Snow joke for Huth as McClean hits winner
Stoke City 0 Sunderland 1
Published 06/02/2012 | 05:00
JAMES McCLEAN furthered his claims for an Ireland call-up as Sunderland secured their seventh win in eight Premier League matches under Martin O'Neill.
As conditions became almost impossible at the Britannia Stadium, the match was eventually settled by the 22-year-old, who was the only player bold enough to dare run with the ball.
Taken last summer from Derry City for £350,000 by former Sunderland boss Steve Bruce, this season was designed to be a period of gradual learning for McClean.
Then Bruce was sacked and, in his first week in charge, O'Neill watched the winger star for the club's reserve team in a 6-3 win over Manchester United.
"It was terrible conditions -- worse than here today but not the snow, just wind howling around and a pitch that was uneven," recalled O'Neill following Sunderland's seventh win in 10 games since he was appointed as manager at the Stadium of Light.
Stoke were left fuming after Robert Huth was given a straight red card by referee Martin Atkinson for a lunge on Corkman David Meyler.
The sending-off prompted Stoke manager Tony Pulis to state that the ambiguity on tackling guidelines has led to some players "cheating" other professionals by "rolling around" when they are not really injured.
Pulis asked the PFA to remind players of their responsibilities in reacting to strong challenges.
Huth's dismissal came shortly before the break when he slid nearly 10 yards across an icy surface without winning the ball.
The German withdrew his leading foot the moment an impact seemed certain as Meyler, who has suffered two serious knee injuries in as many years, tumbled to the ground.
Atkinson took no time to produce the red card and an on-pitch debate among players on both sides ensued.
"We were just explaining that, in the current climate, you risk getting a red card when you go in a little bit recklessly," said Sunderland captain John O'Shea.
Pulis argued that Huth's removal from the match was crucial but both sides struggled for pattern in a blizzard that could have led to abandonment. (© Daily Telegraph, London)