Date:Saturday February 25 2006
Emile Heskey answered Steve Bruce's call for a return to his form of twelve months ago and an increase in goals. He headed home Blues winner just before half time.
With Blues most prolific striker on the bench in Mikeal Forssell and DJ Campbell having destroyed Sunderland a month ago in the FA cup, Heskey had to produce the goods.
Blues went back to the Sutton Heskey combination up front but sadly Sutton looked less than match fit and struggled. Just before Blues went ahead Sutton was dead-legged by Nosworthy and looked immobile from that point.
Blues dominated the first half without creating much of a clear-cut chance. The double-teaming on Pennant and the lack of pace by Blues enabled the Sunderland back line to cope with Blues attack effectively if not without discomfort.
Blues had their first injury in the form of Damian Johnson when a late tackle, which the referee missed, left the Irishman limping. He struggled on for a few minutes before being replaced by Butt.
Butt, on something of a mission himself took his opportunity and showed some of the form that fans had been hoping for as he and Izzet had good games in midfield.
Blues goal came from a free kick on the left that Pennant hit long to the far post. The three Blues giants Latka, Taylor and Jarosik made a fine decoy panzer movement that drew the defence away and left Heskey on the far post unmarked. He soared above the crowded area and planted his header into the back of the net.
The second half began with DJ Campbell on for Sutton and he immediately raised the tempo with some darting runs and seemed to have an understanding with Heskey that looked promising. Blues matched Campbell's tempo and really began to look if they would wrap up the points with a goal or two more.
Campbell had a chance to open his account when he sidestepped two Sunderland defenders but Lewis's legs blocked his shot. Almost immediately Heskey found himself free in the box but he went for power and Lewis came out to block.
Dunn came on in the last quarter for the immense but exhausted Izzet. Both received an ovation from the appreciative crowd. Dunn soon tested the Sunderland keeper with long-range efforts. The second of which took a deflection that Lewis managed to tip over when looking goal bound.
The second goal never came but the clock ran out with Blues in little discomfort.
Three points and a clean sheet in a ‘never mind the quality count the points' type of display. Every man on the field fit, half fit or otherwise gave his all. The short comings of the central defensive places were never evident as Latka and Taylor were outstanding. Butt and Izzet looked a determined duo in midfield and DJ got the crowd going with his skill and enthusiasm.
BLUES: Maik Taylor, Melchiot, Latka, Martin Taylor, Gray, Pennant, Johnson (Butt 25), Izzet (Dunn 75), Jarosik, Sutton (Campbell 45), Heskey.
Subs Not Used: Vaesen, Forssell.
Goals: Heskey 39.
MAKEMS: Davis, Nosworthy, Breen (Woods 82), Collins, Hoyte, Lawrence (Delap 45), Whitehead, Leadbitter, Arca, Kyle, Daryl Murphy (Elliott 45).
Subs Not Used: Joe Murphy, Caldwell.
Booked: Nosworthy, Whitehead, Leadbitter.
Referee: S Bennett (Kent).
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