SUNDERLAND produced the performance they were looking for and fully deserved their first win of the season against Stoke City on Saturday, writes Gary Rowell.
Gus Poyet made some big decisions with his starting 11 and not many would have predicted the team he came up with.
But results are everything in the Premier League – especially when you haven’t won a game all season – and the three points at the end proved Poyet got it right.
Dropping two £10m signings, Jack Rodwell and Adam Johnson, were huge calls.
And moving Connor Wickham to the left, to allow Steven Fletcher to lead the line, worked spectacularly – both players got on the score-sheet and Fletcher had his best game for 18 months.
I’m not saying it was the perfect performance.
I didn’t think Sunderland quite fired on all cylinders.
But they had more than enough to beat a Stoke team who are always difficult to play against and it was so comprehensive that, for once, even their manager Mark Hughes didn’t complain about the result!
Losing the speedy outlet of the dangerous Victor Moses, just after they had equalised, was a huge blow for Stoke and there’s no doubt Sunderland gained an advantage from that.
But it was a day where most things went Sunderland’s way and we even scored from a short corner, which doesn’t happen too often.
The goal of the match though, was the last one, which wrapped up the game and was all about Wickham’s sheer power and strength, with Fletcher applying a clinical finish.
At the other end, Vito Mannone was far busier against Stoke than he was against Swansea the previous weekend but again he looked in good form and everything fired at him stuck like glue and he was blameless for the visitors’ goal.
Saturday’s game with Stoke was pivotal in determining how Sunderland’s start to the season would be viewed.
Anything but a win and the start would have been considered disappointing.
But the three points put Sunderland in a far healthier position, with only one defeat so far and, just as importantly, it raises the morale of everybody for the resumption of the Premier League in just under two weeks’ time.