LED FROM THE DOCK: No After Eight jokes for Sunderland, Newcastle’s shock win, Pools can take point, Boro flying

DON'T MENTION THE SCORE: Southampton manager Ronald Koeman (right) hugs Sunderland manager Gus Poyet
DON'T MENTION THE SCORE: Southampton manager Ronald Koeman (right) hugs Sunderland manager Gus Poyet

AFTER all the After Eight and “ate nothing” gags comes more serious food for thought.

Just how is Sunderland boss Gus Poyet going to lift his beleaguered squad after their pitiful 8-0 surrender at Southampton on Saturday?

My suspicion is that the visit of Arsenal this weekend may prove to be an unexpected blessing.

Were less illustrious opponents in town then the natives may have turned restless far earlier than they are likely to against the misfiring Gunners.

For all Arsenal’s inevitable possession, there’s always a chance against them, particularly before the clocks change and they nobly embark on their usual doomed pursuit of Chelsea and Manchester City.

Nor should Poyet consider wholesale changes to his humbled team.

Quite simply, with forgotten misfits Cabral, Danny Graham and Charis Mavrias the unused subs at St Mary’s, he can’t.

Poyet would be better off giving Saturday’s starters the chance to redeem themselves rather than tweak his line-up and single out the odd scapegoat by default.

PSSS. What have Newcastle United’s new scoreboard and rejuvenated Magpies winger Gabriel Obertan got in common?

Both may need more than three years at St James’s Park before they start performing properly.

Poor, I admit, but it was the best I could come up with in the circumstances.

A little like the injury-hit home side’s gritty 1-0 victory over Leicester City at the weekend.

As welcome as Obertan’s solo strike was, consecutive clashes with Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool are likely to leave Newcastle in the Premier League relegation zone come the start of November.

A clearer picture – picture, get it? – of their season should emerge by the end of next month in the games that follow against West Brom, Queens Park Rangers and West Ham.

GRITTY also sums up the progress made by Hartlepool United since Sam Collins’s appointment as caretaker boss.

Narrow home defeats by fallen giants Sheffield United and Luton Town have straddled a deserved triumph at Exeter City.

Tonight’s trip to Accrington Stanley certainly falls into the same winnable category as the Exeter game.

But a point should not be sneezed at and I expect Pools to bag just that with new captain Scott Flinders leading again by example between the sticks.

AND so at last to the region’s form side.

Middlesbrough continue to defy the pundits – including this bookmakers’ friend – and could even top the Championship table after tonight’s trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Last season’s League One champions have eased up after an impressive start to the campaign and frittered away a three-goal lead in their 3-3 draw at Millwall at the weekend.

If Boro take the game to their fragile hosts as they did in Saturday’s deserved 2-1 victory at Brighton then a similar outcome could be on the cards.