Sunderland salvage pride at Hull as Jordan Pickford excels once more
Sunderland at last turned endeavour into goals to beat Hull City 2-0 on Saturday, a rare away win that came too late to avoid relegation but offered qualified hope for the future.
Hull needed victory to boost their own survival chances and created plenty of opportunities, only to be denied by some sturdy Sunderland defending and superb goalkeeping from Jordan Pickford.
Though a lifelong Sunderland supporter, Pickford is almost certain to leave this summer to remain in the Premier League and pursue his ambition to become England's first-choice keeper.
But among other stars of the win at Hull were midfielder George Honeyman and Billy Jones, the scorer of the first goal. The duo are relatively unfancied players who could play important parts in any Sunderland bid for promotion, starting in August.
A game full of effort but short on quality might have gone either way. But Hull rarely threatened after Jones put Sunderland ahead with a diving header when Honeyman's corner was flicked on by John O'Shea.
Jermain Defoe looked offside in the build-up to the second goal but sealed a deserved if uncommon victory for embattled manager David Moyes.
If Moyes' desire to remain at the club is genuine, and owner Ellis Short wants him to stay, this was the kind of result -- meaningless as it may seem for Sunderland supporters -- to offer reason for limited optimism that the club will play Premier League football in 2018-19.
Effort and movement were impressive throughout the game, making supporters wonder why such qualities were shown too late to avoid relegation.
Occasional sloppiness in defence meant defeat was as likely as victory until Jones put Sunderland in front. Also, supporters are entitled to ask why Moyes' side could not have played like this in a dozen or more previous games.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Moyes fielded the right side to win a game of importance only in terms of pride. His decision to send on Sebastian Larsson sealed the win and the result vindicated his choices.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jordan Pickford, 9 -- His saves, handling and distribution were of the highest order and responsible more than anything for a rare clean sheet.
DF Billy Jones, 7 -- Unconvincing in the first half but outstanding in the second, his superb diving header to open Sunderland's scoring followed by much sturdier defensive work.
DF John O'Shea, 7 -- A solid display in central defence, with several crucial interceptions, and a neat flick to Jones for the first goal.
DF Lamine Kone, 6 -- Another curious mixture of important headers and clearances and sloppy defending, happily more of the former.
DF Javier Manquillo, 7 -- Seemed to get better at the game went on. Involved in several promising moves.
MF Jason Denayer, 6 -- A diligent but subdued display, scarcely memorable for any glaring positives or negatives.
MF Didier Ndong, 6 -- Got into threatening positions when moving forward and played an important if unspectacular part in a decent team display.
MF Fabio Borini, 7 -- An inventive and hard-working contribution to remind Sunderland fans of the player he is capable of being.
MF George Honeyman, 8 -- Strong, confident performance from a promising young midfielder who ought to be in Moyes' mind for next season's challenge, provided there is no managerial change.
FW Victor Anichebe, 7 -- Another robust, bustling shift. Anichebe was at the heart of much that went well for Sunderland.
FW Jermain Defoe, 7 -- Lively throughout, a constant threat to Hull and a deserved 15th goal of the season -- even if it was offside.
MF Sebastian Larsson N/R -- Back from suspension, the Swedish international was at his best, going close with one free kick and setting up Defoe for the second goal.
Colin is ESPN FC's Sunderland blogger. Follow him on Twitter at @salutsunderland