SAFC 10 YEARS AGO: Relief for Yorke, Murphy chasing top two place

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Here’s what the Echo was reporting on SAFC 10 years ago.

NO YELLOW PERIL FOR YORKE

Dwight all right for West Brom crunch after avoiding ban

DWIGHT YORKE is already relishing Sunderland’s trip to West Bromich Albion on Saturday after successfully walking a disciplinary tightrope.

Yorke has been on four yellow cards since the 4-2 win at Sheffield Wednesday six games ago and knew that one more caution would spark a one-match ban.

But he got to the end of February without being booked again and Football Association rules state that he now escapes sanction, even if he is booked again.

Some observers, including boss Roy Keane, thought the Trinidad & Tobago star had been carded in last weekend’s sensational win over promotion rivals Derby County.

But Black Cats officials checked with referee Martin Atkinson, who confirmed Yorke was in the clear.

The 35-year-old said: “It’s a big relief and I can look forward to West Brom now.

“We knew that the Derby game was the last one where I would have been banned for a match if I’d got booked.

“A couple of people asked me after the match about being booked – even the gaffer thought I had – but I never saw a card against me and thankfully the referee confirmed that.

“I’ve been on four yellows for a few weeks now. Playing in midfield, you run a risk of picking up cards because you’re right in the thick of it. You’ve got to put yourself about and make your tackles.

“I’ve gone out and played my normal game and thankfully I’ve got through it without picking up a ban.”

Keane rested Yorke against Southend the week before last because he knew that there was a threat of the veteran and skipper Dean Whitehead missing out against Derby if they were both booked.

Whitehead was cautioned against Southend and was a frustrated spectator against the Rams, but is likely to be reunited with Yorke at The Hawthorns with their manager facing the difficult decision on whether or not to leave out Liam Miller, who broke Derby hearts with his injury-time winner.

Yorke said: “The strength we have in our squad is going to be crucial.

“We got through a tough game against Derby without Deano, who is a great young player, and I know the lads would have coped without me if I had been unlucky enough to get a ban.”

Sunderland return quickly to the West Midlands this coming weekend to complete a run of games against the Championship’s top three clubs.

Prior to the Derby victory, the Black Cats claimed a 1-1 draw at Birmingham, the Blues equalising in the 90th minute.

“We know how bad Derby must have felt on Saturday because we felt the same at Birmingham last week,” added the former Manchester United hitman.

“Even though we drew at St Andrew’s, we were so disappointed to concede that late goal and it felt like a defeat, which shows this club has come a long way.

“It will be a test of our character against West Brom, but we went to Birmingham and showed a great deal of character. We should have had maximum points so we know what we’re capable of.”

DARYL: ONLY AUTOMATIC PROMOTION WILL DO NOW

SUNDERLAND striker Daryl Murphy is gunning for an immediate return to the Premiership.

And the Irishman insists that automatic promotion is the only target for the Black Cats, whose outstanding form in 2007 has lifted them to fourth place, four points off top spot.

The Wearsiders have come through tough tests at Birmingham, where they drew 1-1, and at home to Derby (2-1 win) to give boss Roy Keane an almost certain manager-of-the month prize for February.

And, as March begins with another testing challenge – away to Tony Mowbray’s West Bromich Albion on Saturday – Murphy wants that superb run to continue.

“We’re on a great run now – we haven’t lost in a while and we want to keep that going,” said Murphy, who had a taste of the Premiership with Sunderland last season.

“Our aim is definitely the top two. We want to get as close as we can to the top two and we just have to keep doing it.

“If we keep going like we are, we’ll be there or thereabouts at the top come the end of the season.”

The promotion battle is hotting up, with Birmingham regaining top spot from West Brom thanks to last night’s 1-0 win over Leeds. But still only five points separate the top eight in a frantic chase for promotion.

Murphy added: “I think Birmingham and Derby are favourites to go up, because they have games in hand. But if the others keep winning, it could go down to the wire.

“We’re fourth and we’re giving ourselves a chance.”

Meanwhile, defender Danny Collins – now a fixture in Keane’s back four – is relishing his first-choice status at left-back.

The Wales international, now in his third year with Sunderland and chasing a second promotion with the club, said: “I think this has been my best spell at the club. I have had my longest run in the team this season, so I must be doing something right.

“When the gaffer first came in, I was on the bench quite a lot and I was worried about whether I might have to move on and find another club.

“But I worked hard and he must have seen something in me because I have been in all his squads since then. I have not been worried recently, because I have been playing.

“This is probably the happiest I have been since I came to Sunderland – it’s certainly the most involved I have felt.”

Collins is playing out of position, but admits that the current central defensive pairing of Jonny Evans and Nyron Nosworthy is performing admirably.

“The two lads have looked good and that’s a credit to them,” added Collins. “Jonny has come in and gone straight into the team and looked settled there, and Nyron has been different class there for us.

“It’s a case of getting in, playing well and staying in the team.”