SAFC 10 YEARS AGO: Top six at last for Roy Keane’s men!

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

TOP SIX AT LAST!

Slick Sunderland into play-offs – now for automatic!

SUNDERLAND produced their most complete home performance of the season to steam-roller Southend this afternoon – and climb into the Championship play-offs for the first time.

Two goals in either half underlined a superiority from the home side in all departments.

And victory keeps the Wearsiders breathing down the necks of all the promotion-chasing teams, with their form run – six wins in seven since the New Tear – surely having Derby, Birmingham and West Brom fearing their forthcoming battles with Roy Keane’s side.

The Wearsiders took the lead from their first attack in the fourth minute when Carlos Edwards sliced open the visiting defence and his low cross from the right was side-footed home by David Connolly inside the six-yard box, the striker notching his eighth goal in 13 games.

That was followed soon after by Toby Hysen’s strike, when Connolly turned provider in the 14th minute with a clever ball and the Swede rode one tackle before sliding the ball across Shrimpers’ keeper Darryl Flahavan.

It was a day with no lowlights for a Sunderland side which not only recorded their fourth clean sheet in a row but saw Stern John get his first goals for the club.

The striker struck in the 76th and 78th minute of the game.

First of all, he pounced on a Dean Whitehead shot which struck the post, and then finishing from close range Liam Miller’s expertly-crafted pass.

Rival teams at the top also had a successful afternoon, but Sunderland, with this result, re-emphasised the fact that they need fear absolutely no-one in the Championship now.

Nine-man Cardiff dropped out of the top six despite beating Leeds. 

ONE GAME AT A TIME!

Don’t look too far ahead – Dean

DEAN WHITEHEAD says the Black Cats must beware the minnows of the Championship, just as much as the maestros.

The Wearsiders went into today’s game against Southend with most fans already looking ahead to the showdown games against promotion rivals Birmingham on Tuesday followed by Derby next weekend and West Brom the Saturday after.

But the Sunderland skipper has warned that there’s exactly the same amount of points on offer when it comes to the lesser sides and that players cannot afford to take their eyes off the ball when it comes to struggling sides or the division’s smaller outfits.

He said: “Everyone’s talking about the bigger games coming up and that’s understandable of course. But it’s vital that as players we remember that all the other games are just as important.

“In my mind, games like today’s match against Southend are actually bigger than the three which are coming up next. And that’s because there could be a danger that people might start taking things for granted.

“Fixtures like this one are games we’re expected to win and games we ourselves expect to win. But if there’s even a suggestion that we’re taking such games for granted, we’ll end up slipping and it will cost us.

“So, in a way, we’ve got to put that extra bit of mental effort into games like these because we have to make sure we’re in the right frame of mind to make sure we don’t get caught out.”

Whitehead says that the attitude in the squad has been first class over the last few weeks and he is determined to do his bit to help everyone remain focussed.

He said: “It’s great playing in the side at the moment and we can’t wait for games to come around. The new players have come in, settled quickly and added something extra.

“There’s a great feeling around the place. But it’s important we don’t get over-confident and pay the price as a result.”