The glory this time, less than three days after the unforgettable joy of winning a penalty shoot out at Old Trafford, was not with Sunderland. There was another victory and there is another cup run developing and on their form in competitions other than the Premier League, you would not want to bet against them.
And yet while the narrative changed, this time it being about the underdogs failing bravely, it was the vociferous followers of the away team that roused a bit of cup romance.
Kidderminster had spurned a fine chance in the first half, when Sunderland’s debutant goalkeeper Oscar Ustari saved well from Michael Gash. They were behind at that point, the young Greek forward Charis Mavrias having scored in the fifth minute. Yet as Andy Thorn, the visitors’ manager proudly asserted, that did not open the floodgates. Gash was denied and as Sunderland, with 10 changes from the side that won at Manchester United to book a date at Wembley in March, floundered, spirits amongst the 4,500 followers from Kidderminster rose.
With two minutes remaining, the ball found the substitute Frederick Ladapo, through on the left side of the Sunderland defence. His shot had the pace but its accuracy was narrowly off and the effort flew agonisingly wide of Ustari’s far post.
“I am immensely proud of the players,” said Thorn. “I thought they were magnificent. I’m bitterly disappointed we’re not getting another crack at them. The icing on the cake would have been a draw but the icing on the cake was also the performance. We’re a Conference team at a Premier League team and the performance we put in was worthy of a league club.
“The fans were absolutely brilliant the way they got behind the team, especially at the end. It was a real proper cup tie, we got a head of steam up, we gambled and things dropped for us and on another day, maybe. It has been an unbelievable week for the club.”
That has certainly been true of their hosts. Yesterday, however, was a reminder of why the club is fighting relegation, given the paucity of talent beyond the first team.Seven of the Sunderland side that squeezed past Kidderminster were bought in a calamitous summer.
“As the game went on we couldn’t cross the ball properly and we couldn’t have a shot on target,” said their manager, Gus Poyet. “That is not to do with positions, that is to do with you, the ball and quality. There were a few that showed something, there were a few that didn’t. It was very good information for me.”
Sunderland (4-1-4-1) : Ustari; Celustka, Vergini, Diakité, Roberge; Cattermole (Colback, 72); Giaccherini (Borini, 66), Larsson, Ba (Gardner, 66), Mavrias; Altidore .
Kidderminster (4-4-1-1): Lewis; Vaughan, Gowling, Demetriou, Jackman; Morgan-Smith (Ladapo, 68), Storer, Dyer (Aloi, 83), Johnson (Gittings, 68 ); Bryne; Gash.
Referee: Roger East.
Man of the match: Storer (Kidderminster)
Match rating: 6/10