On a day when none of the bottom eight managed to secure three points, Sunderland’s hard-fought and dramatic point earned at Cardiff could well prove a crucial turning point in the future of both clubs.
When Fraizer Campbell put the home side 2-0 up on 58 minutes, a desperately poor performance from the visitors looked destined to be punished by a team not showing too many adverse effects of the turbulence that has surrounded the club following manager Malky Mackay’s sacking.
But a couple of smart substitutions from Gus Poyet inspired his side to produce a rousing final ten minutes that produced two goals. First, sub Steven Fletcher converted superbly from Emmanuele Giaccherini’s inswinging cross in the 83rd minute before another replacement, this time Jack Colback, secured a point with his 95th deflected strike.
And it could prove just as crushing a blow for the Bluebirds as it should provide a fillip for the Black Cats. For while Sunderland now lie just two points from safety with three of their next four games at home, Cardiff find themselves with a precarious cushion of just two points, with trips to Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United on the agenda in January.
And with news emanating from Cardiff this evening suggesting that leading candidate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will rebuff owner Vincent Tan’s advances, the Welsh side’s hunt for a replacement could drag. It makes them a decent punt at 15/8 to finish the season in the bottom three.
Sunderland, meanwhile, remain 8/11 second favs to go down, but having now gone five games unbeaten, including their shock win at Everton on Boxing Day, their favourable fixtures and the expected return of Wes Brown and John O’Shea to a depleted defence, manager Poyet will be happy with his team’s progress.
Particularly on a day when another relegation candidate seeing much progress under a new manager, Crystal Palace (4/9 favs to go down), weren’t able to convert a spirited performance into points as they lost 1-0 at Manchester City, despite causing the new leaders many problems.
Norwich (3/1) were similarly unfortunate not to claim anything as they went down by the same scoreline at home to Manchester United, with David Moyes’ side now seven points off the top.
Elsewhere, Fulham’s new partnership of Alan Curbishley and Rene Meulensteen is looking far less promising, following their shocking 6-0 loss at Hull that leaves the Cottagers 10/11 third favourites for the drop.
Odds of 9/5 for West Ham to go down suggest that Sam Allardyce remains the man to steer the Hammers away from danger, but whether the club’s notoriously ruthless owners agree is another matter following their 3-3 home draw with West Brom which saw them remain second bottom following their sixth league game without a win.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.