Evening. That funny smell in Sunderland has nothing to do with the Prima cheese factory and the north-westerly breeze on Wearside. No. It's the whiff of expectation following The Black Cats' remarkable 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge a week last Sunday.
Steve Bruce's side are now seventh and can go level on points with fifth-placed Bolton if they beat Everton. It's the kind of position that many people were predicting for this more expansive version of Sunderland prior to their aberration at St James' Park.
But predicting any result this season has been near-impossible given the bizarre swings in form we've seen from many top-flight teams. Everton are a prime example: a disastrous start, a wonderful recovery and then a mixed bag of results in the last five matches has left them in 16th place. A position which David Moyes will not be happy with given the talent in his squad. Yakubu's ability to squander a chance or 10 hasn't helped matters either.
This will be a difficult match for the Black Cats.
Prediction: Sunderland 2-2 Everton
Team newsSunderland: Gordon, Onuoha, Turner, Ferdinand, Bardsley,Richardson, Henderson, Cattermole, Zenden, Bent, Welbeck. Subs: Mignolet, Malbranque, Angeleri, Da Silva, Riveros, Elmohamady, Adams.
Everton: Howard, Neville, Jagielka, Distin, Baines, Coleman,Arteta, Heitinga, Pienaar, Saha, Cahill. Subs: Mucha, Hibbert, Bilyaletdinov, Beckford, Gueye, Yakubu, Rodwell.
And your whistleblower is: Peter Walton (Northamptonshire)
So Steve Bruce's selection headache was remedied by an injury (not sure what) to Asamoah Gyan, meaning Bent partners Welbeck in attack. An injury to Titus Bramble prompts the return of Anton Ferdinand from a hamstring injury in his place. Everton are unchanged from their 2-1 defeat to Arsenal.
7.49pm: Tim Cahill loves playing against Sunderland. He's scored six times in nine games against them.
7.52pm: Gary Naylor is blue with exasperation. "I know David Moyes believes in easing young players into the starting XI, but repeatedly leaving Rodwell on the bench and playing Heitinga is inexplicable. Heitinga is too slow in mind and body for the Premier League and Rodwell certainly isn't. If we're unlucky, Evertonians may have another Rooney situation on our hands with cameos in a blue shirt the prelude to match dominating performances in red (or sky blue)." Is Rodwell that good, Gary? I've been impressed with what I have seen of him so far but, to compare him with Rooney, is going some.
7.56pm: Prokofiev's Dance of the Knights is thumping out of the PA system at the Stadium of Light as the teams line up in the tunnel. It's quite a rousing bit of music – it's affecting my fingers. Erm, in a good way, I think.
7.58pm: I'm interested to see how Danny Welbeck performs tonight. Against Chelsea his movement and pace caused Ivanovic and Ferrera all kinds of problems. I'm still not convinced he has all that much game-intelligence, but he is young and learning all the time.
Peep!: Peter Walton blows on his whistle very hard and we're off. It's an early corner for Sunderland after some good pressing from Jordan Henderson.
2 min: The travelling Everton fans are making a decent racket. It's far from a sell-out, mind. Bent tries to flick the ball on to Welbeck after a well-placed long pass from Ferdinand, but his header is too far in front of his young strike partner.
3 min: Naylor's back. "The comparison with Rooney holds more with the players' treatment by Moyes than in terms of talent, but Rodwell is very good and might prove to be the new Vieira. Young people are different though – my boy just heard Prokofiev booming out as the teams took the field and said: 'Why are they playing The Apprenticemusic?' Ho hum." How old is your young one Gary? Are you priming him to be a wheeler and dealer already? I hope you don't let him watch X-Factor.
Goal! Sunderland 0-1 Everton (Cahill 6 min) What a superb cross into the box from Baines. It came from a cross-field pass from Coleman which Onuoha should have done better to pluck from the air before Baines could head it down to Pienaar. Then it was a simple pass in behind the Sunderland right-back which Baines scampered on to and whipped deliciously into Cahill, who did what he does so well and leapt between the two centre-backs to head powerfully under Gordon.
7 min: That's seven goals in 10 matches against Sunderland for Cahill. For somebody who isn't the biggest player in the world, Cahill has an uncanny ability to time his runs and jumps to perfection; reminiscent of David Platt, but probably better at it than the former England player.
9 min: Everton haven't given Sunderland a chance to get started. In many ways the Toffees are doing to Sunderland what Sunderland did to Chelsea. Welbeck is cynically hacked on the left by Neville, who is lucky to escape a booking. The free-kick is cleared but Saha handballs 35 yards from goal. Another free-kick. This time in a more dangerous area just to the left of goal.
