SUNDERLAND 10 YEARS AGO: Fulop’s hope, Connolly targets automatic promotion

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

HATT TRICK!:

Fulop delighted with third win against Luton.

LUCKY CHARM Marton Fulop hopes he did enough on his debut against Luton Town to keep Darren Ward in his shadow.

Fulop deputised for flu victim Ward and completed a personal hat-trick over the Hatters.

Saturday’s victory lifted Sunderland to within three points of a play-off spot and it was the third time lucky for Fulop against Luton.

He revealed : “I found out on Friday that I was playing because Darren was unwell. I was quite happy that I would be making my debut against Luton.

“When I was on loan at Coventry last season I had my debut against Luton and we won at home and then beat them away from home. Hopefully we can beat them home and away, too, but for now I’m very happy that we won the game.

Sunderland fell behind to Dean Morgan’s fifth minute opener before Daryl Murphy levelled five minutes later and David Connolly struck the winner on 53 minutes.

Fulop said: “It wasn’t very nice conceding a goal so early on my debut, but I put it to the back of my mind and we all knew there was plenty of time to get back into the game.

“I made some saves in the first half, and Luton put us under massive pressure in the second half. But the defenders stuck with it very well – they were brilliant.

“I came here to play football but with Darren being in such great form, all I could do was work very hard in training and be ready for my chance. I know Darren is a good goalkeeper, but hopefully I will get another chance.

“I came here to play football and I was always looking forward to playing in this fantastic stadium for these fans. Hopefully it was the first game of many.”

While Fulop was generally solid, the best save of the game came at the other end from opposite number Dean Kiely, who pulled off a spectacular stop high to his left to prevent Liam Miller from killing the game.

The Hungarian said: “It was a fantastic save by Dean. If that shot had gone in, it would have been much easier for us. But Dean Kiely is an experienced keeper who has played at the top level for a long time and that is what you expect from him.”

CONNOLLY AIMS HIGH:

Top-two spot’s the target

STRIKER David Connolly is targeting automatic promotion with Sunderland – after helping the Black Cats to a fourth win in five games on Saturday.

Connolly’s second goal for the Wearsiders since his £1.4million move in August earned all three points against battling visitors Luton – taking Roy Keane’s side within three points of the play-off places.

The Red and White are also just seven points adrift of second-top Derby County, despite having won just one more game (10) than they have lost (nine).

Leaders Birmingham are ten points better off than the Wearsiders.

Despite sitting in mid-table, Sunderland are likely to be in the play-off places should they win their next two away games – at Burnley and struggling Crystal Palace.

Connolly, whose superb finish secured victory on Saturday, said: “There are the play-offs to aim for, of course.

“There’s also the second spot in the table. Who knows?

“If you can keep winning games, you can move a long way as we have proved.

“Three points are a lot in a league like this. Things can change quickly if you keep winning, and we are on a great run.”

Sunderland have won three in a row, in a six-match unbeaten charge, but Connolly admitted: “We’re not taking anything for granted. We’re three points off the play-offs and that is an obvious target, but there are probably another 10 teams who are thinking the same.

“There’s still a long way to go, and we just need to keep our form, keep winning and hope for the best. If we keep going, who knows how far we can go.

“This is a league in which you can go a long way if you start to string a few wins together and that’s what we have started to do. There is a momentum building up now.”

Connolly relished his second-half winner and said: “It’s my job to score goals for Sunderland and it felt great to score again. I have had to wait a while, but it was worth the wait to score such an important goal.”