Goals from Andy Carroll and Mohamed Diame gave West Ham a vital win and left Sunderland staring into the abyss
A feeling of resignation spreads around the Stadium of Light. Sunderland aren't out of it but they really needed to win that game. They had the chances to rescue something but West Ham hung on for a win that takes them to 37 points. Safety is in sight for them. As for Sunderland, they are four points behind West Brom and while they have two games in hand, their next four matches are against Tottenham, Everton, Manchester City and Chelsea. You fear for them now. Thanks for reading. Bye.
The Sunderland fans boo, the West Ham fans cheer and a grinning Sam Allardyce sends a celebratory fist pump their way.
90 min+5: Tomkins heads the ball away ... Alonso's shot is blocked ... and Johnson screws wide ... and...
90 min+4: Time is running out.
90 min+2: Alonso finally manages to produce a decent cross but Scocco heads over! In his defence, the ball arrived at him very quickly. Adrian then takes too much time over the goal-kick and is booked.
90 min+1: Johnson's corner is headed on at the near post. Where's Mannone? Nowhere near the ball! Nocerino clears! There will be five minutes of stoppage time.
90 min: Borini's shot from 25 yards is deflected wide for another corner - and here comes Mannone again!
88 min: West Ham deal with the free-kick and Reid comes back on. But soon Tomkins is heading behind for a corner, which brings Mannone forward. Repeat: the Sunderland goalkeeper is up for the corner. So Sunderland take it short and Bridcutt chips a nothing cross over the bar. Ah.
87 min: Reid is down after fouling Gardner on the right. He's holding his lower leg but it won't let him off a yellow card. In fact, he'll need to leave the pitch for treatment, so Sunderland have a free-kick and West Ham are down to 10 men.
86 min: Sunderland take the corner short and Johnson ends up finding Alonso on the edge of the area, but he blasts well over.
85 min: Johnson twists, turns and stands a cute cross to the far post, where Gardner is waiting - but Taylor heads behind.
84 min: West Ham make their final change, Antonio Nocerino replacing Kevin Nolan. Kids, there will be no Carlton Cole tonight. Sunderland are now being restricted to long-range shots, Borini with the latest. Adrian holds comfortably.
83 min: Now Carroll blooters one over on the turn. This has been a quality match.
82 min: Now Gardner shoots from 30 yards. Nothing doing.
81 min: Borini cuts inside from the right and tries to repeat his heroics from the derby against Newcastle, but ends up walloping his shot into the top tier.
80 min: This minute featured a lot of fouls.
79 min: West Ham replace Mohamed Diame with Roger Johnson, who is sporting a natty black eye, while Sunderland replace Ki with Ignacio Scocco.
75 min: Wickham is booked for a handball on the halfway line. West Ham are in timewasting mode now.
73 min: Alonso is booked for blocking off Downing on the right. You're unlikely to see a less subtle foul. The free-kick is worked to Downing on the right and he tricks his way past Alonso before his cross finds Carroll, whose volley is deflected behind for a corner, which comes to nothing.
72 min: West Ham have turned into a rabble. They can barely string two passes together now.
70 min: Diame tries to bend one into the far corner, but it's straight at Mannone. West Ham then play silly buggers with it on the left flank and soon Sunderland nick the ball, before creating a glorious chance to equalise, Wickham prodding pass to Borini, who takes a touch and then rattles a shot into the side-netting. Half the ground thought it was in. Alas.
68 min: West Ham are rocking now! Ki lets fly from 25 yards and it takes an awkward bounce in front of Adrian, who spills the ball. It runs to Wickham, who should score, but Adrian is quickly in his face to block his shot from six yards. What a save!
67 min: Kevin Nolan is booked for something or other. "Have already filed my scouting report to Brendan," says Ian Copestake. "I suggest he plant a large (pony-tailed) tree in the box at the training ground and have his defenders practice hoofing away the balls that bounce off it."
This is a splendid goal and Sunderland have hope! Craig Gardner slipped a pass through Armero's legs to Johnson and he took a touch before curling an unstoppable shot high into the top-right corner from 18 yards. What a finish. The two substitutes have combined to devastating effect and you can hear the relief around the ground. What a final 25 minutes we've got on our hands now.
63 min: West Ham just had a spell of uninterrupted possession and that's why they call him Sam Allardici.
