Season Review: May

by Ashley Houghton

We round off look back on 2012-13 campaign.

Sunderland entered May in 15th place in the Barclays Premier League following vital wins over Newcastle and Everton.

They kicked off the month at home to Stoke and had to dig deep to secure a valuable point.

Jon Walters fired home from close range to give the Potters the lead before Craig Gardner was given a straight red card for a foul on Charlie Adam.

But Sunderland kept their heads and got back in the game when a corner found John O’Shea, who hooked in his second goal of the season.

Winger Adam Johnson produced arguably his best performance in a Sunderland shirt, a fact not lost on goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

“Adam worked really hard not only in possession but also when Stoke had the ball and it’s not very easy with ten men,” the stopper said.

“He kept running and they deserve a lot of credit for that.

“We know Adam has got that creativity to spark something in the middle of the pitch and if he can get the ball at his feet he can be dangerous, not just from his crossing, but also scoring goals.”

Boss Di Canio called for focus ahead of the home game against Southampton, where a win would all but secure Sunderland’s top-flight status.

But the Black Cats were forced to wait as Phil Bardsley’s second-half thunderbolt was cancelled out by a quick-fire strike from substitute Jason Puncheon.

Mignolet produced a string of fine saves on his 100th appearance for the club and won universal praise afterwards.

“We know what Simon’s capable of; he’s pulled us out of the deep end sometimes – as I say he’s a fantastic goalkeeper,” defender Bardsley said.

“I was delighted to get on the scoresheet, but disappointed that we only got a draw – I thought we were going to go on and win the game.”

However, the Black Cats had already done enough as Arsenal’s midweek victory over FA Cup winners Wigan left the Latics unable to overhaul Di Canio’s side.

That meant less pressure on the final day of the season as Sunderland travelled to White Hart Lane to face a Spurs side still battling for a Champions League qualification spot.

A depleted squad acquitted themselves well, frustrating Andre Villas-Boas’ side for 89 minutes before a late, late wonder strike from Gareth Bale won it for the hosts, who finished the season fifth.

And boss Di Canio thanked the fans afterwards having seen more than 2,000 visiting supporters make their way to the capital.

“The fans sang all the way through the game and I loved seeing them in their section of the stadium in their red and white shirts,” he said.

“I wish we could have got a point for them to have something to celebrate. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but the players wore the shirt and played the best way they could today.”

Sunderland continued to progress off the pitch with a new sponsorship deal with Bidvest announced during the latter stages of the month.

And Di Canio set about reshaping his squad as the club’s retained list was announced, with the likes of Matt Kilgallon and Titus Bramble leaving the club.