Sunderland’s derby triumph shows the hold they have over Newcastle now

Sunderland celebrate Steven Fletcher's 'magical' third goal
Sunderland celebrate Steven Fletcher's 'magical' third goal
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Sunderland produced a record sixth derby win over Newcastle, but they had to fight and dig deep during a performance where they were never at their best.

Even through my red and white eyes, I could see Newcastle were the better team in the first half, but thanks to an Adam Johnson penalty, we somehow went into the interval ahead and with the bonus of the Magpies being down to 10 men.

Steven Fletcher

Steven Fletcher

Sunderland were nervy and edgy from the start and allowed Newcastle to dominate possession, but they failed to capitalise when on top, and ultimately paid the price.

How many times has that happened to us? Missing chances in the first half, before conceding on the stroke of half-time, so it was good to see the boot on the other foot for a change.

It’s a measure of the hold we now have over our biggest rivals that we can win and by a significant three-goal margin without ever hitting top gear.

Without the regular points haul from Newcastle, we’d be in serious trouble, but this time we’ve got to use Sunday’s victory as a springboard for more consistent form and results.

This time we’ve got to use Sunday’s victory as a springboard for more consistent form and results

We didn’t win by playing free-flowing, sexy football, but the desire and sheer will-to-triumph yet again in a derby has to be the benchmark for the other games that are not quite so high profile.

However, it would be wrong to say there weren’t inspirational moments and good pieces of skill.

Yann M’Vila’s brilliant volley to set up the second goal, Adam Johnson crashing a shot against the bar and Costel Pantilimon’s save from Aleksandar Mitrovic when just one up were all moments to savour.

But the sublime third goal was the highlight of the 90 minutes for me.

Younes Kaboul won the ball just outside his own area, before galloping up the left to produce the pass of the game to give Steven Fletcher a goal on a plate. That was magical.

I said in last week’s column that there’s nothing like a derby win to turn the season around and lift the mood, and you could see that in the faces of the ecstatic Sunderland fans at the final whistle.

Big Sam was under pressure to continue the winning run over Newcastle, and he’ll be thrilled at the three goals and three points, but most of all, he’ll love the clean sheet as he’s built his reputation on coaching teams who are difficult to score against and meticulously organised.

It’s been a desperate season up to now for Sunderland, but with a first win under their belts, and a huge weight off their shoulders, the players must take advantage of the feelgood factor they’ve created and that we’re all enjoying right now.