Rowell Report: Crystal Palace vs Sunderland had one saving grace

Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist
Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist
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SATURDAY’S match at Selhurst Park was one of those games you want to forget as quickly as possible.

Apart from Steven Fletcher’s return, there was hardly anything positive to take from the game.

I hate being negative, but it’s difficult to feel anything but downhearted about a performance against a team who will admit themselves that they will be ecstatic with a fourth bottom finish.

The game got off to the worst possible start with Palace scoring from a corner inside 10 minutes, with the goal again exposing Sunderland’s current weakness from set-pieces.

That early goal was just what Sunderland didn’t need, sending the spirit and morale of the Palace players and fans soaring.

Fletcher’s appearance for the second half gave everyone a lift and he showed what we’ve been missing.

When his chance came, he didn’t disappoint, with a clinical finish, making it look easier than it actually was.

Last year Simon Mignolet and Fletcher were Sunderland’s two most important players and they were the main reason we stayed up.

So with Mignolet now gone, we desperately need a fit Fletcher every week.

When the equaliser came, then suddenly Sunderland were having their best spell and were the team with momentum, but inexplicably we threw it all away with one lapse of concentration from our most experienced player.

So frustrating, so avoidable.

One individual error was the game-changer and Sunderland never really recovered.

Yes, it was a penalty and yes it was a red card, no question about that and the knock-on damage is that Sunderland lose their captain through suspension.

With the international break now upon us, people will be looking at our first three games and drawing conclusions, and it hasn’t been impressive or convincing.

One indisputable fact is that we only have one point from the opening nine, placing us firmly in the bottom three and the teams we’ve faced so far are hardly the Premier League’s big hitters.

They are lining up to visit us over the next few weeks.