For the second successive game Sunderland went down to ten men against Wolves but unlike the week before against Reading, they didn’t capitulate.
Instead they battled on, kept their organisation and came away with a vital – if unexpected – point.
When Lee Cattermole got his marching orders with a third of the game still to play, I couldn’t see us holding out against a quality Championship attack and a Wolves team that have been formidable at Molineux but Sunderland’s best defensive performance of the season blunted the league’s high flyers.
Chris Coleman made his intentions clear with his starting line-up and system with three centre backs and two holding midfield players, the Sunderland boss wanted his team to be difficult to break down and frustrate Wolves and that they certainly did.
It might not have been pretty but it was effective and who knows, it might even have been better if Cattermole didn’t have his rush of blood.
With two consecutive away clean sheets, Coleman is starting to address a glaring weakness in the Simon Grayson era and even in the last home game to Reading we kept a clean sheet while we had eleven men on the pitch.
One of the reasons for that defensive resilience on Saturday was Darron Gibson’s disciplined performance, especially after Cattermole’s departure.
It was noticeable he was rightly singled out for praise after the game by the manager.
It is not being unfair to say the fans haven’t been overly impressed with Gibson since he arrived on Wearside but after his best game in a Sunderland shirt, a player with his pedigree has to be at that level every week now.
When a team second from bottom goes to the team right at the top you need character and a game plan to make life as difficult as possible for the opposition and while that sort of system won’t get us tagged as the great entertainers, in our position Coleman can’t be anything but pragmatic as points are far more important than being easy on the eye just now.
The FA Cup third round draw gave Sunderland an away tie at Middlesbrough and while usually you want a home tie, given Sunderland’s form at the Stadium of Light, maybe an away game is for the best.
Chris Coleman has already said he won’t play a weakened team and will give it a real go so hopefully with the players not having the pressure of league points to play for, they can express themselves and end up in the hat for the fourth round.
It goes without saying that avoiding another relegation is the most important job for Coleman as Sunderland playing in the third tier of English football must be avoided at all costs.
However, a cup run can have a positive effect on everyone.
It doesn’t have to be harmful to the league games and the prospect of a Premier League team at home or even away would get many thousands of fans travelling and be a refreshing change from the Championship grind.