Sunderland still alive despite abandonment

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The Independent Football

Mike Riley has indicated that his decision to start Sunderland's quickly abandoned match against Fulham on Saturday was not influenced by his calling-off of Portsmouth's game against Arsenal last month an hour before kick-off.

It was a surprise that Saturday's game started, with heavy snow falling, but Riley said that he was hoping the surface water would clear and the weather would improve. The players confirmed to him that he should halt the match after 20 minutes, with Fulham leading through Brian McBride's ninth-minute goal.

The abandonment left Sunderland's Premiership fate in the hands of West Bromwich and Birmingham, but neither won so the Wearsiders are still alive.

Riley made his decision after consulting both managers and the fourth official. "We hoped that the players would kick the surface water away," he said. "The players were unhappy with the conditions because they were slipping."

Sunderland's Rory Delap collided with his team-mate George McCartney and needed stitches to a head injury, also suffering a suspected broken nose.

Sunderland's chief executive, Peter Walker, said: "It's very disappointing for everyone, particularly supporters, some of whom have made long journeys, but the safety of the players had to be paramount."

Sunderland's caretaker manager, Kevin Ball, said: "I was getting pelted with ice, snow or God knows what. They were the biggest things I've ever been hit with."