West Bromwich 0 Sunderland 1: Sunderland end winless streak with smash-and-grab raid

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The Independent Online

Sunderland seized upon a long-overdue slice of fortune to sink West Brom and claim only the Black Cats' second Barclays Premiership win of a desperate season.

Anthony Le Tallec's 72nd-minute effort appeared to be drifting wide when it struck Baggies defender Steve Watson and deflected past Tomasz Kuszczak. And with painful memories of the last-gasp equaliser conceded in the reverse fixture at the Stadium of Light in September, Mick McCarthy's men fully deserved their raucous final whistle celebrations.

"I don't care how the ball went in or who scored it," said Sunderland manager, Mick McCarthy, afterwards. "You can give it to Jon Stead if you want, or one of their players. I'm not bothered. We just got a break at last and now someone else can get a taste of how I've been feeling for months."

The result dropped the Baggies back towards the danger zone and kick-started McCarthy's push for a miracle by taking the Wearsiders within a mere 11 points of safety.

The home side started a little more brightly but Darren Carter was a little too ambitious with his 30-yard effort in the second minute which sailed well wide of Kelvin Davis in the Sunderland goal.

Unsurprisingly Sunderland's beleaguered defenders looked edgy early on with Martin Albrechtsen and Ronnie Wallwork both attempting to capitalise with dangerous balls into the box. The visitors created their first half-chance after quarter of an hour when Justin Hoyte's cross from deep on the right just missed the head of Julio Arca in front of goal.

Down at the other end, Nathan Ellington found space on the right side of Sunderland's box but his unselfish pass to Kevin Campbell resulted in a mis-kick by his fellow frontman.

Wallwork almost set up an Albion opener in the 24th minute when his drive from outside the box deflected off team-mate Junichi Inamoto and was well saved by the wrong-footed Davis.

Tommy Miller's long-range drive which flew well wide was the best Sunderland were going to get as a dull first period drew to a close.

Hoyte had the first effort of the second half with a speculative long-range drive which also failed to trouble Kuszczak as it flew harmlessly over the bar. As the visitors pressed, Arca had an agonising miss in the 50th minute when he stuck his right foot onto a pinpoint cross by Liam Lawrence only to fire wide from 10 yards.

But as the early second-half surge began to subside, Sunderland once again resorted to long-range efforts with Lawrence not too far away from the edge of the box in the 66th minute.

With time running out on Albion's hopes of claiming three points, Robson made his first change in the 69th minute, introducing striker Geoff Horsfield in place of Inamoto.

But the visitors were first to take a rare chance when Le Tallec squirmed into the right side of the Baggies box and saw his poor shot deflected into the net off Watson.

"It is really nice not to lose and to get a lucky break," said McCarthy. "We were feeling relaxed. That is one of the positive things about our position. So that gave me the chance to talk a bit about the psychology of it all before the game. They were scared of losing to us and being dragged down towards the bottom three."

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