Richard Mennear analysis: Sunderland’s marvellous Monday

Jermain Defoe slots home Sunderland's winner
Jermain Defoe slots home Sunderland's winner
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The Boomtown Rats made a career out of their hit single ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’.

And Sunderland fans could be forgiven for thinking the same until Sky Sports started showing their matches away to Crystal Palace live on a Monday night.

The win drags them right back into the fight for survival.

Last year’s 3-1 win ended a 12-year drought when it came to securing all three points on the opening day of the working week.

And for the second successive season, the Black Cats have come away from Selhurst Park with a victory.

A deserved three points at that thanks to Jermain Defoe’s 80th minute winner, albeit in slightly fortunate circumstances.

It was far from pretty but Sam Allardyce’s men - in a 3-5-2 formation - fought hard for the win.

It drags them right back into the fight for survival, lifting them to 18th spot in the Premier League and now just a point from neighbours Newcastle United.

There were no stand-out performances, this was a real team effort as Sunderland secured only their second win of the season.

And this was arguably the performance of the season, a more rounded display than the derby win over Newcastle.

Ahead of the game, it was clear Allardyce is still working out his best team given he made five changes last night.

But he could have stumbled across his winning formula here, certainly away from home.

With Defoe restored up front alongside Steven Fletcher, with Seb Larsson, Patrick van Aanholt, fit-again Lee Cattermole and John O’Shea all back in.

The biggest surprise came in the formation though, Allardyce reverting to the 3-5-2 formation that led to the 6-2 thrashing at Everton.

Some fans had hoped that system had been banished for good, but Allardyce was keen to give it another go at Selhurst Park.

That was despite all the talk before the game that fit-again captain O’Shea was to be deployed in the unfamiliar left-back role in a 4-4-2.

But those rumours proved just that.

Allardyce, in his pre-match media duties, had helped stir the pot and kept Alan Pardew guessing.

A red herring. It is worth remembering though that against Everton, Allardyce had named Wes Brown and Billy Jones alongside Sebastian Coates in the back three.

Immobile and without any organisation, Sunderland were ripped to shreds at Goodison Park.

But it was a different story at the Palace.

With O’Shea in the centre of the back three, Sunderland looked far more organised and resolute against the pacy threat of the Palace wingers Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie.

Injured Fabio Borini missed out all together, as did Jordi Gomez who made the long trip south but wasn’t included in the matchday squad.

Sunderland started brightly and had the first ‘attempt’ on goal, Fletcher skying his effort high into the stands at Selhurst Park.

It was a promising move though, with Defoe and Yann M’Vila both involved.

Palace hit back strongly though, penning Sunderland in down the left-hand side and winning three corners in quick succession. All three were poorly delivered though.

Sunderland looked a threat on the break, with both Van Aanholt and Defoe screwing efforts wide of the post from good positions in the opening 15 minutes.

That was as good as it got in terms of clear attempts on goal.

Sunderland happy to sit back and defend in numbers and attempt to catch Palace on the counter-attack.

It was far from pretty but it was a vastly improved display.

There was applause from the away fans, with increasing groans from the home fans telling its own story.

Palace couldn’t break Sunderland down, restricted to pot shots from long range.

Ex-Newcastle United schemer Yohan Cabaye - the pantomime villain - screwed an effort almost to the corner flag.

Meanwhile, Costel Pantilimon was easily able to gather James McArthur’s long-range ambitious effort.

It was far from the goal-laden spectacle Sky Sports were hoping for.

But Allardyce wouldn’t have cared one jot.

Pardew switched it around at the break, Puncheon making way with Bakary Sako coming on as Palace switched to a 4-4-2.

But it was Sunderland that almost took the lead. Coates’ header from a Larsson corner cleared off the line by Cabaye.

The Frenchman was soon involved up the other end, forcing Pantilimon to dive and palm away a low, fierce effort on goal.

Jones was booked for Sunderland for a late foul on Bolasie, ruling him out of the home game against Stoke on Saturday.

Allardyce looked to the bench to inject some pace and creativity into his Sunderland side, Duncan Watmore - who made a big impact - and Jeremain Lens on with Fletcher and Larsson sacrificed.

Time after time the Palace widemen whipped balls in but there was nobody to get on the end of them, ex-Sunderland striker Wickham blasting his effort over.

Lens had a shot saved before the moment of the match.

Jones with a perfectly-weighted through ball to the onrushing Defoe.

He showed great strength to fend off Dann and make the most of a mix-up between the Palace defender and Hennessy to nip in and stroke the ball into the empty net.

It was his seventh goal in nine starts for Sunderland.

The travelling fans were in ecstasy.

Palace pressed and probed but Allardyce’s side stood firm, led superbly by the back three of O’Shea, Coates and Kaboul.

Can Sunderland always play on a Monday?