61 min: West Ham should be 3-0 up. Downing takes a sublime ball over Alonso in his stride, his superb first touch taking him past the Sunderland left-back and through on goal. He opens up his body and tries to place the ball with his left foot into the far corner, but Mannone's fingertips sends it inches past the post. Howard Webb, who's having another fine evening, awards a goal-kick.
60 min: Sunderland have finally dispensed with their ludicrous five-man defence, Craig Gardner replacing John O'Shea. "More often, booing shows that the end of one's tether has been reached," says Steven Hughes. |Received wisdom likes to remind us all that football is a business but, money aside, the analogy doesn't hold water. If I don't like the food at the restaurant, I can decide to eat at another restaurant in future; if I don't like a TV channel, I can change to another station; if I don't like digestives, I can change to jaffa cakes. With football, the local club's patrons are held captive and the local club knows this to be the case: Sunderland fans are never, ever going to support Newcastle. In effect, the fans have got to go to the same restaurant and keep eating the same crap food. How do they then convey that they aren't happy? Booing one of the few weapons in the football fan's figurative scabbard and I'm always amazed if a football fan finger-wags in the face of fans who boo. If the clubs want to stop booing, stop charging your fans through the nose like 'consumers' and they might feel more lenient towards the team and stop judging them on the service, or lack thereof, that they provide."
58 min: Johnson wins a tussle with Noble in the middle and sends Borini away on the left. He's faced by Tomkins and tries to beat him on the outside, but the defending from the West Ham man is excellent, forcing Borini away from goal, away from danger and down a dead end.
56 min: Downing, yet to score for West Ham, tries to score for West Ham. But his low shot from 18 yards is straight at Mannone.
55 min: Johnson is actually playing through the middle. He slides a pass through to Bardsley on the right. His cross is headed behind by Taylor for a corner. It's headed away by Nolan to Alonso, whose deflected shot should be collected by Adrian. It is ... but there's a momentary scare as he's knocked over by Carroll on the line. Oh my! But Adrian gathers at the second attempt and then tells Carroll to eff off.
53 min: A clearance falls to Alonso on the edge of the area and his rasping low drive whistles a few yards wide, which is the cue for Sunderland to replace Lee Cattermole with Adam Johnson.
51 min: Sunderland should be back in it. A lovely ball over the top of the West Ham defence finds Bardsley unmarked. He could head it goalwards but instead tries to chest it down, only for the ball to run out of play.
A free-kick to West Ham, just inside their own half. Tomkins sends it long to Carroll - of course he does - and although his chest control runs away from him, Diame is alert. He runs on to the loose ball and his shot from the edge of the area takes a deflection off the hapless Vertgini and dribbles into the bottom-right corner, Mannone only able to stand and watch. Sunderland have it all to do now.
49 min: Borini locates Cattermole in space of the edge of the area but he takes too long to shoot. When he does, Diame is in the way. Johnson is warming up.
I've really built him up.
48 min: Armero was very poor when Napoli lost 2-0 to Arsenal in September, so it may not be long before he's faced by Adam Johnson.
46 min: Here we go again. West Ham have had to make a change at half-time, Pablo Armero is on for George McCartney, who has a hamstring problem. And Sunderland are on the attack immediately, Wickham bustling about outside the area, before the ball runs to Bardsley on the right. He goes for goal but screws his shot wide of the far post, Ki unable to react quickly enough for a tap-in. "There is no place on a football pitch for a pony-tailed salmon," notes Ian Copestake. "Far more likely to find such a creature in a Pieter Brueghal the younger depiction of hell."
The more you see the Nolan handball, the worse it gets for Howard Webb. He was standing five yards away and still couldn't see it.
The Stadium of Light is not a happy place.
45 min+1: There will be one minute of the added stuff. Sunderland spend it flinging pointless crosses into the West Ham box. Loud boos greet Howard Webb's half-time whistle.
45 min: Andy Carroll is winning his headers.
42 min: "Booing your own team shows a real lack of class," says Paul Ashton. "It’s YOUR team, and you support them through thick and thin. A couple of years ago I watched a Spanish cup match in which a third division side took apart Real Madrid, in the Bernebeau of all places. The Real crown showed their displeasure by giving the opponents a five minute standing ovation in the last 5 minutes of the game. It started with just a few in one section but gradually expanded to take over the whole, 80,000 stadium. The noise was tremendous, and the message clear."
40 min: The replay of that incident has been shown again and Nolan is so fortunate. He led with his arm into the ball and almost elbowed it away.
39 min: Alonso shoots with his right foot. Throw-in to West Ham. Meanwhile replays from an incident a minute or so ago show that West Ham were lucky not to concede a penalty when Nolan handled. A poor decision by Howard Webb.
37 min: A colleague has just walked over to ask what's happening. Not much, I inform him. But then something does. McCartney hangs a cross up towards the far post and Carroll leaps high, like a pony-tailed salmon would leap high, but his firm header is caught by Mannone. Up the other end, some pinball leads to a Sunderland corner, from which nothing of any note arises.
35 min: Bridcutt has a dig from 25 yards. Over. There's nowhere for Sunderland to go. They might want to think about introducing Adam Johnson.
33 min: The Sunderland fans are getting restless. Their team is going nowhere against this brick wall. West Ham have so many players back all the time. But suddenly Bardsley injects some urgency, dashing into the area from the right. It opens up for him, but he slashes his shot away from goal and Demel clears.
30 min: If this doesn't change, I suspect Poyet will be tweaking Sunderland's system at half-time. Everything is in front of West Ham.
28 min: Vertgini shoots from 30 yards. Think again.
26 min: A Sunderland corner on the right. Ki takes it and whips a fantastic ball into the six-yard box but Bardsley can't adjust himself in time to head home.
25 min: A high ball has Reid in trouble. He misses it but Wickham can't bring the ball under his control. If he had, he would have been through on goal. Another half-chance goes begging for Sunderland, who are having a few decent moments here and there. "Can't see the game, but I wondered whether Sky/Barclays, having asked any Hammers fans who wanted to attend the game to put in a 500 mile round trip on a Monday night, still have the temerity to run those godawful 'You Are Football' adverts this evening?" says James Crane, arching his eyebrow as he does so.
23 min: Is it really acceptable for Sunderland to stick the away fans high up in the corner? It doesn't particularly contribute to the atmosphere.
22 min: Diame dashes in from the left and goes for goal. But it's straight down Mannone's throat and he collects easily, before spitting the ball out.
21 min: The Stadium of Light is very quiet. The Sunderland fans need something to spark them into life. West Ham are increasingly comfortable. "I am here scouting for Brendan's next game against the Hammers," Ian Copestake says. "I doubt they will afford us the space Tim Sherwood kindly allowed his team to give us so that we would not feel any title-race 'jitters'."
19 min: Sunderland are making their own problems at the back, which is unwise. West Ham pin Alonso into a corner on the left, Downing of all people refusing to let him out, and his clearance is charged down, sending the ball spinning to Nolan. Eventually a neat pass from Nolan finds Noble inside and has Sunderland worried. Noble rolls it along to Taylor, who's just on the stretch as he shoots from the edge of the area. His rising effort is only a yard or two wide of the right post, though.
17 min: I do believe that Sunderland have not come back from behind to win this season, which isn't especially encouraging.
15 min: West Ham are playing on Sunderland's nerves now. Downing cuts inside from the right and curls a cross to the far post, where Diame is caught on his heels. He would have scored if only he'd gambled.
14 min: "You can't really have one simultaneous equation - you need at least two for them to be, well, simultaneous," says Mark Taylor. "Sorry." No need to apologise for being a massive poindexter.
12 min: Sunderland should be level! Dreadful defending from Tomkins on the right gave them the chance. He completely failed to deal with a ball down the line and allowed Wickham to knock a pass into the middle to Ki, who went speeding into the area at quite some pelt. He couldn't quite get his shot away but the ball ran to Cattermole, all on his own six yards from goal. A goal looked certain but Cattermole struck the ball far too close to Adrian, who saved with his legs! Even then, the rebound came back to Cattermol, but he hooked that over too from an angle. What a miss!
It had to be the former Newcastle striker. Sunderland managed to deal with the first corner from Downing, the ball headed behind for another on the left. Noble curls it into the six-yard box and with Mannone blocked off on his line, Carroll rises above O'Shea and thuds a header past the Sunderland goalkeeper. Mannone got a hand to the ball but it was too powerful for him to keep out. Carroll is good at heading and, with the Sunderland fans in a funk, he's milking that goal for all its worth.
