the Premier League'! It really gets on my wick when 'records' are cast in these terms. 'Team X has never beaten Team Y in the Premier League'. So fucking what ? it's hardly like (for example) Spurs going from 1912 to 1985 without winning at Anfield, or closer to home, Everton's truly appalling record at Elland Road over all the years of my childhood / adolescence / adulthood!!

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