Rowell Report: Sunderland’s win over Stoke set up the team for derby

Ex-Sunderland footballer Gary Rowell
Ex-Sunderland footballer Gary Rowell
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WHILE all the talk this week among Sunderland fans is naturally about the derby, I didn’t want to let this column pass without mention of the win over Stoke City last week because I think, on the quiet, that was such an important game for the club.

And while we’re basking in the joy of the derby victory, you might wonder whether the team would have gone into that game so confidently, if they hadn’t managed to hold their nerve three days previously.

It was a milestone in its own way because at last, Sunderland did it – they won against a bottom half of the table team at home for the first time this season.

Points were always more important than the performance against Stoke, and that was just as well because, apart from the first 20 minutes, Sunderland were well off the pace.

When Stoke went down to 10 men, I thought we would cruise to victory but it didn’t happen and when we couldn’t get the second goal to kill off Stoke, panic set in and the last 20 minutes were riddled with nerves and tension.

The final whistle came as a relief to Sunderland’s players and fans.

It was the classic, ugly 1-0 win and while it wasn’t easy on the eye, I’ll take a few more of them, especially against our relegation rivals.

Steven N’Zonzi’s sending off was the pivotal moment of the game and Stoke manager Mark Hughes wasn’t happy with the decision, feeling his team would have got something from the game with 11 men.

We will never know if that would have happened but with Wes Brown’s ridiculous sending off at the Britannia earlier in the season, maybe it was karma that Stoke should go down to 10 men in the return fixture.