Sunday 22 April 2018

Randolph gift offers little respite to Moyes

Sunderland 2 West Ham United 2

David Moyes shows the strain as Sunderland’s relegation woes deepened. Photo: Reuters
David Moyes shows the strain as Sunderland’s relegation woes deepened. Photo: Reuters

Colin Young

David Moyes may still have the backing of want-away owner Ellis Short but the Sunderland supporters have clearly lost patience with the beleaguered Scot, with their team's relegation from the Premier League after nine seasons all but confirmed by this result.

Twenty minutes into another dreadful game, in front one of the Stadium of Light's lowest crowds of the season, Moyes stepped into the technical area for the first time. Already one-down after Andre Ayew's fifth-minute strike, the Black Cats manager was greeted by boos from his own fans.

Sunderland's Adnan Januzaj (right) is tackled by West Ham United's Sam Byram Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Sunderland's Adnan Januzaj (right) is tackled by West Ham United's Sam Byram Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

In fact Moyes' popularity rating is so low that the jeering was considerably louder and more sustained than the abuse directed at Andy Carroll, the former Newcastle striker who was named West Ham skipper for the day. And even after Sunderland had equalised, via Wahbi Khazri's in-swinging 26th-minute corner, every time Moyes left the dug-out he got the same unpleasant receptions.

With six games remaining, Sunderland still have a mathematical chance of staying up - and for the last six seasons, their supporters have been relying on a miracle at this stage of the season. But most fans gave up on Moyes and his brittle squad months ago. Although the attendance was officially given as 40,168, the startling number of empty red seats around the stadium suggested the real figure was much lower.

The agony of this season of strife is almost over but it seems unlikely Moyes can survive becoming one of the most unpopular managers in the club's history within the space of eight months.

The former Everton boss has had his hands tied by Short's indifference to the club's on-going plight, as the American finally looks to sell, but the lack of investment cannot excuse the team's performances. Those woes continued almost as soon as this game started. Lee Cattermole may be the epitome of the fighting spirit which has kept Sunderland in the top flight for so long, and he has been sorely missed, but he was booked after 30 seconds.

Sunderland's Fabio Borini (right) celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Sunderland's Fabio Borini (right) celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

And soon the home side were behind thanks to some typically ragged defending after referee Andre Marriner had decided Victor Anichebe's fall under Jose Fonte's challenge was simulated. On the break, Sam Byram launched an up-and-under which found Carroll at the far post; his loose half-volley bounced across the area and into the path of Ayew who tapped home unopposed.

To their credit, Sunderland played some good football after going behind but they hardly looked likely to trouble Darren Randolph. Darron Gibson hit an awful drive wide. The unlikely leveller, coming 701 minutes since their last goal on January 14, came from Khazri's inswinging corner, which looped over Randolph, as he wrestled with Anichebe on the line.

Within two minutes of the re-start they were behind again when James Collins rose to head Robert Snodgrass's corner past Jordan Pickford. Despite the restlessness among the home support, Sunderland persevered. Didier Ndong should have equalised in the 71st minute when Khazri squared the ball to him but the bleach-blond midfielder fired hopelessly over from 12 yards.

Assisted by a delay after Billy Jones was treated on the pitch for several minutes for a suspected broken arm, Sunderland did finally equalise thanks to substitute Fabio Borini, the grateful recipient of a gift from Randolph.

The Ireland keeper spilled a routine cross into the Italian's path under pressure from Anichebe and Borini dispatched his low drive out of his reach.

Despite Byram's late dismissal for a second yellow, and a few long-range efforts from Borini and Khazri, West Ham held on for a point which will serve no purpose to Moyes or his team.

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