AFTER the previous day’s results, Sunderland went into the Cardiff City game knowing that a win would get them out of the bottom three.
It was a great incentive to the players, but it was exactly the sort of opportunity Sunderland have wasted so often this season.
Not this time though – they blew Cardiff away.
Gus Poyet could not have wished for a better outcome as all of his decisions and selections worked and it was one of those games where everything comes together.
The goalkeeper and back four will keep great satisfaction from keeping a clean sheet, the forwards found the net four times and the midfield took hold of the game and controlled it from start to finish.
We even had the rare luxury of watching the last 15 minutes in a relaxed frame of mind knowing the game was won with the points in the bag.
And that hasn’t happened too often this season!
This was a massive game and to win it so comfortably will give a huge lift to the players, who now know that survival is in their own hands and psychologically being out of the relegation zone will do wonders for team morale.
All the talk before the game was about the huge pressure in such a high stakes fixture and whether the players would handle it mentally.
They certainly did that, as they looked focused and determined from the start, going on to record the biggest win of the season.
Referee Phil Dowd was correct with the penalty and red card decision just before half-time and while playing against 10 men obviously helped Sunderland, I think they would have won anyway without the sending off as they were leading at the time and the momentum was with them.
Connor Wickham continued his exceptional recent form and he’s proving just how important having an in-form goalscoring striker is to any football team, especially one at the bottom.
At times during his Sunderland career, he has found chances hard to come by, never mind goals.
But now with his confidence sky high, he looks a threat every time a ball is delivered into the box.
Sunderland have come back from the dead so often this season and now they have a real chance of survival.
The win over Cardiff has finally proved they can win against the teams around them and with another couple of those games still to play this season, Sunday’s win has given great belief to both the team and fans that the Great Escape is most definitely on.