Sunderland flew to Spain last night for a training camp, and they may well have departedon Niall Quinn's famousmagic carpet. Quinn promised Sunderland supporters an end to the flat-earth mentality when he took over the club 20 months ago and this victory, achieved in the fifth minute of injury time, felt very much like lift-off.
With Sunderland having penned in West Ham for almost the entire second half and with chances, particularly a big one in the 81st minute for Daryl Murphy, being squandered, one last attack was launched and Andy Reid was on the end of it. A sumptuous volley gave Robert Green no hope but Sunderland plenty that survival is now theirs.
With Bolton losing, also in injury time, Sunderland are now seven points clear of the relegation zone and Roy Keane and the 45,690 here could begin to believe truly that come August, Sunderland will be a Premier League club still.
After the 1-0 win at Aston Villa eight days ago, what a time to end a seven-year, 126-game wait for back-to-back top-flight victories. It was also the first time this season that Sunderland have come from behind to win. And it was Reid's first goal for the club.
Keane did not deny that it felt like a landmark occasion, saying of Reid's strike: "It's a big, big goal for this football club.It's probably the biggest result I've had, but then last weekwas pretty big too. In terms of our Premier League future it's a big result."
Of the lateness of Reid's goal, Keane said: "It was nice to see five minutes going up on the board. You just hope you get another opportunity but we've scored a few late goals and you hope you take one last chance. We did. If you want the ball to fall to one player, it's Reidy."
Bought from Charlton for£4 million in January, Reid has given Sunderland subtlety and creativity. Not that Keane was too impressed with Reid, or any Sunderland player, early on.
Scott Parker was allowed to roam the midfield in the first half-hour and consequently West Ham had a fluidity that was causing Sunderland problems. Dean Ashton and Carlton Cole were lively as well and Ashton was unlucky not to open the scoring on 10 minutes, the striker's excellent side-foot effortbeating Craig Gordon but coming back off the post.
There was an expectancy among the large home crowd but West Ham were eating into it with regular attacks, and it was unsurprising when Freddy Ljungberg put the Londoners ahead. Neither Nyron Nosworthy nor Danny Collins will reflect happily on their part as Cole was given time and space in the area to find Ljungberg. The Swede took aim for the far diagonal, yet Gordon would surely have blocked the shot but for a deflection off Nosworthy's back that edged the ball into the corner.
But within 11 minutes Sunderland were level. Kenwyne Jones has had a fine first season in the Premier League but his goals have dried up, and he jumped for joy on tapping in his first of 2008.
It was Reid who deserved the credit, however. A one-two with Dean Whitehead made space and, using it intelligently, Reid found Kieran Richardson. His low cross was flicked on by Murphy to Jones, who couldnot miss.
Sunderland were back in the contest but Keane lashed his players at the interval. Their response was a half of pass-and-press football that was solid rather than spectacular and which looked to have failed.
West Ham faded markedly as Jonathan Spector almost scored an own goal and Collins saw one header booted away by Lucas Neill. Time began to slip away and the news remained that Bolton and Birmingham were winning. Hence the woe that greeted Murphy's eight-yard blast over after Jones had teed him up. Murphy was immediately substituted, although that was pre-planned.
But Sunderland did not give up and Reid brought their reward. "For them to win two on the spin is massive," West Ham's manager,Alan Curbishley, said. "I think they'll stay up." Last night, all Wearside agreed.Reuse content