YOU wait ages for miracles and along they come in threes.
No sooner had Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore scored his first club goal of 2014 than Newcastle summer signing Emmanuel Riviere finally broke his own duck at the seventh time of asking a day later.
Not content with using previously unseen strength to hold off the towering Brede Hangeland before equalising, Riviere’s penalty soon gave the Magpies the lead at Crystal Palace before the visitors predictably dragged a routine win out until the 120th minute.
Even then their 3-2 victory was tainted before the final whistle when the fourth round Capital One Cup draw sent them to bogey side Manchester City.
Can they finally end their hoodoo at the 17th attempt? No chance.
Yet at least Tuesday’s gutsy triumph should boost Rivere’s ebbing confidence and slightly relieve the pressure on beleaguered boss Alan Pardew.
Until Monday night’s televised league trip to Stoke City, of course.
STICKING with Stoke and the prolific Jozy, Sunderland’s tame exit on Tuesday from the same competition has attracted the usual criticism from the viral terraces.
Personally I think it is too early to judge which direction Gus Poyet’s side are heading in.
Successive home games against a pair of average Premier League sides, Swansea City and those Stoke fellas again, should offer a better clue by Saturday week.
Should Poyet’s men take four to six points then I imagine the cup defeat will be largely forgotten about.
Particularly if the neighbours fail to do likewise from trips to Stoke and Swansea over the same period.
Just ask fans of Leicester City, basking in their 5-3 weekend win over the far from mighty Manchester United, if they are still angered by last month’s Carling Cup surrender to League Two Shrewsbury Town.
No doubt some red and white nut reading this drivel will now exclaim “ah, but we are Sunderland, not Leicester City” before quoting stock phrases like “Bank of England club” and “Wembley 1973”.
That’s the same Sunderland, however, who are desperate to avoid a fifth successive relegation battle.
As thrilling as last season’s great escape and cup heroics were, even mid-table mediocrity would be classed as progress this term.
STRUGGLING Hartlepool United would certainly crave mid-table mediocrity as they prepare to entertain Portsmouth this weekend.
With manager Colin Cooper making another loan signing this week and also hopeful of recruiting a striker, the suggestions are that his position is still secure.
Given the number of new faces he has recruited this term, be they temporary arrivals or veterans on frees, it was inevitable that his new-look squad would take time to gel.
But a repeat of last year’s autumn revival needs to start soon before the League Two table takes on an even more ominous look.
Get along the Vic on Saturday if you can and help silence that accursed Pompey bell-ringer in the away end.
A QUICK word on Middlesbrough’s glorious failure at Liverpool in the Capital One Cup on Tuesday.
I’ve heard it said that the presence of another first-teamer here or there might have turned a draw into a famous win before the visitors’ eventual penalty shoot-out heartache.
But that idea is further off the mark than Albert Adomah’s penalty given that Liverpool fielded even more of a squad side.
Boro should just take consolation in a stirring display which suggests they might just cut it in the top flight.
All they need to do now is somehow get there.