Almost time to read the last rites on Sunderland

George Honeyman scores for Sunderland last night.
George Honeyman scores for Sunderland last night.
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For a moment it looked the mist might clear, even just a little, even just for a few days.

Results everywhere were going in Sunderland’s favour and despite the fog and gloom that had descended on the Stadium of Light, they had a precious lead.

We have read this script too many times, however, to be surprised at the ending.

Ivo Pinto swooped from a set-piece to poke home an equaliser and leave the Black Cats closer than ever to a season in League One.

They had not defended the ball in aggressively enough, and they were too slow to react to the loose ball as it bounced in the box.

They had been warned in the first half when Nelson Oliveira towered clear from a corner and hit the post. Time and time again we have seen it in this campaign. The familiarity will be for supporters both depressing and infuriating in equal measure.

Lose to Reading on Saturday and they could find themselves nine points adrift with three to play and a shocking goal difference.

It is safe to prepare the last rites now.

Sunderland in the end were undone by a lack of composure, on the ball and off it.

The crucial moment came when John O’Shea left the pitch on 70 minutes.

He had been carrying a knock and Coleman was forced to turn to the talented but inexperienced Jake Clarke-Salter.

Without their captain Sunderland lacked leadership and authority. The lack of a transfer budget has left them overly-dependent on kids and here it really showed.

Their organisation at the back was poor and when they retrieved it, they gave it back far too quickly, far too easily.

They desperately needed someone to put a foot on the ball, to slow it down and get them up the pitch.

At the crucial moment they needed someone to take responsibility and clear the lines.

It never happened, and as such the equaliser felt inevitable.

No less crushing when it came about, but inevitable nevertheless.

It had a remarkably open game, chances spurned by both teams but most notably so when it came to the hosts.

That vital moment of calm deserted them at all the pivotal moments.

In the first half half, when Lynden Gooch stole the ball from James Husband but played a poor pass beyond the waiting Ashley Fletcher.

When Aiden McGeady struck a penalty off the post, despite sending Angus Gunn the wrong way.

When Ovie Ejaria ran through one-on-one but lost the ball, allowing Norwich to clear their lines.

Norwich, too, missed glaring opportunities.

Nelson Oliveira went close on a number of occasions and James Maddison somehow struck the post from two yards when the score was still 0-0.

In the end, they could and should have won it.

Shattered by gifting away the softest of equalisers, Sunderland lost all control of the contest and the Canaries missed two glaring openings.

There had been plenty to admire in the way Sunderland pressed and harried. They left gaps but they went for the three points and again created plenty of chances to take them.

For four games now they have left the pitch leaving it all out there, but only once have they taken the win.

Not quite enough quality, not quite enough experience.

That blend in the team to win matches has never been there, and it always seemed fanciful to imagine it would emerge at this late stage .

You did wonder, just for a moment.

But then reality bit, once again.