Kenwyne Jones feels that Wearside is the right place at the right time to showcase his striking talents – rather than north London – and on the day that he put his signature on a new four-and-a-half year contract at Sunderland, he again displayed the capacity for being in the right place at the right time to score the only goal of a game fraught with relegation nerves even at this stage of the season.
It was Jones's eighth in 13 starts since his return from injury in November. This was not his best game, or Sunderland's, but after a first half dominated by a Fulham side yet to win away from home this season, Jones and his colleagues rallied.
On the basis of Mark Schwarzer's three good saves, in particular one from Steed Malbranque, Sunderland earned their victory. It was their first in the league for five games, the first since Ricky Sbragia's position was made permanent.
He called the first 45 minutes "disastrous – we looked tired and I don't know why". Of Jones he said: "He wasn't tip-top, he knows he can do better, but he scored a vital goal for the club which has given us three vital points. Kenwyne never said he wanted to leave the club and he deserves everything he gets. We need him.
"I am not really concerned if we played extremely well. At the end of the day, the points are more important than the performance."
While Sunderland have kept Jones from Tottenham, Fulham have lost Jimmy Bullard to Hull but his absence was not glaring during a first half dominated territorially by the visitors. They were more coherent than their disjointed hosts and the disappointment for manager, Roy Hodgson, was that Fulham could not sustain their first-half superiority. "I think it was quite a good performance," he said. "I think we showed we have enough quality in the team to stay up.
"I don't have any complaints about the result as such. I don't think I could sit here and say we were robbed in any way. But on the other hand, I do think the performance perhaps merited a little bit more and, on another day, would have got us something from the game."
Brede Hangeland was commanding at centre-half and Danny Murphy at ease in midfield. Up front Bobby Zamora and Andy Johnson gelled. Yet Sunderland's goalkeeper, Marton Fulop, did not have to make any great saves all night and Fulham's best chances were squandered by Simon Davies and Clint Dempsey who missed from two yards though Johnson pushed Anton Ferdinand in the build-up. Referee Mark Halsey missed that, but then he also waved away an early penalty claim by Malbranque. Sunderland did start slow as Sbragia said but a Djibril Cissé shot that clipped the woodwork revealed potential. It took a while to be confirmed but in the 55th minute Andy Reid weaved into midfield, and was halted only at Fulham's 'D'. The ball ran to Cissé whose first-time smack was too hard for Schwarzer to hold. There for the rebound was Jones. Right place, right time.
Goal: Jones (55) 1-0.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Fulop; Bardsley, Ferdinand, Collins, McCartney (McShane, 71); Malbranque, Whitehead, Tainio (Leadbitter, 81), Reid (Edwards, 76); Cissé, Jones. Substitutes not used: Colgan, Diouf, Chopra, Healy.
Fulham (4-4-2): Schwarzer; Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky; Davies (Gera, 76), Etuhu (Nevland, 83), Murphy, Dempsey; Johnson, Zamora. Substitutes not used: Zuberbuhler, Stoor, Andreasen, Kallio, Baird.
Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).
Man of the match: Ferdinand.
Attendance: 36.539.Reuse content