Any notion that, of the three teams from the North-east in the Premier League, it was just Newcastle and Middlesbrough who were in relegation trouble, was well and truly dismissed at The Hawthorns. At this rate, the region could find itself without any top-flight representation next season.
Sunderland had beaten Hull City – another team in deep trouble – the previous week but that was completely offset by this limp, toothless display in the West Midlands on Saturday afternoon. The Black Cats mustered one shot on target all afternoon against a West Bromwich Albion side that has been in the bottom three since November and is not known for its defensive solidity. Yet for all the threat posed by Kenwyne Jones and Djibril Cissé, you would have thought West Brom's backline had not been the problem this season. Even more damning, either of Ricky Sbragia, Sunderland's manager, or the options available to him, was that Sbragia stuck by his inept duo.
Instead, it was Sunderland's back four who were left to survey the wreckage of a disastrous day. For the first goal, the ball was flicked on from a corner to Jonas Olsson at the far post. The Swede was not picked up by Danny Collins, and he volleyed home. The second goal was better worked by the hosts, but someone should have covered Chris Brunt's run before he converted Marc-Antoine Fortuné's cross. By the time the substitute Juan Carlos Menseguez scored, from Brunt's pass, Sunderland were, mentally, on the coach back to Wearside.
But they need to regain their focus quickly for their next game, this Sunday, against an Everton side that, luckily for Sunderland, looks distracted by FA Cup final duty.
Carlos Edwards, the midfielder, acknowledged that this has to be a one-off if they are not to get sucked closer to the bottom three. He also revealed the extent to which the Sbragia was enraged. He said: "We are very disappointed. We got a good bollocking. The team performance was not good enough.
"I don't know where that performance came from. It was just a bad day at the office. Let's hope that is the final bad day at the office. In the battle that we find ourselves with four games to go we cannot afford any more bad days."
Four years ago, West Brom became the first team to avoid the drop after being bottom at Christmas. They are still odds-on to go down but are at least making a fight of it. Tony Mowbray, their manager, is not getting carried away by one good result and will only countenance talk of a Miracle Escape – better than the Great Escape of 2005 – if they beat Tottenham this weekend and then Wigan after that. But this deserved result at least gives them hope.
West Bromwich Albion (4-1-4-1): Carson; Zuiverloon, Meite (Martis, h/t), Olsson, Robinson; Dorrans (Menseguez, 64); Brunt, Koren, Greening, Simpson (Mulumbu, h-t); Fortune. Substitutes not used: Kiely (gk), Teixeira, Valero, Wood Sunderland: (4-4-2): Fulop; Bardsley, Davenport, Ferdinand, Collins; Edwards (Malbranque, 55), Tainio (Healy, 87), Richardson, Reid (Whitehead, 53); Jones, Cissé. Substitutes not used: Colgan (gk), Murphy, Leadbitter, McShane
Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire)
Booked: Sunderland Bardsley
Man of the match: Brunt
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