Already relegated, there was nothing riding on Sunderland’s trip to Hull City aside from recapturing some pride from a dismal campaign.
A diving header from Billy Jones, a late Jermain Defoe goal and a clean sheet ensured Sunderland headed back to Wearside with three points - heaping more relegation woe on the Tigers.
Here’s what we learned from the trip to the KCOM Stadium:
Too little, too late:
As is so often the case, once the pressure is off an already relegated side picks up three points.
Three months Sunderland fans had waited for a win. Had the side managed to achieve this a month ago they’d still have a shot at staying up.
As it is, they were relegated with four games to spare. Three games to go for Sunderland to at least end on a high. Far too little, too late, though.
Heading into the game, Hull City boss Marco Silva hadn’t lost a home league match as a manager since March 2014.
Typical then that already relegated Sunderland would end that run dating back to when he was manager of Portuguese side Estoril (W34 D7 L1).
Typical that Billy Jones, of all people, would score with a diving header. And that Jermain Defoe would finally end his goal drought with an offside goal.
Typical that, when nothing was riding on the game, everything fell into place for Sunderland.
Jordan Pickford oozes class:
It’s difficult to find new ways to praise Pickford but this was probably his most confident, assured and commanding performance in goal for Sunderland yet.
Pickford is in demand this summer and it is no surprise he is one of the Premier League’s hottest properties given his form for Sunderland this season.
Being busy every week has helped raise his profile but he kept Sunderland in this game with three stunning saves against Sam Clucas, Abel Hernandez and Lazar Markovic.
George Honeyman takes his chance:
The 22-year-old was handed a start by David Moyes and he didn’t disappoint, busy throughout he was confident and always looking for the ball.
Honeyman was played in the number 10 role behind Jermain Defoe with Victor Anichebe and Fabio Borini providing support down either flank.
He should have scored with a header in the opening stages of the game but didn’t let his head drop and was industrious throughout.
His corner was flicked on by John O’Shea for Billy Jones to put Sunderland ahead. It would be no surprise to see Honeyman start the remaining three games.
Didn’t take long for Wahbi Khazri to be benched:
The winger had been drafted back into the Sunderland starting line-up against West Ham United, Boro and Bournemouth - but he was benched again at Hull City.
Having barely featured all season, it didn’t take long for Moyes to drop him to the subs bench.
Honeyman’s impressive display and the win meant the selection was justified but Khazri will surely be one of the first out of the door this summer.
Jermain Defoe ends his goal drought:
It’s fair to say Defoe has been out of sorts in recent weeks, really since he returned to the England fold in March.
Up until he bundled home Sunderland’s second late on, Defoe hadn’t scored for the Black Cats in more than a 1,000 minutes dating back to the Crystal Palace win.
Yes he has been starved of decent service for much of that time but he has lacked his usual sharpness too, missing chances he’d normally bury - no surprise, perhaps, given how many games he has started this season.
Defoe is now on 15 Premier League goals this season, three shy of his best-ever tally in the top flight. Hopefully he’ll smash that personal milestone before departing in the summer.