Sinclair denies Reid his glory

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The Independent Online

Sunderland were just one minute away from being enthroned at the top of the League yesterday - a position they have not occupied, opening week apart, since the year of the Coronation - when their crowning glory was ruined by an equaliser that West Ham had almost given up hoping for.

Sunderland were just one minute away from being enthroned at the top of the League yesterday - a position they have not occupied, opening week apart, since the year of the Coronation - when their crowning glory was ruined by an equaliser that West Ham had almost given up hoping for.

That the visitors had reached the 90th minute without conceding a goal was partly due to good fortune, but had more to do with the impressive determination they displayed after having their captain, Steve Bould, sent off in the 20th minute for felling Paolo Wanchope.

Everton's late, late equaliser against Leeds at Goodison meant that the Wearsiders were effectively leading the Premiership - if they could hang on to the lead Kevin Phillips had given them four minutes after Bould's dismissal.

But that happy state of affairs lasted less than a minute, Trevor Sinclair beating Sunderland's keeper Thomas Sorensen to Paolo Di Canio's lob forward to earn a richly deserved personal reward.

Sunderland's manager, Peter Reid, was unwilling to confirm afterwards that his veteran defender had head-butted Wanchope in an off-the-ball incident, but commented: "Steve paid for a rash error of judgement." He added ominously: "We've had a chat about it."

Every player except West Ham's keeper Shaka Hislop became involved in the aftermath of the incident, and trouble flared again after another confrontation between Wanchope and Bould's defensive partner Paul Butler.

The Hammers gave the first League start of the season to their 17-year-old midfielder Joe Cole, who had been so effective as a substitute on Thursday, and the faith placed in him appeared well placed in the opening stages as he contributed to several promising attacks.

Once Bould had gone, it seemed only a matter of time before West Ham pressed home their advantage, but their loss of concentration allowed Phillips to head home his 13th goal of the season virtually unhindered from a left-wing cross by Niall Quinn.

The home side chased the game with increasing desperation. However, when Di Canio's header bounced off the inside of the post and back to Sorensen after Sinclair's beautifully flighted 80th-minute cross from the right, it seemed the points were destined for the visitors, who had also managed to create and squander two clear second-half chances for Phillips and substitute Daniele Dichio.

"We're never going to finish top of this League," Reid said afterwards. But Sunderland were so nearly kings for a day.

Goals : Phillips (24) 0-1; Sinclair (89) 1-1.

West Ham United (3-5-2): Hislop; Ferdinand, Stimac (Ruddock, 52), Margas; Sinclair, Lampard, Lomas (Moncur, 74), Cole, Keller; Wanchope (Kitson, 63), Di Canio. Substitutes not used: Foe, Forrest (gk).

Sunderland (4-4-2): Sorensen; Makin, Butler, Bould, Gray (Williams, 24); Summerbee, Rae (Roy, 60), McCann, Schwarz; Quinn (Dichio, 72), Phillips. Substitutes not used: Reddy, Marriott (gk).

Referee : M Hasley (Welwyn Garden City).

Sending-off: Sunderland: Bould. Bookings: West Ham: Lomas, Sinclair, Ruddock. Sunderland : McCann, Schwarz, Makin.

Man of the match: Sorensen.

Attendance : 26,022.

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