Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sunderland v Palace: a case history

Expecting a goal feast in this evening's Sunderland-Palace match? History suggests otherwise as Tony Matthews reveals

As post FA Cup gloom settles, our eagles go straight back into league action at Sunderland tonight with the hopelessly optimistic believing that victory will establish a platform to get our play-off hopes back on track, while the hopelessly pessimistic fear it will merely confirm that our season is well and truly over.

Trips to Sunderland inevitably spark memories of our remarkable play-off victory in 2004 via a last gasp Darren Powell goal and an astonishing penalty shoot out, but that aside our record there is far from impressive and you have to go right back to 1979 to find our last 90 minute victory, a 2-1 triumph for Terry Venables’ young Eagles that had a significant bearing on the eventual destination of the second division championship.

Even in the play off we actually lost 2-1 on the night and that has been the final score on each of our last three visits. The best we have managed in modern times was a 0-0 draw in the FA Cup in 2001, a good result at the time for our first division strugglers against a Black Cats side that was flying high in the Premiership.

In fact the last 28 encounters, stretching back more than 30 years to Alan Whittle’s deciding strike in a tense FA Cup quarter-final at Roker Park in 1976, has seen neither team score more than two goals in a match, although Sunderland did get four in that 2001 FA Cup replay, but only after extra-time. That aside, every match has ended 0-0, 1-1, 1-0 or 2-1 except for a single 2-0 victory to each team (ours was in 1988-89 and theirs ten years later).

So how will it go tonight? Although we won the home game just before Christmas, we were unimpressive in doing so. On the hopeful side, we’re long overdue a win at Sunderland, but a statistical curiosity isn’t much to build our hopes on. If Peter Taylor once again sets his team out to play ultra-negatively, as at Preston, Wolves and Cardiff, then maybe we’ll claim another nil-nil. But if we concede early to a Sunderland team with their tails up, we may have to watch a Palace side without the heart to prevent the kind of hammering that will end decades’ worth of nip and tuck.

No comments: