SUNDERLAND’S seven-game run without a win or a clean sheet ended, along with Fraizer Campbell’s 11 matches without a goal, as they earned an FA Cup fourth-round tie against either Portsmouth or Coventry City.
But what pleased Steve Bruce most about his side’s 3-0 win over Barrow was that the Black Cats avoided any additions to their lengthy injury list. Sunderland took on the Conference side with nine senior players injured and Michael Turner suspended.
Not until the second half did they shake off dogged opponents but on a day loaded with positives – including debuts for Ryan Noble and Michael Liddle, and assured performances from a central midfield pairing of Jordan
Henderson and David Meyler with a
combined age of 39 – Bruce was most happy his squad emerged unscathed.
“I’m pleased to get through, it’s never easy,” said the Black Cats manager. “It puts the winless run to bed – we can’t talk about that any more.
“The most important thing is we haven’t picked up any more injuries. That is hurting us badly. Against Barrow, no disrespect, you can get away with it, but in the Premier League to carry ten injuries is going to be very difficult.”
It was only after the win that Bruce revealed Nyron Nosworthy was the latest in the club’s congested treatment room. The defender picked up a knee injury in last week’s 2-2 draw at Blackburn Rovers, a recurrence of the problem which dogged him last season.
Bruce is hopeful that his walking wounded start to return at home to managerless Bolton on Saturday.
“I hope we’ll have three or four of the injured players back for Bolton,” he revealed. “I hope. But I’m only keeping my fingers crossed.”
Campbell scored in the 51st and 58th minutes to settle the tie. Until then his only Sunderland goal was against Birmingham City in the League Cup – but Bruce insists his Stadium of Light future was never in doubt.
When asked if there was any possibility of Campbell being loaned out this month, the response was unequivocal. “No, there’s absolutely no chance of that,” he said. “I’ve got two strikers and a young one. I’ve let (Martyn) Waghorn go (on loan to Leicester City). Fraizer knew when I bought him he would have to be a little bit patient. He’s waited for his chance and he’s got a great future ahead of him.
“I’ve been a bit unfair to him, too, I’ve played him on the right, but a striker wants to be a centre-forward. He was having a frustrating time at the start of it, but he’s got a couple of goals and that’ll do him the world of good.
“With the form of (Kenwyne) Jones and (Darren) Bent in particular, he’s found it frustrating but he’ll play a big part for us over the rest of the season.”
With Steed Malbranque scoring in the 15th minute, Campbell’s goals put the result beyond doubt, allowing two Sunderland debuts. That the second was Liddle, not Adam Reed, was due to some unorthodox decision-making.
“I put my hands out and told them to pick a hand,” Bruce explained. “Liddle won. It was 3-0 with a few minutes to go and they were both itching to get on.
“They were near enough tapping me on the shoulder. I haven’t done that before. There’s no need for tactics when you’re 3-0 up.”
Lorik Cana was booked for the seventh time this season – excluding his two yellow cards against Aston Villa.
“I got a yellow card because I kicked the ball (away),” he explained. “I didn’t kick the ball. It was not really a yellow card. The tackle with the goalkeeper (Tim Deasy, 20 minutes earlier) was much more of a yellow card.”