A meaningless win but an away day and goalkeeping display that will live in the memory

Safe hands: Jordan Pickford takes a breather after a save in Saturday's 2-0 win at Hull.
Safe hands: Jordan Pickford takes a breather after a save in Saturday's 2-0 win at Hull.
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There are always individual performances that stay with you.

You can recall them in great detail years down the line, certain moments that still baffle and leave you in awe.

Lorik Cana’s demonic display at centre-half in the infamous beachball game remains utterly unforgettable, the often comical Albanian on that afternoon magnificent as he kicked, headed, tackled, sweeping everything that came into his box.

In Sunderland’s recent Premier League era, fine individual displays like that are invariably baffling one-offs. So it was with Cana, who left the following summer.

Which is why this goalkeeping display from Jordan Pickford will live so long in the memory.

Not because it was sensational, though it wasn’t far off, but because it highlighted a remarkable maturity and utter consistency so rare to find in a 23-year-old goalkeeper. After a week of frenzied speculation, Pickford was calmer, more decisive and more imposing than ever before.

It wasn’t quite a perfect display. There were times when he could perhaps have got greater distance on his punches, times when experienced campaigners like John O’Shea and Victor Anichebe had to urge a touch more caution with his kicking.

Yet he commanded his box, his shot-stopping was at times breathtaking and, when he got his kicking right, it was frightening in its speed and trajectory.

Jermain Defoe has rarely received a more accurate pass than the booming long kick that cut the Hull defence open in an instant and sent him through one on one.

A truly superb all-round display from the keeper.

His connection with the fans is special, the scenes at the end as his name was roared moving. It is impossible not to yearn for him to stay, but it is equally difficult to genuinely see it.

Should Sunderland be able to extract a fee inching towards £30million, and, make no mistake, he should not be sold for much less, and alongside their parachute payment, their income for the campaign would already match their TV payment last season.

The importance of that could not be understated.

Either way, Saturday was a day that will remembered as confirmation of what had long been suspected, that there is no ceiling for this unique talent.

There was nothing ambiguous about his heroics, though elsewhere the win raised as many questions as answers.

Why it had come so late? Was it a shop window performance?

Why has it taken until now for a midfield high on energy in every position to be selected?

A win in a dead rubber such as this will do little to allay many supporters’ doubts about the long-term future of the club. Some may even have mixed feelings about a win that does much to lift the pressure that has been building in the last few weeks.

It must be said that was not the mood in the away end at the KCOM, where there was a determination to make this an away day to treasure.

That they did, their chants defiant and humorous in equal measure.

On the pitch, there were genuine signs of hope for next season. George Honeyman was given a role of real responsbility and took it by the horns, while Didier Ndong was superb behind him, calm and efficient in his business.

Even in such circumstances, the raw feeling of winning again was enough to lift the mood, to turn thoughts with some longing to next season where it must surely be a more regular occurence.

This day will be merely a minor footnote in the club’s history, and will certainly not end the debate and disquiet.

A day that will be remembered, nevertheless.