SUNDERLAND 10 YEARS AGO: Evans a doubt and partnership has made Cats solid

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

EVANS IS CATS EASTER WORRY:

Foot injury puts Jonny in doubt for double header

JONNY EVANS is fighting a foot injury ahead of a testing Easter for Sunderland against promotion rivals Wolves, and Southampton.

 The impressive centre-back, on loan from Manchester United for the rest of the season, got a painful knock in the closing stages of last weekend’s 1-0 win at Cardiff.

 He battled on to the end of the contest, but was limping badly when he boarded the team coach.

 The 20-year-old has been a rock in the heart of a defensive unit that has kept nine clean sheets in their last 14 league games – all of them unbeaten.

 Evans said: “It hurts quite a lot. I got stamped on near the end of the game when they were sending a lot of balls into our box.

 “I managed to keep going in the game, but once I stopped running about and went in to get changed, it was stiff and sore.

 “I’m sure it’s just bruised and nothing more serious. I’ll get plenty of ice on it and hopefully I’ll be OK for the two games.”

 Evans form since he arrived on Wearside at the turn of the year has earned rave reviews and Sunderland boss Roy Keane is determined to make the most of the Northern Ireland international before he returns to Old Trafford.

 He views his part in Sunderland’s bid for a Premiership return as the biggest of his career so far and will hope April will be as fruitful as March was for him and his club.

 Keane’s men won four of their five games last month – keeping three clean sheets – while Evans was part of the Northern Ireland side that claimed victories in Euro 2008 qualifiers against Sweden and Liechenstein.

 He said: “It’s going very well at the minute, but that just makes you want to work even harder to keep it going/ I’m enjoying my football at every level at the minute, which is another reason to get over the injury.

 “Our run means we got into every game thinking we can get something from it. A lot of teams are complimenting how we play. We concentrate in training on keeping possession – lots of two-touch football – and that’s paying dividends in matches because we can keep the ball away from other teams.”

 Evans is rightly proud of Sunderland’s awesome defensive record. They rode their luck at Ninian Park last weekend, when Cardiff squandered two or three great chances, but Keane has moulded the Black Cats into a stubborn unit.

 “We are proud of the record,” admits Evans.

 “As a defender, it’s great to be keeping clean sheets, but it’s not just about the goalkeeper and defenders. The whole team is doing a job defensively.”

ROWELL REPORTS

JONNY-NYRON PARTNERSHIP HAS MADE CATS SO SOLID:

SUCCESSFUL football sides more often than not are all about successful partnerships on the pitch.

 Sunderland have had some truly memorable ones over the last few years – Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips of course is the obvious one which springs to mind.

 But there was Allan Johnston and Mickey Gray, Julio Arca and George McCartney and even Chris Makin and Nicky Summerbee.

 Now, there looks like being a new one to add to the list – Jonny Evans and Nyron Nosworthy.

 Nyron has really looked the part where he uses his pace and power to best effect in breaking up opposition attacks while Evans catches the eye with fantastic positioning and wonderfully-timed tackles.

 They have been getting praise every week now for a long time for their individual performances but what really impresses me is how they work as a partnership.

 Some understandings you have to work at, some just come naturally and I don’t know which is the case here. But there’s no doubt that they complement each other fantastically.

 This was a fact which struck me again in the game against Cardiff City at the weekend. I couldn’t separate them as candidates for man-of-the-match and in my view it was on the back of that defensive pairing that the game was won.

 It would be a shame if such an eye-catching partnership had only a handful more games remaining in it before Jonny returns to Old Trafford.

 *The Cardiff game was not a classic but Sunderland did a really focused, professional job and got out of there with all three points.

 It’s not a nice place to go, but it turned out to be a really enjoyable day for Sunderland fans who appreciated just how hard-fought the victory had been.

 These games are not just tests of football ability now, they’re tests of character and Roy Keane’s men came through this one with flying colours.

 It could turn out to be the hardest game Sunderland will face between now and the end of the season and it was a game in which they could easily have come unstuck.