Sunderland fight back against West Brom but Steve Bruce feels pressure

Gentle boos greeted the final whistle but Steve Bruce knew things could have been infinitely worse.

Sunderland fight back against West Brom but Steve Bruce feels pressure Two down within a matter of minutes, Sunderland's manager saw his struggling side recover sufficiently to secure a point that quelled a potential crowd revolt.

The fact that attendance had dropped below the 35,000 mark was testimony to the fact Sunderland have won only twice at home since New Year's Day. At least those who turned up were entertained to a game replete with chaotic defending and tantalisingly missed chances.

Although most Wearside fans would have left feeling a draw to be fair, another failure to win against technically gifted yet defensively fragile opponents will have frustrated Ellis Short, the club's owner.

"Shortly after 3pm I thought: 'This is going to test them," Bruce said. "It was the ultimate test and I thought the players were terrific. We'd love a few more points but we've made huge changes. We've had 10 summer signings and it's going to take time. I don't why I have to prove people wrong but I'm determined to do so."

His team could barely have endured a more appalling start. Spectators were still settling into their seats when Wes Brown's foul and Chris Brunt's free-kick prefaced James Morrison heading past Simon Mignolet.

West Brom were swiftly two up. This time, an attempted tackle on Craig Gardner's part merely resulted in the ball squirting, most conveniently, straight into Shane Long's path. Intended passes rarely provide more perfect deliveries and the impressive Long proceeded to shoot low into the bottom corner. It proved the cue for the unfurling of a "Bruce Out" banner but, just as tentative calls for the home manager's head became audible, Sunderland, suddenly ceasing to concede possession so cheaply, rallied.

Stéphane Sessègnon, whose wonderfully fast feet are sometimes betrayed by a lack of vision, had the ball in the back of the net only to see that effort, rightly, ruled out for offside. No matter; almost immediately Sessègnon and Sebastian Larsson combined to set up the menacing Nicklas Bendtner and, albeit courtesy of a hefty deflection, his shot swerved beyond Ben Foster.

An equaliser was in the extraordinarily balmy Wearside air and it arrived when Bendtner crossed and Ahmed Elmohamady's header proved too good for West Brom's goalkeeper.

Although Foster saved well from Gardner, Sunderland were far from dominant. Bruce duly looked alarmed as Gareth McAuley connected with a Brunt corner before sending a header flashing fractionally wide.

With Roy Hodgson's defence similarly shaky it was the sort of encounter which could conceivably have finished 6-6. If West Brom were more assured, not to mention creative, in possession, they regularly wobbled when confronted by Sunderland's increasingly frantically energetic endeavour.

Even so, Hodgson was left shaking his head as Peter Odemwingie's control uncharacteristically betrayed him at the end of a superb passing move involving Long, Graham Dorrans and Brunt.

All this helter-skelter action was over-exciting Lee Cattermole. Already booked, Sunderland's captain had the referee's discretion to thank for his avoidance of a second yellow card before Bruce sensibly replaced him with Jack Colback.

Cattermole seemed disgruntled but had no right to be. Instead one of the Premier League's most self-destructive individuals should learn from Hodgson's sanguine stance.

"It was too early to go two up wasn't it?" West Brom's manager said. "We had too long left to defend."

Powered by article was written by Louise Taylor at the Stadium of Light, for The Observer on Saturday 1st October 2011 17.20 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


Have something to tell us about this article?

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch