GARY ROWELL: Every Sunderland man matters

Gary Rowell
Gary Rowell
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I DON’T think there are too many Sunderland fans who expected much when we went to Goodison Park.

But the team proved a lot of people wrong in pulling off an extremely unlikely win.

Goodison Park has so often been a graveyard for Sunderland’s hopes – but not this time.

And long after the final whistle was blown, our fans, who were excellent throughout, were still singing and enjoying a surprise three points.

Everything was stacked against Sunderland in this game; Everton unbeaten at home throughout the calendar year; Sunderland without an away win this season.

The unavailability of Wes Brown and John O’Shea, our two most experienced players, didn’t help matters.

But Valentin Roberge and Modibo Diakite proved surprisingly able replacements. And, helped by the inspired Vito Mannone, they kept Everton out and deserved a clean sheet.

When Tim Howard brought Ki Sung-Yueng down to concede a penalty and the red card that went with it, the game changed on its head. And for once, it was Sunderland with the numerical advantage.

If Everton hadn’t gone down to 10 men, it’s debatable whether we would still have won the game.

And the lesson and importance is there of finishing every game with 11 men, as our extra man just tipped the balance in our favour.

The last 10 minutes seemed to last forever – I thought it would never end – as 10-man Everton threw everything at Sunderland.

But Mannone refused to be beaten, as Sunderland claimed three precious points at a place that we rarely get anything.