Gary Rowell column - Without Newcastle, Sunderland would be already relegated

The Stadium of Light empties against Crystal Palace
The Stadium of Light empties against Crystal Palace
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IF SUNDERLAND were trying their very best to frustrate and anger their fans, they couldn’t have done a better job.

Conceding four goals in 14 minutes at the start of the second half in a home game is totally unacceptable for any Premier League team, but it’s the sort of shambolic defending Sunderland fans are all too familiar with.

Going a goal down kills Sunderland. Their fragile confidence nose-dives and the opposition can’t believe their luck

In three consecutive home games against Aston Villa, Newcastle and Crystal Palace, Sunderland have gone from the lowest extreme to the highest and back again, and we can go only be thankful that the Magpies were so incompetent both at the Stadium of Light and St James’s Park, as without those six points we’d probably be down already.

There’s no team quite like Sunderland who can shoot themselves in the foot so often and turn positives into negatives so quickly – just six days this time.

With the scores level at half-time, and little of note to report, who could see the carnage that was about to happen?

Most people I talked to thought the game had 0-0 written all over it – I did to. How wrong can you be?

Saturday’s defeat was just like the Aston Villa horror show all over again, the only difference being it took Palace longer to get the opening goal, but once they did, we saw the same capitulation and it was game over.

Going a goal down kills Sunderland. Their fragile confidence nose-dives and the opposition can’t believe their luck.

Palace are no world-beaters, but they’re well-organised and have pace throughout their team. That was always going to be a problem for Sunderland.

But every one of their goals originated from long balls that Sunderland’s defenders should have been able to deal with.

It’s difficult to know where Sunderland go from here, as it always seems to be one step forward and two back, and if you didn’t know better, you might even think the players think there’s only two games in the season.

But if those wins against Newcastle come with relegation, then they are completely meaningless.

The amazing thing in this largely depressing season is that we’ve only been in the bottom three for a week, but more performances like Saturday’s and it won’t be long before we get there.