SUNDERLAND fans made it perfectly clear they do not think Newcastle United fan Danny Graham is the answer to their striker shortage last night.
But they had cause to thank a former Magpie for the fact he did not end possibly his last Swansea City game a matchwinner.
Titus Bramble’s lunge stopped the substitute Graham giving the Black Cats supporters even more cause to curse a man who was booed onto the field and barracked throughout his 16-minute cameo.
Graham’s crime was some ill-judged comments to a Newcastle fanzine in which he jokingly talked down what could soon be his new employers.
When Michu’s header in the third minute of added time fell to him, the Gateshead-born striker threatened to ram the taunts down their throats, only for Bramble to throw himself in the way.
It was just a pity it had taken 93 minutes for the game to generate that sort of excitement.
Swansea showed their usual commitment to passing, but lacked the accuracy they needed and therefore had no cutting edge.
What shots there were largely came from outside the area, and generally hit a red-and-white-shirted player before Simon Mignolet had to worry about them.
As during the second half in Wigan, Sunderland were happy to let their opponents weave pretty patterns confident they would not be hurt by them.
Perhaps the moment that best summed up the game came ten minutes before the end of the first half, Craig Gardner giving the ball away to Nathan Dyer in a dangerous position, only for the winger to steer a weak shot at John O’Shea.
It was one of a number of harmless shots Dyer took from long range. Mignolet’s only save of note came in the 17th minute when centre-back Chico Florres, up for a corner, shot from close range.
The Belgian comfortably kept the ball out, but he was unable to prevent a corner.
That said, Swansea might consider themselves unfortunate referee Andre Marriner did not look more favourably on their penalty appeals when O’Shea caught Itay Shechter in the penalty area.
Not that Sunderland were better, far from it. With an extra man in midfield to suffocate the Swans, they pressed well but rarely threatened on the counter-attack.
Sebastian Larsson had a free-kick which could almost have been a corner saved by Gerhard Tremmel 20 minutes in.
The German dealt with it unconvincingly but Sunderland never tested him again before the interval, Gardner hitting the best opportunity to do so way into the stands from a promisingly-placed free-kick.
He wisely went low from a similar position 30 yards out in the second half but while the ball beat the Swansea players blocking its path to goal, it was not hit with great power and dribbled past the post. Sunderland had, though, started the second half much better, a fact their fans hungrily and noisily latched onto. Unfortunately, their greater vibrancy soon petered out.
A half-time switch saw Stephane Sessegnon drop into the hole, Larsson taking his place wide on the right. It almost paid off in seconds, Jonathan de Guzman taking a cross from the Swede which was bound for Sessegnon.
There were still more nearly moments than genuine chances, however,
When Bramble launched a hoof which would probably see him fined two weeks’ wages at the Liberty Stadium, Steven Fletcher beautifully plucked it out of the air, only to stumble over the ball with a defender at his back.
Marriner did not help matters, either, pulling play back after Sessegnon got off the turf to spray a quick pass wide.
The referee was more concerned with getting Leon Britton’s name in the book than allowing a rare moment of excitement in a game desperately lacking it.
Swansea’s fans were on their feet three minutes later until they realised de Guzman’s free-kick from out wide had rippled the net only by landing on top of it.
The response to Graham’s introduction was interesting to say the least. There had been a smattering of boos when Martin O’Neill’s top transfer target’s name was read out before the match but nothing compared to the vitriol with which the South West corner welcomed his introduction to the game.
It might be nothing a few goals cannot solve, but if he does become a Sunderland player in the next 48 hours, Graham has serious work to do when it comes to his popularity. It may have enlivened the fans quietened when Sunderland failed to build on their promising restart, but it did nothing to raise the quality of the game.
When Dyer caught David Vaughan in possession he swapped a one-two with Michu onloy to produce a shot that was, well, dire.
Swansea’s Ki Sung-Yeung had a couple of long-range efforts, one straight at Mignolet, another dreadfully wild.
O’Neill made positive substitutions to chase the game, taking off holding midfielder Alfred N’Diaye after he failed to live up to the promise of his full debut. He was replaced by James McClean, who was booked for diving. Connor Wickham came on as a second striker in the final minutes, but no chances fell to him.
Swansea had the better of the closing stages, Dwight Tiendalli curling a shot wide before Bramble was called on to perform his heroics.