SIMON Mignolet had one of his most boring days as a footballer on Saturday – and Sunderland’s goalkeeper is hoping for another today.
The Belgian was a virtual spectator in the 0-0 draw at home to Tottenham Hotspur. With opposite number Brad Friedel equally under-employed, it made for a desperate afternoon for the near-40,000 crowd but Mignolet loved it.
“We are very happy,” he said. “The defence did their job again. They did what they had to do. We can’t be more happy with that. It was probably the quietest game I have had all season. Tottenham are a big team so you expect them to create chances. I only had one save to make and it wasn’t really a save.
“Apart from that I took two crosses. I am quite pleased with that. Hopefully we can play a lot more games like that.” While Tottenham were at full strength in terms of attacking options, Sunderland were missing Wes Brown, John O’Shea and Titus Bramble, and had midfielder Jack Colback at left-back. Right-back Phil Bardsley also limped off with a groin strain threatening his
involvement at Goodison Park today, although not until the 80th minute. Matt Kilgallon, an outcast under previous manager Steve Bruce, produced a man-of-the-match display in only his fourth Premier League start this season. Mignolet, though, stressed the collective.
“It is not only the defenders doing well,” he pointed out. “The whole team is doing very well. If they can keep the ball further forward it makes the job of defending a lot easier.
“There’s big competition in the squad. When everyone is fit, we have a very decent team. When someone gets injured, somebody else steps in and does a good job. Matthew and (Michael) Turner have done that. You can only be pleased with the manner in which they have responded when asked to play.”
Defeat to Everton ten days earlier threatened to end Sunderland’s season, putting them out of the FA Cup, and leaving them without the carrots of silverware, safety or European football to play for. The response has been consecutive draws with top-four sides, the first a 3-3 at Manchester City. Not allowing the season to peter out was discussed in the dressing room after the Cup exit. Revenge, and addressing a terrible record against Everton, was not.
“You can do one of two things after being knocked out of the FA Cup,” Mignolet argued. “You can let the season go and start to think about holidays, on the other hand there’s still lots to play for. We can still finish seventh or eighth.”
“Everyone was disappointed when we got beaten by Everton. We all wanted to go to Wembley (venue for this weekend’s semi-finals), but that’s behind us now.
“You can’t think about revenge, if you focus on the fact they knocked us out of the Cup you will struggle. We will try to do our jobs, like we did against Tottenham and City. If we do that we can win at Goodison Park. We haven’t got a lot of good results there over the years (no win since November 1996), but the last time we played there in the Cup we got a draw.”
Captain Lee Cattermole was withdrawn on Saturday with a knee injury. He seems unlikely to be risked this afternoon.
Kieran Richardson, Wayne Bridge and David Vaughan will hope to start if Bardsley and Cattermole do not. Fraizer Campbell could also come back into the reckoning after his own knee complaint, but may have to be content with a place on the bench.