Sunderland fans finally have something to cheer about in 2013 after their side thumped West Ham 3-0 on Saturday to earn their first three points of the New Year and propel the Black Cats six points clear of relegation.
Martin O’Neil’s squad had gone into their home clash with Premier League rivals West Ham craving a win after two losses and a draw since their Boxing Day triumph over Man City. And didn’t it just come, with Seb Larsen starting the show after just 12 minutes before Adam Johnson and James McLean netted in the second half.
“The win was important for us,” O’Neil told BBC Sport. “I think anybody in the bottom half of the table still has to be looking anxiously over their shoulder.”
Indeed, O’Neil is right to be wary of the drop zone after below-par outings against Liverpool and Bolton in the FA Cup put a slight blemish on proceedings for 2013. His side suffered a major New Year hangover at Anfield and were comprehensively outplayed against a side struggling with their own form this season.
Three days later at the Reebok Stadium, O’Neil fielded a reasonably strong squad and had to battle hard from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw and third-round replay.
These three 2013 performances have characterised Sunderland’s entire season. From the utterly woeful at Anfield to a resounding performance against West Ham, Sunderland’s inconsistencies have put them at risk of a relegation scrap already this term.
However, O’Neil must be confident that another performance or two like that on Saturday will be enough for the Black Cats to stave off any relegation threat this season. The manager could do with a new name or two in his squad this January and if he is shrewd in this transfer window Sunderland may even make a late push for the top half before the season is out.
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