STEVE Bruce did not know whether to rollick the referee and his assistants in the wake of one of Sunderland’s most disappointing defeats of the season, or his rogue defence which went AWOL at vital moments.
In the end, following the 3-2 loss at Stoke on Saturday, he slaughtered both.
His anger was understandable – one look at the Sunderland manager’s face, the twisted nose and the scars tell you he put his body on the line for his club on many a Saturday afternoon and he felt his defenders did not do enough of that at the Britannia Stadium.
The fact the officials failed to spot offsides for two of Stoke’s goals only added salt to the wounds of the Black Cats’ boss on a day of disappointments.
“It’s always difficult to lose a game you don’t think you should do,” he pointed out.
“We played some great stuff and not to come away with something when you’ve scored two goals away from home, it hurts.
“But you know you need to be brave with the ball coming in at Stoke. I needed my keeper and defenders to be stronger and, beyond that, I needed the officials to do their job better, too, because Stoke’s first two goals were dubious.
“You need the officials to do their job properly, but they didn’t do it on the day – the first goal was blatant and the linesman didn’t do his job.
“But I also expect my keeper and defenders to do better than that. The keeper has to be stronger and the defenders have to be stronger, but the officials have to do better, too.
“When you add all these things together, it just wasn’t our day.
“For all the good football we played in some awful weather, scoring two great goals away from home, we’re disappointed that we’ve let it slip with the bread and butter stuff.”
“Some of our football and movement and passing was good at times, however, not being able to handle balls played into our box cost us the match.
“We’re likely to face (6ft 7in) Peter Crouch next week so we’ll have to do better.”