8 min: Cattermole tries to pinpoint a pass through to Alonso on the left but it's slightly overhit and runs out for a goal-kick to West Ham, who are perfectly content to sit back and see what Sunderland have got. Until Alonso falls asleep up the other end, that is. He lets Downing peel away from him and only excellent defending from Brown stops the West Ham man from going through on goal, at the expense of a corner.
6 min: Sunderland are making most of the early running but they look like a team in the bottom three, because they are. There's not much conviction in the final third yet but plenty of honest endeavour. "I am quite relieved to have forgotten what a simultaneous equation is or looks like," says Ian Copestake.
5 min: It's scrappy.
3 min: West Ham have an attack for the first time, Nolan finding space 30 yards from goal. He goes for the shot but totally mishits it, shanking the ball off towards the left touchline. It would go out for a throw but Diame scampers off to collect it and spare his captain's embarrassment. Diame crosses but it's cleared, giving Ki a chance to counter, only for Noble to pull him back. He's booked.
2 min: Sunderland's three centre-backs should, in theory, allow their full-backs to charge forward far more than usual. And sure enough, Bardsley is causing problems down the right already. First his low cross at the near post is cut out by Reid at the near post. But Bardsley's in space again on the right moments later and his volleyed cross almost swerves into the far post at the last. But it doesn't.
Peep! And we are off, Sunderland, in their red and white stripes, get the ball rolling, kicking from left to right in the first half. West Ham are in claret and blue. Wes Brown takes five seconds to give the ball to West Ham. Demel then boots the ball out for a throw. The only way is up!
And here come the teams! We'll have some football soon and I'll report it to all two of you who are reading this. "Never booed regardless of the result or performance," says James Caldwell. "However, I was at West Ham on Wendesday and I was muttering variants of "this is rubbish". More troubling I thought was that people were streaming out with a full 15 minutes left when we were winning. That was weird." I've never spent so long willing a match to end.
"I'm 67 this year and have supported Sunderland all of those years (well, since I was 8 at the first match)," says John Bains. "I have never booed, and will not boo tonight, even if we lose 8-0. I support the Club and always will, even if they are managerless (many times), in the old Third Division (once) and have some appaling players (quite a few). Sunderland have given me great times and great memories which far outweigh the impusle to boo. Shame on anyone who does."
I can guarantee that Sunderland will not lose 8-0. And that's a Guardian Guarantee!
An obvious question, then: have you ever booed your team after a win?
Sunderland play three centre-backs to counter West Ham's attacking threat: Mannone, Bardsley, Brown, O'Shea, Vergini, Alonso; Bridcutt, Cattermole, Ki; Borini, Wickham. Subs: Gardner, Johnson, Colback, Altidore, Cuellar, Scocco, Ustari.
West Ham bring in Winston Reid for calfstrung James Collins: Adrian; Demel, Tomkins, Reid, McCartney; Noble, Taylor; Diame, Nolan, Downing, Carroll. Subs: Jaaskelainen, Jarvis, Armero, J.Cole, C.Cole, Johnson, Nocerino.
Referee: Howard Webb. Carroll better keep those elbows low.
Evening. People always think so much time. One more episode of House of Cards – that revision can wait. One more episode. It won't hurt. You've got time, loads of it, and that exam is ages away anyway. It'll be fine! Chill out, mum! Why panic? Then, before you know it, you're in the exam hall, you're staring glass-eyed at a blank sheet of paper and all you can think is "Frank Underwood is such an interesting character – an amoral schemer who has committed some awful crimes in his life, and yet I somehow find myself rooting for him ... not sure if that's the right answer to this simultaneous equation, though". You can kiss your summer goodbye.
Sunderland know the feeling. All season we've been waiting for them to come good, and with good reason, because they've got ... good ... players, such as Wes Brown, John O'Shea, Adam Johnson, Ki, Fabio Borini and Steven Fletcher. After the Paolo Di Canio disaster was hastily ended, they suggested that they might get their act together under Gus Poyet, flickering into life at Christmas and then sustaining a decent run of form until the start of February. When they won 3-0 at Newcastle on 1 February, everything was coming up Sunderland. They were in form, in the fifth round of the FA Cup and in the final of the Capital One Cup.
Sunderland have not won a game since then, lost the final to Manchester City, are four points off 17th place, although they do have three games in hand on West Brom. If they don't beat Sam Allardyce's great entertainers tonight, the situation will be dire - and wouldn't West Ham's former Newcastle chums, Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan, love to rub Sunderland's nose in it?. Time is running out for Sunderland. Time to panic.