Here’s what the Echo was reporting on Sunderland 10 years ago.
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Fulop vow: We can still win Premier spot
SUNDERLAND can still make the top two, says confident Marton Fulop.
Despite throwing away a potentially vital victory against fellow promotion hopefuls Birmingham last night, the big Hungarian goalkeeper insists a 1-1 draw at St Andrew’s is not a bad result.
And we called for a repeat performance at the Stadium of Light against leaders Derby County on Saturday.
Fulop said: “We had a lead that we should have held and could have extended. We’re looking at it as two points dropped.
“But if we play that way against Derby on Saturday I am sure we will do well against them.
It was a Premier League tempo and a Premier League atmosphere. I think both teams will be in the top flight next season.
“A victory would have closed that gap between ourselves and the top two, but I still believe we can get up there.
“None of us thinks that the play-offs are our target.”
Birmingham couldn’t get close to Sunderland in a first-half performance that was rewarded by Carlos Edwards’ wonderful strike.
Though the Blues emerged much stronger after the break, the visitors still created better chances were denied a second goal when former Brum favourite Stern John was flagged offside while netting three minutes into the second half.
But they were denied victory at the death when substitute DJ Campbell – architect of Brentford’s FA Cup giant-killing of Sunderland last season – stabbed home from close range in the 90th minute.
Fulop said graciously: “All credit to Birmingham. They fought to the last second and got a goal they deserved for their contribution and desire. But we should have had more goals.
“I have to thank our supporters again. If it was up to our fans we would have won by many goals. They were magnificent.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t kill Birmingham off. The team gave 100 per cent like always and it is not a bad result.
“It is a shame not to get the win, but not many teams can outplay Birmingham at their own stadium, so we have to take great confidence from this game, even though we are very disappointed not to have won.
“I tried to keep another clean sheet. I was one minute from getting it and I think the defence would have deserved a clean sheet.”
Birmingham’s leveller came from a disputed corner, some Sunderland players arguing that Fulop had not touched the ball before it went out.
But the honest Hungary international admitted: “I got my finger tips on it, so it was a corner.”
“We really felt we had won the game, but we have to leave this game behind now and concentrate on what is a really bit match against Derby on Saturday.
“We should rest for a while and then concentrate on getting the right result against them.”
But boss insists second would have sealed it
THERE was no special insights from Roy Keane’s post-match press conference but then, to anyone watching the game, there wasn’t a great deal to say, other than to state the obvious.
Well, Sunderland came, saw and conquered, but they didn’t finish off their wounded foes and Birmingham made them pay with a late equaliser.
Keane had seen the ebb and flow of too many games to be distraught about the last-minute equaliser.
And perhaps he saw it as a lesson his team could learn from.
Just as they learned from the away trip to Sheffield Wednesday recently, that they cannot afford to take their foot of the gas in the dying minutes, the 1-1 draw at St Andrew’s showing the value of taking your chances when you get them.
Keane said: “I’m OK about things and you’re only 1-0 up in a hard-fought match, you always know you might concede. And it was one those nights when we always needed the second goal to start feeling safe
“The second goal didn’t come and the longer the game went on it was always a danger that they’d get a leveller. We’ve done it to enough teams ourselves this season so it wasn’t totally unexpected.”
Keane gave recognition to Birmingham for the spirit they showed in getting back into the game. But there was no getting away from the fact that the game had been there for the taking for such long period for Sunderland and this was a match that was two points dropped for the Wearsiders rather than one point gained.
Keane said: “Credit Birmingham City because they kept going, but we had the chances to kill the game off and, if you don’t take them, it generally comes back to hurt you.
“Overall, we were pleased with our first-half performance – not so much the second half when they started to come into it. But then they are the home team and they’re always going to come at you and take a few chances when they’re chasing the game.
“I think if we had scored a second we would have won the game comfortably. But I have to say I’m delighted with my players, despite the disappointment of the final result.
“The players are a bit down about conceding in the last few minutes, but that’s football and I can’t complain.
“They have me their all and that’s all I ask of them.
“It’s a little bit of a pity that we couldn’t have got that second, but we have to remember that we are still playing catch-up with Birmingham and Derby, who are a way ahead of us.
“We only got into the top six a couple of days ago and we’re still looking to cement that position. But, having said that, we’re also waiting for any slip-up from our rivals and still hoping to punish the teams at the top.”