Chris Young: Sunderland showed bottle at Norwich when it mattered most

There will be five more nerve-ridden games to sit through before Sunderland can claim to have completed another Houdini act.

Saturday, 16th April 2016, 2:16 pm
Updated Saturday, 16th April 2016, 2:27 pm
Duncan Watmore scores

For all the euphoria (and relief) at Carrow Road, Sam Allardyce's men aren't even out the relegation zone yet.

But this was an afternoon when Sunderland at least got their hands free from the handcuffs and gave themselves the platform to yet again escape from the drop into the Championship.

Sunderland's survival hopes are very much still alive and kicking. In fact, they might just have become the favourites above Norwich to top the mini-league down at the bottom after the psychological blow delivered to the Canaries, plus the Black Cats boasting a game in hand.

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In a game which was all about bottle, character and nerve, Sunderland had boat-loads of it. Mentally, the Black Cats stood tallest when it mattered.

It was the perfect away performance from Allardyce's side, even if it wasn't the sexiest - although in the circumstances, it was never going to be.

Sunderland headed, booted or diverted it clear during the opening 25 minutes when Norwich were inevitably going to pile on the pressure. By hook or crook, they prevented the hosts getting an advantage which would have buoyed their boisterous home crowd.

It remained the case that Sunderland were defensively resolute throughout.

Yes, there were a few scares with the immense Lee Cattermole twice clearing off the line, yet both centre-halves were superb, as was Vito Mannone, who looked one of the most composed men on the pitch.

Sunderland took their chances when they came too, albeit they were helped for the opener by an ugly and needless challenge by Andre Wisdom.

In fact, the Black Cats could - and should - have won by a more handsome margin had they profited from their opportunities on the counter-attack.

It wasn't until Duncan Watmore netted a third in stoppage time that those of a red and white persuasion could relax.

But Watmore was one of three substitutions which were all right on the money from Allardyce, which hasn't always been the case from the Sunderland boss this season.

Watmore gave Sunderland an outlet, as opposed to the ineffectual Wahbi Khazi, while Seb Larsson offered fresh energy in place of the tiring Yann M'Vila.

There was plenty to encourage and hearten Allardyce for what lies ahead. Nothing will have pleased him more than the three points though.