WELL, another away day ends in disappointment for Sunderland, with a fifth straight defeat on the road, but once again the big talking point is a controversial red card.
On our last trip it was Andrea Dossena and Lee Cattermole at Hull; this time it was Wes Brown at Stoke.
Dossena could have no complaints about his horrible challenge, Cattermole’s was controversial but Brown’s on Saturday was a joke – the centre-half clearly didn’t deserve to be sent off and it is debateable whether it was even a foul!
The decision was made to look even more ridiculous when, in the second half, Asmir Begovic planted six studs in Steven Fletcher’s shoulder and that was deemed to be a lesser offence.
How do you work that out?
There’s no denying Stoke were already ahead when Brown was sent off – a goal made all the more frustrating by the fact it was the Potters’ first meaningful attack.
But we will never know now what would have happened if we hadn’t gone down to 10 men.
There’s no guarantee we would have got anything and Stoke might still have won. But it made the task much more difficult.
Gus Poyet’s plan to bring some continuity to the team was evident when he named an unchanged line-up, which was a first for Sunderland this season.
But the sending off changed everything and meant he had to reshuffle - attacking wide-man Emanuele Giaccherini was sacrificed, which in turn left Fletcher an isolated figure too often.
The fans stuck with the team and supported them to the end which was great to see but unless our away form improves soon we are going to continue to struggle to get out of the trouble we are in.
This season just seems to be a case of taking one step forward and two back and our away form is a big part of that.
After the victory over Manchester City, the Stoke game was an opportunity to build on that great win.
We didn’t take it and – like the Hull game – that’s a disappointment.
But when big decisions which have a huge impact go against you, you can’t help but feel there’s been an injustice and that makes it so much harder to take.