The stadiums have emptied and the clean up has begun, but one or two managers may still be in their seats trying to work out what the next steps are for their clubs. Gareth Southgate, Sam Allardyce and Phil Brown are now all taking an even closer look at the league standings after failing to claim the three points in their respective matches yesterday. Portsmouth, Sunderland and Stoke all showed the cutting edge necessary at this late stage of the season.
Despite the dubious nature of Djibril Cisse’s goal, the Black Cats have now moved four points clear of Middlesbrough and can start breathing a little easier. Although Newcastle could move to within one point of their fierce rivals today, the commitment that Sunderland put into the game yesterday was rewarded when the Frenchman nodded in at the far post to put his side ahead deep in injury time of the first half.
It was offside, there was no doubt, but the luck needed to survive this sort of scrap was shining on Sunderland yesterday. They are not safe by any means, this was the easiest out of their remaining games and the Tyne and Wear derby may very well decide whether its Ricky Sbragia’s Sunderland or Alan Shearer’s Newcastle playing in the Championship next year.
Nwankwo Kanu scored his most important goal since the FA Cup final last year as Pompey pulled further away from the relegation zone. They now sit six points clear of the bottom three, and they still have a game in hand, admittedly this is away to Manchester United but they defeated the league leaders last year in the FA Cup so are more than capable of doing it again.
Bolton never looked interested in going for the three points and deserved to be defeated, Gary Megson’s players showed very little interest in attacking the ball and paid the price when the former Arsenal striker nipped in between Jllyod Samuel and Jussi Jaaskelainen to stab the ball in from close range. After Bolton substitute Nicky Hunt was booked for giving out instructions whilst warming up and Niko Krancjar was stretchered off the game looked finished. However the late strike from the Nigerian international has all but ended the relegation fear of Paul Hart and the Pompey players.
The other big winners on Saturday were Tony Pullis and Stoke. Having started the day in relative safety Stoke looked relaxed but determined on the ball, knowing that if other results didn’t go their way and they lost today then they would be back in the survival fight. Liam Lawrence’s second half strike has effectively secured the Premiership pedigree of the club for another year, moving them up to 11th and are now surely safe. Sam Allardyce’s Blackburn were still suffering from a list of first team injuries and that effectively eliminated any scoring threat and gave Stoke a fairly easy victory.
So, Pompey, Sunderland and Stoke have done their jobs, Newcastle have to win today although even the three points would not be enough to pull them out of the relegation zone. With Aston Villa and West Ham sharing a one all draw, attention now turns to Sunday’s massive games between Newcastle and Tottenham and West Brom and Man City.
So what was the most exciting moment of the day? At semi-professional Winchester City where the owner attempted to juggle a wayward ball and fell over much to the delight of the fans.