Campbell 25, Bent 40
Burnley’s Premier League status is hanging by a thread after a 2-1 defeat at the Stadium of Light by Steve Bruce’s resurgent Sunderland side.
The Black Cats were in control for most of the game, particularly in the first half as they dominated a demoralised Burnley side. After a slow start to the game Sunderland began to up the ante and the visitors were grateful of a great save from Brian Jensen to deny a deflected shot from Darren Bent. Jensen was again called into action producing a brilliant reaction stop from a John Mensah header. Sunderland finally took a deserved lead after 25 minutes when, after a good move, Alan Hutton crossed for Frazier Campbell who poked home for his fourth league goal of the season. Steve Bruce’s side were growing in confidence and could have scored a second had Kenwyne Jones released Hutton or Bent instead of Campbell who was in an offside position. Sunderland fielded an inexperienced central midfield partnership of Jordan Henderson and David Meyler whose combined age reached only a year ahead of Burnley veteran Graham Alexander. However, it was Meyler who showed guile beyond his years lifting a delicious ball over the Burnley defence for Campbell to head back for Darren Bent who made no mistake from six yards. The goal had a hint of offside to it and Brian Laws has a right to feel aggrieved, but unfortunately for him that’s the way your luck seems to go when you’re in the bottom three.
In the second half the game fell flat, which suited the visitors who slowly grew into the game. The Mackems looked a little unsure at the back after the loss of John Mensah at half-time, allowing Steven Thompson and Steven Fletcher to impose themselves on the Black Cats defence. The introduction of Robbie Blake inspired the Clarets going forward and with that got back into the game with 10 minutes to go after a fine strike from Thompson. Burnley were unable to push on and get an equaliser after lacking distinct quality in the final third, something which has plagued their season. Sunderland managed to see the game out and mathematically guarantee their Premier League status for another season.
Burnley are in deep trouble and have been since they appointed Brian Laws as manager. It was a peculiar appointment especially as Law’s previous employers Sheffield Wednesday are in similar trouble in the Championship. The Clarets were always up against it but after a wonderful result at Hull, they struggled to lift themselves for the game at the Stadium of Light. You would not believe on the basis of the first half performance that Burnley were a team fighting for survival. The only positive thing for a Burnley fan is if they can keep their squad together they could have a decent chance of bouncing back to Premier League next year.
As for Sunderland, they will look back at this season as what could have been. If they had not gone on a barren run in the middle of the season they could well have been in the shake up for a Europa League spot but most fans will be grateful of a mid-table finish after the exploits of surviving by the skin of their teeth last season.