11 min: Henderson, who has played for England recently (just in case you've been in a cave for the past two weeks), curls a low free-kick around the wall which stings Howard's palms before running to safety. It was a decent effort but it was a more comfortable stop for Howard than it probably looked.
14 min: Sunderland up the pace somewhat (which isn't that difficult seeing as they started so slowly). Henderson and Zenden combine in the middle. The Dutchman tries to find Welbeck, but his pass is well cut out by Neville.
15 min: MBMer answers your questions section: "Hi Gregg, hope you're well, etc. So how many people do you think are actually at the game? It's clearly far from full. And is it worth giving a quick shout-out to the Mighty Rams, who've won 6 consecutive home games, our best sequence for 15 years?" Erm, I reckon 32,456 or thereabouts. And ... well done the Rams. Richardson is felled by Heitinga, who gets a yellow card for his trouble. The free-kick is about 40 yards from goal so there'll be no chance of a direct effort on goal.
17 min: The free-kick is taken short and then curled dangerously deep into the Everton penalty area. Turner jumps with Howard, but the Everton keeper punches the ball clear under a good deal of pressure. This is better from Sunderland – they're combining well in midfield and keeping possession with much more authority.
20 min: Richardson and Bent both misread Zenden's short ball into the inside-left channel. The two forwards were much too close together. Sunderland continue to press forwards though ...
Goal! Sunderland 1-1 Everton (Welbeck 23 min): Zenden rolls back the years with a fantastic twisting run on the right wing, having switched from the left with Richardson. He evades the first challenge from Pienaar and then tricks Baines into making an early tackle before crossing low to Welbeck, who prods the ball into the bottom-right corner in front of Jagielka.
25 min: That was a richly-deserved equaliser from Sunderland, who have been the dominant force in the last 10 minutes.
26 min: Richardson goes close from 25 yards after jinking in on his right foot and letting rip. It misses by inches low to the left of the Everton goal.
28 min: Phew! It's been a frantic opening to the match. I'm constantly surprised by how teams are affected by goals. Everton sat back as soon as they conceded and now we're back to 1-1. It's as if both sides have colluded to drop the pace and have a little breather.
30 min: Welbeck is running around like he's possessed. Perhaps he does it to make up for his poor distribution. He tries to slide one into Bent on the edge of the box but his attempt lacks the required pace and Sunderland clear.
33 min: Cahill almost scores with another fantastic header. Baines, who is a force going forwards in this match if not in defence, wins the corner which is swung into a position 10 yards from goal on the front post. Cahill evades his marker again and heads powerfully at goal, but Zenden is well-placed at the near-post to head off the line. A combination of Gordon and Bardsley manage to clear at the third or fourth attempt. The rebound comes to Saha, and with Gordon scrambling around on the floor, the Frenchman fires over from the edge of the box.
36 min: The game has swung back in Everton's favour. They're causing trouble on both flanks with Neville and Coleman on the right and Baines and Pienaar on the left.
38 min: "Is it just me, or is Gary Neville the worst passer of a ball over anything exceeding five yards?" asks Duncan Smith. I presume you meant Phil, Duncan, seeing as Gary has won countless England caps, two European Cups and about 10 league titles. Phil Neville ain't the best short passer I've ever seen though. He's good at pointing and organising with a nasal shout or two, mind.
41 min: Head. Hoof. Head. Hoof. Head. Hoof. The last few minutes have been pretty ugly.
44 min: An explanation from Gary Naylor as to how Incredible Running And Jumping Man Tim Cahill manages to do it. "Cahill's heading threat is a direct consequence of 4-5-1. It means Cahill is usually running on to the ball which generates height in the jump and power in the header itself. Cahill is a rare player who can make 4-5-1 really work as an attacking threat - well, rare for this country." Wow, Gary. Have you been sharing a flat with Floating Football Brain in a Box, Jonathan Wilson?
45 min: Everton finish the half as the stronger team, with both Baines and Coleman delivering dangerous crosses into the box which Cahill is close to getting on the end of. Gordon stands his ground well as both Saha and Cahill leap with him.
45+2 min: Sunderland resist the pressure and then mount an attack of their own at the end of the half with Zenden spreading the ball intelligently to Richardson on the left. He beats his marker by virtue of a wonderfully-curled cross in to the near-post where Bent nods just over the bar.
Peep! What an open half that was. My prediction of 2-2 might well be on the money.
