Sunderland’s lack of cutting edge proves costly against Newcastle United

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THE SHARPNESS of a cutting edge was glaringly absent from Sunderland’s armoury, yet it was the power of the pen which proved mightier in the battle of the North East’s two managers, writes Chris Young.

Alan Pardew scribbled furiously in the Stadium of Light dug-out throughout Sunderland’s first-half pressure and those notes changed both the complexion of a low quality Wear-Tyne derby and ultimately the popularity stakes of the two incumbents of the North East’s main hot seats.

Ordinarily, an early-season defeat, even in a derby, should never lead to hastily-defined views or premature conclusions. But for both Pardew and Sunderland chief Steve Bruce, there were significant consequences riding on Saturday’s encounter.

For Pardew, it was a must-not lose game, with Tyneside threatening to boil over from a perceived lack of investment, the sale of the club’s key figures and the farce surrounding Joey Barton.

But for Bruce, this was his big chance to win back the favour of those supporters disillusioned and humiliated from last season’s 5-1 drubbing and the fortuitous last-gasp Stadium of Light draw.

Sunderland will never have a better opportunity of taking derby spoils against a club wracked with disharmony and a starting XI whose only genuine goal threat emerged from set pieces. Even referee Howard Webb gave them a helping hand by ignoring the volleyball skills of Seb Larsson.

While Pardew will now be courted as the miracle-working messiah, derby disaster sees all the negatives against Bruce re-emerge – the Newcastle jinx, last season’s run of eight defeats in nine and a return of just two victories on Wearside in 2011.

Read Chris Young’s full verdict in today’s Echo.