Monday 13th February 2012
Even us most ardent of travelling fans will on occasion ask ourselves why we do it. Leaving my bed at 5am on Saturday morning, heading out into ridiculously cold temperatures knowing a 600 mile and ten hour-plus driving day lay ahead, I don't mind admitting I did question my sanity!
For a few crazy seconds however, when the away end at the Stadium of Light became a scene of total ecstasy, the reason was crystal clear. Get in you beauty!
After cleaning my windscreen of ice my dashboard indicated a temperature of minus seven but with all 300-odd miles due to take place along some of this country's main travel arteries we were hopeful the weather wouldn't prove a barrier to us actually completing the journey.
Pre-match refreshment was warm and plentiful in a slightly milder Sunderland and we entered the ground confident and optimistic as always.
With the type of football we play, a good surface always gives me confidence before a ball is kicked. For whatever reason the pitch on Saturday was at best difficult. Even from up in the stands you could see how awkward it was to turn sharply and control, dribble or pass the ball as it bobbled and bounced around all over the pitch.
Although that doesn't compliment our style I wouldn't want to use it as an excuse when things don't go well. With it being the same for both sides however, I don't think it is just coincidence that it was a relatively poor game for all but perhaps the last 20 minutes or so.
We simply cannot legislate for how we went behind. Shocking bad luck was punished in the harshest possible way. At that point in the game there looked like being only one winner too. Even without a particularly sharp cutting edge up to that point we were enjoying much of the possession and continued to probe around the Sunderland box in search of that winner.
Rambo's strike and the agonising split second as we waited to see if it would cross the line had us back in the game and with time to push on for that winner.
The Meerkat's cross was an absolute peach. From the moment it left his foot you could see it had a chance of meeting TH's movement in the box. In injury time was there ever any doubt the great man would finish it off?!
Cue total mayhem in the away end as arms and legs went everywhere!
Three massive points and that fantastic warm glow on a freezing cold day that only a good win can give you. It certainly made the long journey home far easier to endure and the victory pint (or two) back in my local tasted Super-sweet too.
In a week of many many miles we head off next to an equally cold Milan for one of those two-legged fixtures where whatever happens on Wednesday night it will only be half time.
We need to produce a performance to get the result to see us head into the second leg with all to play for of course. The entertainment off the pitch on the other hand, I have no doubt will be thoroughly enjoyable.
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