Phillips puts Sunderland closer to safety

Sunderland 1 Derby 0

Sunderland 1 Derby 0

Kevin Phillips’ 13th goal of the season proved lucky for Sunderland as they edged closer to Premiership safety.

Phillips struck 17 minutes into the Wearsiders’ make-or-break clash with relegated Derby to ease the tension inside the Stadium of Light after seeing midfielder Thomas Butler earlier hit the post.

The noise which greeted the kick-off at packed Stadium of Light illustrated just how much was at stake for the home side, and they began in positive mood as they looked for an early goal to settle their nerves.

Derby’s Newcastle old boys Rob Lee and Warren Barton were predictably booed at every touch, but it was from the former’s intercepted pass that Sunderland created their first chance, Michael Gray allowing Butler to find Reyna, who drove in a low third-minute shot which Mart Poom claimed at full stretch.

Barton provided the ammunition for the visitors’ first attack two minutes later when his pass played Malcolm Christie into space, but Jody Craddock got across in the nick of time to make a vital sliding challenge.

But the Black Cats came within inches of the first goal with eight minutes gone when Kevin Kilbane and Reyna combined to find Butler on the left and he cut inside Barton before smashing a curling shot against the post with Quinn failing to convert the rebound as it flew back at him.

The home side were starting to build up a head of steam and Jason McAteer worked himself into a shooting position three minutes later after taking Reyna’s pass, but his left-foot effort lacked the pace and direction to trouble Poom.

However, Phillips was only just off target seconds later when he unleashed a fierce volley from a Butler cross and saw the ball rocket over the angle of crossbar and post.

Reid’s side finally got their reward with 17 minutes gone, and it inevitably came courtesy of the Phillips-Quinn double-act.

The England international beat the offside trap to latch on to the Irishman’s pass, only to get the ball trapped under his feet, allowing Barton to make a last-ditch block.

However, the defender then inexplicably allowed the ball to run free and the ever-alert Phillips nipped in to slot home from close range.

Phillips returned the favour to Quinn within three minutes when his header sent his strike partner away, although he did not have the pace to complete the job himself and when he found Phillips again wide on the right, his cross was comfortably claimed by Poom.

Reyna’s authority in central midfield and the pace of Butler down the left were causing problems for the Rams, and the atmosphere inside the stadium was improving all the time as news of Liverpool’s opener against Ipswich filtered through.

It could have been 2-0 with 26 minutes gone when Butler’s shot was deflected to Phillips, who crossed for Quinn just six yards out, but Danny Higginbotham was in the right place at the right time to hack off the line.

Derby were showing little as an attacking force, but Paul Boertien earned them a 29th-minute corner which Bolder and Zavagno worked well between them, although Thomas Sorensen came from is line to claim the Argentinian’s cross.

Phillips returned the favour to Quinn within three minutes when his header sent his strike partner away, although he did not have the pace to complete the job himself and when he found Phillips again wide on the right, his cross was comfortably claimed by Poom.

Reyna’s authority in central midfield and the pace of Butler down the left were causing problems for the Rams, and the atmosphere inside the stadium was improving all the time as news of Liverpool’s opener against Ipswich filtered through.

It could have been 2-0 with 26 minutes gone when Butler’s shot was deflected to Phillips, who crossed for Quinn just six yards out, but Danny Higginbotham was in the right place at the right time to hack off the line.

Derby were showing little as an attacking force, but Paul Boertien earned them a 29th-minute corner which Bolder and Zavagno worked well between them, although Thomas Sorensen came from is line to claim the Argentinian’s cross.

However, if Sunderland had any thoughts or starting to relax, they were given a wake-up call a minute later when Evatt got his head to Barton’s deep cross and forced a good save from the Dane.

The Black Cats threatened at regular intervals as they looked to kill offthe game but Butler passed up a good opportunity to extend their lead seven minutes before the break when he ran on to Phillips’ neat pass but drove his left-foot shot high and wide.

As the half wore on, their confidence seemed to grow with every passing minute and three times within seconds, they put Poom’s goal under threat.

The Estonian had to race from his line on 41 minutes to prevent Kilbane reaching Gray’s chipped pass, and he then tipped over a dipping shot from Phillips.

But he needed the help of the crossbar when Kilbane flicked on Reyna’s corner and Phillips turned the ball on to the woodwork before the keeper recovered.

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