Half-time emails"I have to know, what's the "MAN UP ROUGHLEY" at the bottom of today's Fiver all about?" asks a nosey sod called Mark Elliott. "Isn't manning up about anything a sackable offence at the Guardian.co.uk sports desk?" Hmmm. Well, I'll let the readers guess what it's about. If anyone gets it right I'll send them a copy of this book ... after I've read it.
"How do Gregg?" Not bad thanks, Daniel Montefusco, although having my manliness being brought into question by the collection of bean-eating do-gooders (excluding Glendenning of course) on the Guardian sports desk is weighing heavily on my mind. "If you had a mortgage to fritter away on pointless wagers - who's got your money for fourth spotthis year? Mancini, 'Arry... Bruce? For sheer foolish optimism, and Van der Vaart, my money's on Harold." I said Spurs at the beginning of the season. I'm not going to change my mind on that one. City will implode. Bolton's squad isn't big enough and Sunderland aren't consistent enough.
An X-Factor rant: "Forgetting about the woeful Beatles, er, tributes, has there been much talk yet about the inappropriateness of the 'Help For Heroes' charity version of Bowie's song "Heroes", which was on the X-Factor at the weekend?" harrumphs Steven Hughes. "Bowie's song is called "Heroes" - with the quotation marks denoting an ironic, rather than literal, use of the word. Did this fact pass under the X-Factor's radar? Wouldn't that mean that the show hasn't got a clue about music? Oh. (Sorry, I wouldn't normally have that programme anywhere near my TV but my four year old niece insisted on watching the show while burying me under all the pillows and cushions in the house at the same time.)." I hate it! I hate it! I hate it! Steven. Deep breath. The second half's about to start, phew!
46 min: Phil Neville takes a throw-in deep inside his own half. Duncan Smith might like to know that it's better than his short-passing and finds Saha's chest. It's quite a big chest, mind, so maybe the throw is nothing to brag about after all. As you can tell it's an uneventful opening to the second half ...
47 min: Zenden gets things going with a disguised pass inside to Richardson on the edge of the box. It's a delightful ball and takes two Everton players out of the game. Richardson can't get his effort over the Everton centre-backs though.
49 min: Cattermole picks the ball up 40 yards from goal and rampages into the box with a muscular, bullish run. He tries to work the ball on to his right foot for a shot but Heitinga slides in and clears the danger with a brave tackle. I say brave, because now he may have to contend with an angry Cattermole in the next few minutes. Nobody wants to have him to contend with.
53 min: Turner looks to have done himself great damage preventing Cahill from making it 2-1 to Everton. Neville lofted a ball up to Cahill, who slipped away from Ferdinand (which wasn't difficult given that he was daydreaming) and lobbed the ball over Gordon towards goal. Turner races in to clear and wallops his left leg on the post. It looked painful but not quite as wince-enducing as Phil Babb's stunning tig-on-the-post effort for Liverpool against Chelsea some years ago.
56 min: Bent lashes the ball against the bar for Sunderland after a neat flick-on from the (what shall I call him? Evergreen? Nah) quite-good-for-an-old-bloke Zenden. He's flagged offside though, making this entry somewhat redundant.
59 min: "Surely asking the depraved minds of MBM readers to explain the meaning of the phrase 'man up Roughley' is just asking for trouble?" warns Alex Hanton. I'd publish some of the filth that's heading my way Alex, if only I was man enough. Back at the Stadium of Light Distin shows tremendous pace in his not-so-young legs to hold off Bent after a ball over the top to the Sunderland striker.
61 min: More wonderful defending from an Everton centre-back. This time Jagielka eats up the ground between himself and Richardson, who is scampering to reach a sweeping pass played into the left channel. Jagielka hits him with the force of a strong Wearside gale and Everton concede a corner. It's a poor corner though ...
63 min: It's Everton's turn to attack now. Pienaar, who may well be an Arsenal player before long, beats his marker and plays a low cross into the box, but Sunderland shirts get back in numbers and close every avenue open to Arteta, who is trying to find a pass on the edge of the box. Coleman has been substituted ...
66 min: Gary Naylor will be pleased to know that Rodwell is on for Coleman on the right of midfield. It's end-to-end nonsense at times, this match. Malbranque has replaced Zenden, who has impressed me tonight.
Goal! Sunderland 2-1 Everton (Welbeck 70 min): Welbeck is rewarded for his sheer determination. He harries Arteta out of possession and slips Bent in, who shoots and wins a corner. The resulting delivery is cleared by Everton, but Sunderland work the ball out to Richardson on the right. His left-footed delivery is delicious, skipping off the top of Welbeck's head as the striker jumps and directs the ball over Howard into the top left-hand corner.
