AFTER a great derby win and on a good run of form, Sunderland were strong favourites to beat Hull City last Saturday, but the game didn’t go according to the script.
A sending off in the first five minutes gave Sunderland a massive handicap that they never looked like overcoming and Hull fully deserved the three points.
Wes Brown has had some dodgy red cards this season, but Saturday’s was a stonewall sending off and he can’t complain about the decision.
Sunderland have a great habit of shooting themselves in the foot, just as things are going well and Saturday’s was a great example, with a dismissal that was totally self-inflicted.
Somebody had to be sacrificed in the resulting reshuffle, but I was surprised it was Fabio Borini, who Gus Poyet brought off and, with hindsight, was probably the wrong decision.
I think with three central midfielders in Sunderland’s starting line-up, it should have been one of those to go.
And that would have saved Borini’s energy and workrate, which would have been even more important with just 10 men.
As a spectacle, the game was a non-event.
And even allowing for the numerical disadvantage, Sunderland never got going and were lacklustre throughout.
Apart from a couple of shots that he would have expected to save, the Hull keeper Steve Harper probably had his easiest game of the season on his return to the North East.
I was disappointed with Sunderland’s lack of ambition.
They seemed reluctant to take risks, leaving Jozy Altidore too often an isolated figure and seemed almost to accept their fate long before the 90 minutes were up.
Steve Bruce played things down in his Press conference after the game, but you can be sure he was delighted with his team’s win on his return to the Stadium of Light.
His investment in two new strikers – Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic – during the transfer window has quickly paid off, with both on the scoresheet and lively throughout.
Hull have taken six points from us and kept two clean sheets while Sunderland have received three cards in the two games between us this season, so there’s little doubt that Bruce has had the better of things against his old club.
But in both games, Sunderland contributed to their own downfall.
Sunderland have worked extremely hard to haul themselves off the bottom of the table and out of the drop zone.
But one bad game has put them back in serious trouble and with tough fixtures to come, Sunderland are right back in that relegation dogfight.