There was no demented touchline celebration charge from Steve Bruce this time but after five days of anguish since Asamoah Gyan's injury-time derby equaliser, Sunderland's manager had the look of a Black Cat who got the cream at the final whistle yesterday.
The sudden departure of Darren Bent might have left Bruce in the lurch, without a specialist striker to partner Gyan, but the move looked a lot smarter on Sunderland's part last night with £18m in the bank and a two-goal deposit from the player pressed into emergency forward duty.
A figure of anonymity in the midfield against Newcastle last Sunday, Kieran Richardson made his presence felt as Bent's replacement up front, providing a razor-sharp foil for Gyan and plundering a first-half brace that floored Blackpool and had the travelling hordes singing: "Who the fuck is Darren Bent?"
The sometime England midfielder had Bruce singing his praises too. "Kieran revelled in that role today," he said. "His pace was electric and his touch was excellent." Bruce confirmed that the club were "in discussion" with Stoke about Ricardo Fuller. "But we're in discussion with about 10 clubs." He is poised to sign Internazionale midfielder Sulley Muntari, but he added: "Certain chief executives are trying to take our pants down, financially speaking."
Nobody showed their worth to Sunderland yesterday more than Craig Gordon. The £9m Scotland goalkeeper produced a handful of saves to keep his side on top against a Blackpool team shorn of DJ Campbell, who was taken ill. It required an 85th-minute penalty to beat Gordon, tucked away by Charlie Adam, who looked rather more than the £4.5m player Liverpool deemed him to be with their latest bid.
Holloway's team were behind from the quarter-hour. When Nedum Onuoha headed clear an Adam free-kick, Gyan charged forward to gain possession and played a slide-rule pass to Richardson, whose cool, side-footed finish sent the visiting fans into raptures.
Adam began to bring his considerable influence to bear midway through the first half. It was from his prompting pass that Gary Taylor-Fletcher forced a fine reflex save in the 29th minute, and the former Rangers player had Gordon at full stretch to tip over a chipped shot a minute later.
Sunderland struck again in the 36th minute. Steed Malbranque won a challenge wide on the left and his low pass was turned past Richard Kingson with a flashing first-time shot by Richardson.
Gordon produced a stunning one-handed save to keep out a curling free-kick from Adam but was beaten by a penalty from the Blackpool captain five minutes from time after David Vaughan crashed to the floor after colliding with Onuoha. Sunderland's shortcomings had finally been exposed. For good measure, Gyan threw his shorts as well as his shirt to the celebrating away fans at the final whistle.
Referee: Lee Mason
Man of the match: GordonReuse content