In the preview for the game I concluded with:
It's rare that encounters between the two sides live
long in the memory and I don't expect this one to be any different. One goal
should probably settle matters.
And so the story was told.
It wasn't the most exciting of games but we did enough overall I thought to warrant taking all three points and extending our winning and clean sheet runs in the process - although Nicky Weaver's right post had a significant part to play towards the end of the match.
What was surprising was the fact that the goal came as a result of a set piece, and for once a corner didn't present an opportunity for the opposing side to launch a counter attack and Richard Dunne rose well to atone somewhat for the horrific own goal the week before.
The side did look to have more purpose about them - but how much of that was down to playing at home is probably a fair point. Defensively we weren't troubled and I thought Thatcher had a reasonable game on his return to the side, with Richards again impressing on the right hand side.
Samaras proved that the decision to play him out on the left is a misguided one as I thought he looked lively through the middle, but it is becoming obvious he is a 'home' player, whilst Reyna was solid enough alongside Barton who got forward well throughout the game.
Beasley - despite misgivings from commentators that he is too lightweight did well I thought. He isn't a 'speedster' and not particularly tricky, but I like the fact that he looks to be direct when he attacks and enjoys running at defenders - something that Rieira and Musampa never truly convinced of.
The crowd of mid-30,ooo was disappointing, although not surprising given recent results, the opposition and the scheduling of the game for Sky but as the home form has been impressive so far (even if the performances less so), I would expect the crowds to pick over the next few games back to the early-40,000 range.
Another three points once again eases the pressure on the team and Pearce and hoists us back to the middle of the table. A look at the forthcoming fixtures does give hope of putting a run together to get into the top half - but only if we can shake the habit of taking a step backwards every time we take one forwards.