Sunderland have fallen at the first hurdle in the FA Cup after Bolton Wanderers came away from a frosty night at the Stadium Of Light with victory and a tie with Everton in the next round.
To say the opening to the game was the polar opposite of the game against West Ham would both be true, and a fantastic pun (Polar, cold, snow? Ah forgeddit).
Both sides started slugglishly and went about very slowly figuring eachother out in the most considered of fashions, and no real action until the quarter hour mark when Stephane Sessegnon's drilled effort deflected wide for a corner.
Craig Gardner was actually one of our more industrious and threatening players throughout the first half, and it was he who nearly called Andy Lonergan in the Wanderers goal into action. Adam Johnson drilled a freekick across to his fellow midfielder as he fired the ball over from roughly 25-yards out. Close, but no cigar.
Indeed very little was happening. Completely devoid of inspiration and creativity somehow as the team looked overall quite tired. Or at least not really fancying it in the sub-Arctic temperatures at the Stadium Of Light.
Gardner went close with a few more freekicks. The first going high and over the top, the other dirtying Longergan's mitts as he sent it low and under the Wanderers wall.
Bolton were defending what little we threw at them with ease, all very reminiscent of the first half of our game a week and a half ago. For them, the closest anyone came in the first period was Chris Eagles' fizzer proving an easy one for Simon Mignolet.
The first REAL chance for either side came just on the stroke of half time, and it was Connor Wickham who couldn't take advantage of it. After James McClean put a tremendous ball into the back post the youngster could only head straight at Lonergan with the goal beckoning.
And so the half time whistle came, and a welcome relief for all involved.
The second period started with Sunderland taking the game just a tad more to Bolton than they had in the first. Gardner once again the one who came closest to testing Lonergan with another freekick from distance. Gardner was definitely getting his eye in.
Marvin Sordell was proving to be the main man for the visitors. He didn't have a great impact on the first half, but was putting us to the sword in the second, and should have had himself the opening goal just before the hour when he failed to convert a one-on-one with Mignolet. Superb stuff from the Belgian to deny Sordell mind you.
Sordell and Bolton were turning the screw though, and it paid dividends just after the hour when the visitors were awarded a penalty. Not entirely sure who at the moment gave it away on first glance. It could have been Jack Colback for a poor sliding tackle on Darren Pratley, or Titus Bramble for barging Pratley on the way down. Either way, Sordell stepped up and dispatched with ease past Mignolet.
Reinforcements were made with Seb Larsson and Fraizer Campbell replacing Adam Johnson and Connor Wickham. Johnson might have felt a little unlucky while Wickham didn't take advantage of a rare start at all.
With us looking a little anemic and Bolton full of life having grabbed the breakthrough goal, they then capitalised to put the score at 2-0 and a mountain to climb for the flounderers in red and white.
The inexplicable inability to clear a corner allowed Sordell to pick up the ball and stab home from ten yards. Whether blame lies with Kilgallon and Colback for failing to clear or Mignolet for allowing the ball underneath him, is something to be argued about another day.
For the final 15 minutes or so Bolton remained in cruise control and we failed to inspire ourselves in the way we had in the first game. Everything just came to a crashing stop. We gave up, Bolton took advantage of it. The game was over despite what the clock had to say.
And so our FA Cup story ends at very first hurdle on a very, very disappointing night. Not a single soul in a Sunderland shirt could really be proud of their performance, and worst of all some fringe players who might have something to really play for (I'm talking to you Bardsley, Kilgallon etc) really didn't step up at all.
On the plus side, we'd have just got beat of Everton in the next round anyway, at least it didn't go to extra time, and Lee Cattermole made his return form injury.
Those are the tiny plus points on a night of negatives though.