Relief for Bruce as Bent breaks Black Cats slump
Steve Bruce was a relieved man after seeing Darren Bent fire Sunderland to a first Premier League win of 2010.
Bent's second-half hat-trick, which came after Fraizer Campbell's first-minute strike, ended the Black Cats' wait for a first three-point haul since November 21, a run of 14 games.
It could hardly have come at a better time with owner Ellis Short in the stands at the Stadium of Light ahead of today's planned meeting with his manager.
Bruce said: "It's just relief that we have got a victory. I am pleased for everybody concerned with the club and delighted that we have got one. But that's all it is, it's just a victory at the moment. But it was the manner of it that was very enjoyable. Towards the end, we could have scored six or eight -- Benty could have scored five himself."
The win lifted the Black Cats six points clear of the bottom three and into the relative comfort of 13th place as they leapfrogged Wanderers, who are now 14th. They got their noses in front with just 44 seconds gone when Campbell collected his first league goal for the club, but it was Bent who made the major contribution on a night when the home side appeared rejuvenated.
Defender John Mensah was immense in his duel with Kevin Davies, while midfielder Steed Malbranque responded in just the way his manager would have hoped after his return to the side following a breach of club discipline.
Campbell's strike was just the Black Cats' third in seven games, but Bent was to match that tally himself in the second half.
He confidently beat Jussi Jaaskelainen after running on to Lee Cattermole's 64th-minute pass, and then converted a penalty 10 minutes later after Sam Ricketts had bundled him over to earn his second yellow card of the game.
The £10million man completed a hat-trick with two minutes remaining to send a crowd of 36,087 into raptures.
Birmingham manager Alex McLeish (above right) paid tribute to Christian Benitez after he inspired his side to a 2-1 triumph at Portsmouth last night. The Ecuadorian forward fed strike partner Cameron Jerome for both his first-half goals and caused the Pompey rearguard all manner of problems in the opening 45 minutes.
Benitez had a golden opportunity to net one of his own after 39 minutes, when he beat the offside trap and rounded goalkeeper David James, only to be halted by a last-ditch tackle from Hermann Hreidarsson.
Despite costing £8.5million, the 23-year-old has netted just three times this term, with his last goal coming in a 2-1 win at Everton on January 23.
But McLeish has been pleased with the South American's efforts in the last two games against Portsmouth.
He said: "I thought Chucho (Benitez) had lost a bit of confidence in the last few weeks. He had an injury and perhaps wasn't feeling quite his best.
"The players were finding it difficult to find him on the pitch and he wasn't getting into any of the little pockets he had been looking dangerous in during the early part of the season.
"He came on last Saturday and I think he got a wee lift from his performance. He created a bit and he looked very dangerous tonight."
Laws: Stoke setting the standard for minnows
Burnley manager Brian Laws believes Stoke are a "perfect model" for newly promoted clubs. The 48-year-old has nothing but admiration for the way rival boss Tony Pulis goes about his business.
Burnley will move out of the relegation zone tonight should they achieve a victory against Pulis' side at Turf Moor, although Laws is expecting a fierce challenge.
"Tony Pulis is a great guy. I have known him for a long time. One of the things that has not changed is the way he has played the game in every division," he said.
"They are not a long-ball team as some are suggesting because they do play good football as well. Stoke are a perfect model for teams coming up and something we have to look at ourselves. They have done it in the right way, not overspent.
"As a team they work hard, are organised and play to their strengths. If they get in front they are very hard to break down. They are a team of workers, not stars."
Burnley have managed only one win in eight league games since Laws replaced Owen Coyle in January and are tipped to make a swift return to the second tier.