Connor finds 'delight' in a true bore draw
Sunderland 0 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0: Wolves manager accentuates the positive but eight-point gap to safety shows need for miracle
The word "delighted" was uttered in the immediate aftermath of this game, and it was uttered by a manager. That raised a few eyebrows.
Perhaps the slimness of the pickings Terry Connor has had to sift through offered an explanation. By the time Mike Jones drew relief and then some jeers from home supporters by blowing the final whistle, Connor had his second point since he picked up the poisoned chalice that was offered to him by Jez Moxey and Steve Morgan.
Perhaps it is something in the North-eastern air, because that other drawn game was at St James' Park back in February. Maybe the word "delighted" came because Connor's side had kept a clean sheet, something Wolverhampton Wanderers had not done for 31 games.
The clean sheet – and this was hardly an arduous game for either defence – ensured a point that made the gap between bottom [Wolves] and fourth-bottom [Wigan] eight points with four games left.
The sight of just 600 supporters for a side with a traditionally good following was proof that Wolves' fans do not expect a miracle of the greatest proportions the game has ever seen.
Still, Connor said: "We're delighted to get a point and keep a clean sheet. With a bit more quality finishing, we could have won all three. The most important thing was to take something from the game. The last three weeks we've actually played well and probably not got the rewards we should have had.
"They are a very honest and hardworking bunch. They've been brought up that way since they came into the club. They've kept working and taking leads in games and made errors at the wrong time. Today we could have nicked it with a goal at the end.
"We will keep going to the very end, that is me, the players and the club. I told them to be competitive in 38 games, and all of them mean something. We can still stay up, so the pressure is not off."
With a minute remaining, David Edwards stabbed a half-hearted volley wide, creating a stir of sorts on the visiting bench, but aside from a goal disallowed before it went in and a shot in the 10th minute from Anthony Forde, there was little to suggest that anyone (aside from Connor) believes Wolves will not be back in the Championship next season.
Sunderland slipped into ninth place with this point and there were kind words for Martin O'Neill from Ellis Short, the owner and chairman, in the programme.
Still, O'Neill, ever the realist, said: "We didn't do enough, and it was frustrating in that sense. It's been a great effort by the players. I have to keep reminding myself of the bigger picture. I think it's been a terrific effort but because it's Wolves, who are struggling, people are expecting us to win the game, but it doesn't work out like that.
"Now is the time to press on and perhaps it might show that we have got a lot of work to do. We want to progress. We have pulled ourselves around from potential relegation. We want to improve. We will certainly have a look at it [strengthening]. It might be in the last couple of games we might be able to start other young players and have some sort of look at them but we need to strengthen. The crowd want to come, they generally want to get behind the team and you have to do something to get them behind the team.
"It's very nice of [the owner] to say so, it's getting back to a reality check. We've done really fine, but we have to keep it going, keep a bit of momentum going and don't let it drop. Today, we didn't create enough in the game. That is something we have to take into consideration."
He was not "delighted" then – reassuringly.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Mignolet; Bardsley, Turner, Kilgallon, Richardson; Larsson, Gardner (Campbell 76), Colback, McClean; Sessegnon, Bendtner.
Wolves (4-4-2): Hennessey; Foley (Zubar 82), Stearman, Berra, Ward; Kightly (Edwards 76), Davies, Henry, Forde (Jarvis 62); Fletcher, Ebanks-Blake.
Referee Mike Jones.
Man of the match Colback (Sunderland).
Match rating 1/10.
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