Everton 2 - 0 Sunderland
Sunderland travelled to Goodison Park tonight praying for a miracle that was never going to come. They were out-classed and out-played by Everton, but most disappointingly they were out-fought. The record reads no win in nine, and three points from a possible 27 in the league, which is worse than relegation form.
Turner and Bardsley were missing, and the defence was re-shuffled once again. Surprisingly Steve Bruce left Kenwyne Jones on the bench, citing that he was unsettled by transfer talk.
This meant that Sunderland fielded Kieran Richardson alongside Bent, leaving Campbell on the bench yet again. Lee Cattermole played alongside Cana in midfield for the first time since the Liverpool win, and Zenden started again on the left. Kilgallon made his Sunderland debut, alongside Nosworthy in central defence with Mensah at right-back.
With less than seven minutes gone, the odds were already stacked against the Black Cats. Richardson`s scuffed clearance led to an Everton attack. Fellaini was given an age to pick out Cahill, who headed home predictably neatly, despite a hint of offside.
It got worse inside 20 minutes when Cahill won a knock-down and Donovan finished through Craig Gordon from the edge of the area for his first Premier League goal on 19 minutes.
For the travelling fans the first half was simply terrible. The ball didn`t stick when it entered Everton`s half and Steve Bruce quickly decided to change things, replacing the out-of-sorts Richardson with Kenwyne Jones.
It was Jones who missed Sunderland`s only chance of the half, as he beat Distin to Zenden`s whipped cross and fired high over the bar.
But, as all Sunderland fans know, when it rains it pours. Cattermole withdrew while walking back onto the pitch for the second half with a ham-string strain and Andy Reid replaced him.
Some last-ditch defending from McCartney and Mensah prevented it from reaching four, when Donovan rounded Gordon and shot towards an empty net only to see McCartney`s knee clear off the line. Mensah then stopped Saha when he was through on goal with a critical sliding challenge.
Sunderland finally had a go inside the last ten minutes. The ball fell to Zenden inside the area, who hit the target with venom, but Howard saved brilliantly and repeated this moments later, when Jones powered a header on target.
It finished 2-0, and again we were beaten with a whimper.
On a positive note, John Mensah made a few important challenges and looked decent, while Kilgallon could prove to be important with our defensive injuries.
Bruce was understandably disappointed, he said: "We`ve got to stop this freefall. I`m glad Mensah has made it through the match, he was our best player tonight. We really have to roll our sleeves up now."
Another poor away showing leaves the Lads dangling dangerously 3 points above the drop-zone. To make matters worse Richardson, Cattermole and Nosworthy were all substituted through suspected injury and our shattered squad looks paper-thin.
Bruce has reiterated that he won`t be held to ransom over transfer fees, but we are in desperate need of reinforcements and I would rather us pay over the odds for a player than get relegated because we were caught short.
Relegation is a very real possibility if we don`t turn this around and Steve Bruce has to pull something out of the bag to lift the whole club.