SUNDERLAND 10 YEARS AGO: Grant aid, No return for Kavanagh

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

GRANT AID!

Super Lads are almost there now

SUNDERLAND took another giant step towards a Premiership return this afternoon with a victory which extended their unbeaten run to 17 games.

 Skipper Dean Whitehead gave Sunderland the lead in only the seventh minute when he latched onto David Connolly’s glancing header and drove a low shot home from 15 yards.

 The goal only underlined Sunderland’s superiority and they could have been three or four goals up by half-time.

 Instead, they caused themselves their own problems when complacency appeared to creep into their game and Rangers took advantage of sloppy passing to level.

 The visitors had a touch of luck with the bounce of the ball but referee Mike Jones was right to point to the spot when Dexter Blackstock surged into the area and was brought down by Darren Ward in a one on one with the keeper.

 Martin Rowlands sent Ward the wrong way from the spot and the Wearsiders then found it tough getting on top again despite remaining clearly the better side.

 They eventually found the vital break-through in the 77th minute when Carlos Edwards took a free kick on the right and instead of pumping the ball into the box he cleverly squared for unmarked subs Grant Leadbitter who rifled home a shot through a crowded penalty area.

 Rangers lifted their game, but Sunderland rarely looked under any sort of pressure and could easily have extended their lead before the final whistle.

 The Black Cats are now four points clear after Derby lost at Ipswich.

NO RETURN FOR KAVANAGH:

Midfielder will not be back for final games

ROY KEANE says he does not expect midfield Graham Kavanagh to feature for Sunderland again this season.

 The 33-year-old played in a come-back game this week, turning out for 45 minutes of the reserves friendly game against Hibs on Wednesday which ended with a 3-0 win for the Black Cats.

 The Republic of Ireland international has been sidelined since Sunderland’s game against Crystal Palace just before Christmas – his knee giving way for the second time in the season shortly afterwards and the midfielder needing to undergo knee surgery.

 Since then it has been a case of slow and steady rehabilitation and the player not making the same mistake he made last time in trying to push himself too hard and come back too soon.

 He came through this week’s friendly with no adverse reaction, setting up the prospect that his dominating presence might be seen again over the next few weeks.

 But Roy Keane made it clear that Kavanagh is unlikely to feature in the first-team again this season.

 He told the Echo: “It was great to see Graham out there playing again because it’s been a long spell out with injury and he’s one of our more experienced players.

 “But I have to say I’m not really expecting to involve him again before the end of the season, it’s probably come too soon for him.

 “When he was ruled out for the second time with injury, I mentally ruled him out for the rest of the season so he’s under no pressure to return early.

 “He did well in the game against Hibs and I though in the first half, the half which he played, there was soon good football.

 “I wouldn’t rule him out altogether at this moment in time because if we end up in the play-offs he could be a great player to come in for us. But he’s only just come back from a long time out and 45 minutes of a reserve game is a million miles away from first team football. I know what it’s like because I’ve been there myself and Kav is one of those who will need three or four games before he starts getting his old sharpness back.”