Fulop points way to survival

Bolton Wanderers 0 Sunderland 0
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The Independent Football

Ricky Sbragia will not be watching tonight's match between Newcastle United and Middlesbrough. He will be in a pub with his friends, hoping the precedent he set a fortnight ago will work again.

Then the Sunderland manager concentrated on pints rather than points and was rewarded with a 0-0 draw between relegation rivals Newcastle and Portsmouth. A similar result tonight would do very nicely, thank you. He might even celebrate with a drink.

"It's not a case of not bearing to watch it," Sbragia said. "I just won't watch it. I've got things to do other than thinking about football. We can only do what we do and I'm not that concerned about Boro or Newcastle. It is up to them to worry." And in case anyone tries to text him with the score, he will have his "private" phone with him.

Sbragia will be doing what a lot of football people do, following a ritual in the hope of repetition, but then again he might be off his sport, because if any game was designed to deter enthusiasm this was it. In May results matter more than performance, which is fortunate because this was a shocker, the only effort on target arriving in second-half injury time. Then, with the only piece of excellence in the match, Marton Fulop tipped Gary Cahill's header round the post.

"That's what I'm there for," the Sunderland goalkeeper said welcoming the draw that pushed his team to 36 points in the table. "It would have been very cruel if it had gone in and we had lost. We controlled the game."

Fulop's analysis was fair because Sunderland showed a composure that had deserted them in recent weeks and if Kieran Richardson had been as accurate as he was enthusiastic the visitors would have celebrated a comfortable win. Nevertheless, Sbragia embodied relief. "The last fortnight has been very hard," he said. "The players showed what they are capable of."

Over to Newcastle and Middlesbrough: Sbragia will not be the only person drinking and hoping in the North East tonight.

Bolton Wanderers (4-1-4-1): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Cahill, A O'Brien, Samuel; McCann; K Davies, Muamba, Cohen (M Davies, h-t), Taylor; Elmander (Riga, 67) Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Puygrenier, Basham, Smolarek, Makukula.

Sunderland (4-4-1-1): Fulop; Bardsley, Davenport, Ferdinand, Collins; Malbranque, Whitehead, Tainio (Reid, 80), Leadbitter; Richardson; Jones (Cissé 72), Substitutes not used: Colgan (gk), McShane, Edwards, Healy, Murphy.

Referee: R Styles (Hampshire).

Booked: Bolton Cohen, M Davies.

Man of the match: Malbranque.

Attendance: 24,005

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