72 min: Just like Shakespeare, Ian Copestake delivers the humour after the drama. "Phil Neville's short passing shortcomings might be caused either by long sightedness (in which case he should get some trendy wrap around goggle specs), or the fact that he can't see passed his nose." Did I really say humour?
74 min: Sunderland have maintained their tempo after scoring the second goal. They are keeping possession well, with Cattermole and Henderson working their socks off in midfield.
76 min: Everton finally get hold of the ball. Arteta works it out to Baines on two occasions. The left-back delivers two dangerous crosses, but Sunderland defend both of them avidly at the front post.
78 min: Saha and Pienaar combine well in the Sunderland box. Pienaar backheels the ball to Rodwell, who could shape to shoot but miscontrols. Is that rustiness Naylor?
80 min: Everton win a corner on the left. Baines floats it in to Neville, but his header resembles a beachball bouncing off a concrete block and Gordon grasps it comfortably. Meanwhile the Man Up Roughley explanations continue to pour in: This from Kenneth Yau: "I'm not surprised you're getting filth sent your way re: 'Man up Roughley'. I'm sure the erudite Guardian readership, especially 1,057 grammar pedants who read the Fiver, will be making much of the fact that the lack of a comma before 'Roughley' lends a completely different meaning to the sentence than if it had been 'Man up, Roughley'." Hmmm. I'll reveal all-ish at the end.
Goal! Sunderland 2-2 Everton (Arteta 84 min): Arteta takes the game to Sunderland and gets some deserved luck. He makes a direct run from midfield towards the Sunderland penalty area and performs a Cruyff turn to make a shooting opportunity. He drives the ball at goal with his left foot and watches the ball deflect wickedly off Bardsley's boot and nestle in the bottom left-hand corner. Gordon was about to save it comfortably before the ricochet. My 2-2 prediction looks good!
86 min: Bent shoots into the sidenetting. What would you readers think if I told you that I was considering changing my surname when I get married? Is Man-up fair?
88 min: Everton fancy the three points here. Pienaar plays a cross in behind four blue shirts in the Sunderland box. Moyes will be furious if Everton get caught on the break.
90 min: Four minutes of stoppage time. Sunderland's fans don't seem sure about whether to cheer or boo. I reckon they'd settle for the point. Another Man-up email: "If you change around the inflections and pauses Man up Roughley becomes Man U Pro Ughley (ugly). Will the anti-wayne Rooney bias in the guardian never end?" No it won't, Alex Hanton. Yakubu, who came on for Saha some minutes ago, turns in the box and watches his shot blocked 10 yards from goal.
90+2 min: Everton are piling forwards. Neville hoofs one up towards Rodwell, but he's flagged for offside. Gordon whacks the free-kick forwards ...
90+3 min: Malbranque nicks a little ball through to Welbeck who has a hat-trick chance ... but he drags his shot a couple of yards right of the right-hand post. He was under pressure, mind.
90+4 min: Beckford, who came on for Heitinga (sorry, forgot to mention that), squanders a great chance to win the game. A long ball is hoofed forwards and Beckford hares clear of Ferdinand, whose tired legs struggle to keep pace, but the former Leeds striker toe-pokes the ball over the onrushing Gordon ... and over the bar. Peep!
Full-time: That's it. What an entertaining game. Could have gone either way but a draw is very much the correct result. I'll take the plaudits for my razor-sharp prediction - if only I was a betting man!
Meanwhile, back to the important stuff: the revelation that I may take my wife-to-be's surname when I get married.
"I'd change my name if I was you," writes Niall Mullen. "What is it? A split infinitive? An order? It's too confusing."
"A mate of mine went double-barrelled when he got married, adding his wife's surname to his own," says Mark Gillies. "It's been five years now, and we barely mock him at all these days." Thanks Mark. But there'd be no double-barrelled business with me. I'll be biting the bullet and taking her name end-of.
"Man up and change your name. I salute you," whoops Oliver Pattenden.
"Is that the same as 'Grow a Pair', Gregg." Yup, it is Brian Cruickshank. "Just change you name if it's like Roughley – Bent , or Roughley – hewn ..." Oh, you funny people!
I'll have to call it a day now readers. Thanks for your emails, advice and more. The sad thing is you'll have to wait till next year to find out if I go through with it. As for this match, it was a fair result and both sides will fancy their chances of European football next year. With Bolton, Liverpool, Villa and either City or Spurs involved, there'll be a fair old race for the Europa League places. Goodnight.
This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.