Rowell Report: So close, yet so far

Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist
Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist
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FOOTBALL nowadays can be a bit sanitised, so it really made a nice change to see a derby that was a throwback to a bygone age after a game full of controversy, incident and aggression.

Through all that, Sunderland so nearly pulled it off. The key word there, though, is nearly.

It was a case of so near, but so far to what would have been a heroic derby victory after hanging on with 10 men.

We were so close and I was absolutely gutted at the final whistle – and I’m sure every Sunderland fan was as well.

When you can see the finishing line and it is snatched away from you, it is a real choker.

At the time, all I could see was two points lost, but when the dust settles and you take the emotion out of it, I actually think it was a point gained.

Before the game I would have taken the point, especially if I’d have known Sunderland would play the majority of the second half with 10 men.

Certainly it was chalk and cheese from the game at Newcastle last season, when we just didn’t turn up.

Sunderland definitely came to the party this time and they completely controlled the first half until the final 10 minutes.

The turning point in the game was obviously the red card for Sessegnon, but a minute or two prior to that was the chance for James McClean.

If there was a game-changing moment, then it was those two incidents.

I am not blaming McClean, he got his shot on target, but if that had gone in, it would have taken a lot for Newcastle to come back.

But the entire back four were superb in their efforts to hang on and since Martin O’Neill has come in, we have looked so good defensively, other than that one-off at West Brom.

John O’Shea is really becoming the player we thought he would be. He reads the game well, is never caught out of position and he is playing alongside an old-fashioned warrior in Michael Turner, who you can’t knock for endeavour and commitment.

You need partnerships at the back and there’s a good mix between the two of them.

Simon Mignolet then produced a flashback to Tommy Sorensen, saving a penalty at the same end and in the same corner of the goal.

You were wondering whether history is going to repeat itself and it’s just a shame Sunderland could not hold on because Mignolet would have been held aloft among the greats.