Sunderland 3 Carlisle United 1: Mark Douglas' match analysis

Sunderland continue to produce their best form away from the league as a 3 - 1 win over Carlisle United proved

Soccer - FA Cup - Third Round - Sunderland v Carlisle United - Stadium of Light
Soccer - FA Cup - Third Round - Sunderland v Carlisle United - Stadium of Light

You will not find Gus Poyet among the growing band of Premier League managers cursing the Cup competitions over a mug of coffee this morning.

For while the FA Cup brought pain and discomfort to the doors of Paul Lambert, David Moyes, Sam Allardyce and Alan Pardew this weekend, Poyet continues to enjoy by far his brighter days at the Stadium of Light in the knockout competitions.

“I’m pleased with the whole day,” Poyet smiled after his team made relatively seamless progress against a spirited Carlisle side.

As well he might on a day when fortune finally smiled on a team who have conspired to be their own worst enemies this term.

Yesterday, Poyet could tick all the boxes.

His team took their chances, his makeshift defence stood firm and they also enjoyed that rarest of luxuries -an own goal going in their favour.

Even the last four digits of the attendance – 21,973 – were auspicious for a Sunderland team tilting to join Jim Montgomery and company in the pantheon of Black Cats heroes.

In a season where Sunderland have lurched from the sublime to the ridiculous via the bizarre far too often, a routine afternoon at the office is most certainly to be savoured.

 

Not that Carlisle, who were backed lustily by a following of nearly 6,000, didn’t give them uncomfortable moments as they continued to offer evidence they are progressing under Graham Kavanagh.

As his Cumbrians surged forward in the latter stages of the first half you had to squint particularly hard to remember this was a team which looked destined for League Two after a shambolic start to the season.

With David Amoo and the impressively agile Prince Bauben spearheading their attacking effort, they carried the look of a team who have been re-energised under a manager making progress at Brunton Park.

He will take heart from the way his team responded to Adam Johnson’s wonderfully flighted first-half free-kick, which flew past Cumbrians’ ‘goalkeeper Greg Fleming to give Sunderland a deserved early lead.

Their riposte was strong and Matty Robson’s late strike – cannoning in off the bar after Vito Mannone misjudged Amoo’s cross – saw them enter the break with deserved parity.

A shock was on the cards, but Sunderland’s response was collected. Sean O’Hanlon sliced Johnson’s cross-cum-shot past Fleming – Kavanagh suggested a foul in the build-up – and the Black Cats gained a measure of ascendancy which they never surrendered.

A third, guzzled by impressive substitute El-Hadji Ba after fine work by Jozy Altidore, gave the scoreline a more accurate complexion.

It was the pinnacle of two tidy cameos by summer signing Ba and young striker Duncan Watmore, who looked a lively presence on the wing on his senior debut for the Black Cats.

Among all the debate about Sunderland’s summer recruits, the younger signings made by the club’s controversial director of football Roberto De Fanti have often been forgotten.

Yet Ba and Watmore are two rough diamonds who have impressed Poyet, who might be forced to polish them in the Championship if he can’t complete the final leg of what would be one of the most famous escapes in the club’s history.

Watmore fizzed with enthusiasm and intent in the second half, clearly determined to make the most of his opportunity.

He nearly marked his debut with a goal too, dove-tailing nicely with Jack Colback just after replacing the peripheral Ji Dong-Won – only for Fleming to tip round the post. Ba’s route to the Stadium of Light has been more circuitous than Watmore’s, but the former Le Havre man went one better.

His close-range finish past Fleming put the seal on a professional performance and suggested there might be something for Poyet to work with beyond a first-team squad which has conspired to confound and frustrate for much of a perplexing campaign.

“I like them,” Poyet reflected afterwards.

“I wouldn’t like to kill them. I would like them to slowly become part of this club. There is always opportunities because of the opposition, the momentum, injuries or you play in two games time.

“They need to be ready and then do what they did. They need to show the manager they are interesting players with plenty of potential.”

Potential is what Kavanagh is hoping people start talking about Carlisle, who are attempting to rebuild in the face of the oft-commented-on indifference of the people of his city.

It is well documented attendances have dipped at Brunton Park and Kavanagh’s appointment came after crowds nose-dived under his predecessor Greg Abbott.

The team have recovered to establish themselves in mid-table in League One but that all-important attendance average continues to stand around the 4,500 mark.

It will have been both heartening and perplexing, then, to see 5,600 donning Cumbrian blue at the Stadium of Light.

That backs up the club’s hunch he support still remains for the Cumbrians but the challenge now is awakening those dormant fans.

Hopefully, the way his team counter-attacked with conviction and belief will persuade one or two floating supporters to attend when they welcome Colchester on January18.

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