A Ganterbury Tale.
Off we went on our journey in the Carabao Cup. It's an energy drink, apparently, and as they now sponsor Chelsea, that's who'll probably win it. We'll give it a go, though, and Honeyman"s first SAFC goal was enough to win a game in which we struggled to be really creative for the most part, but in truth never looked like losing.
Different competition, but I warmed up at Bishop v Consett the previous evening with an FA Cup replay following Saturday's 3-3 draw. Despite having no forwards (new signing Matty Moffatt having started a lengthy ban, after just one game - and you thought only Sunderland made that sort of signing) and a teenage debutant in goal, Bish went two up and could have been out of sight as the visiting keeper dropped everything but his shorts. Final score? 2-5, with Shaun Ryder amongst the goals for the Steelmen, but no sign of Bez.
Our sparsely populated bus chose the scenic route through Leeds city centre in rush hour, presumably to wind us up, but actually because a lorry had shed its load near the A1/M1 link and closed the road in both directions. Oh, and someone had "fallen" off a bridge onto the M62. Welcome to the wonderful world of football coach travel.
Dropped off in the town, there was time for a swift one and a stroll to the ground. With the sun very much in our eyes, we lined up:
Matthews O"Shea Browning Galloway
Gibson Ndong Honeyman Khazri
We had a bright start, kicking away from our near 1,000 travelling fans, with ex SAFC keeper Joe Murphy (14 tim3es and unused substitute) forced into a couple of saves and us sending a few efforts wide with McGeady looking likely to produce something. Galloway did a bit of overlapping and found Grabban's head at the near post, but the effort went the wrong side of the post. O"Shea marshalled the defence well, Gibson sat deep at the base of midfield, presumably shouting rude things at Khazri, and doing an OK job of linking defence with the rest of the rest of the team. Not looking bad, but then things changed. About ten minutes in he moved forward with the ball and Bury"s Dawson flew in with a challenge that seemed pretty harmless, if a bit spectacular. He didn't get back up, and left the field on a stretcher after several minutes.
That enforced change seemed to affect us more than Bury, as we sort of slipped down to Bury"s level and it was head tennis, scrappy, two passes maximum, and precious little cohesive football. Ndong was still doing most of the carrying across the middle, but we;spd lost our edge a bit. Honeyman worked hard out wide and McGeady had a free role across the field behind Grabban, who looked less comfortable without another out and out forward to feed off. Still, for all it getting a bit scrappy, we remained the side most likely to do something. McGeady lashed one wide from distance, then Khazri was booked for a bit of a wild challenge that might have drawn a red from another referee. There were a few promising breaks down the left, but nothing to really trouble Murohy, and after five added minutes the break came.
With the crowd being announced as 3,470, we expected another piece of James McClean wit via Twitter after his internet -breaking "have Sunderland forgotten to tell the fans there's a game on" (despite our attendance being several thousand bigger than any that turned up at the Hawthorns last season, presumably because they'd been told James was playing). Nothing came.
A pie later, and after the handing over of a git big flag the Bury fans had produced, along with £3,000 (I think) that they'd raised for the Bradley Lowery Foundation to add to the proceeds of the recent friendly, they were back out, with Vaughan on for Grabban, and the Bury old boy was quick to remind his former colleagues that he's not averse to bumping into defenders. An opening goal looked on when Khazri picked up a loose ball and burst into the box, taking the ball past the keeper but out wide, and those pesky new studs failed yet again as he tried to turn and shoot home - ending up on his backside with the ball spinning harmlessly out for a goal kick. At least we were starting to create chances, and with half an hour to go McGeady made way for Asoro as Simon Said, "let's try a more orthodox two up front". Actually, Asoro spent a fair amount of time out on the right, but with McGeady gone it was easier to see who was where, and this seemed to add a better final ball to Honeyman's game which had up to that point been all effort but no killer pass. As the 70 minute mark approached we'd been on top for a while, and Honeyman started a move that saw him cross into the box then arrive to receive the ball and calmly clip it over the keeper. Nice one, George.
As we tried for a second, Khazri made way for Gooch and those fresh legs caused the home side a few problems. Vaughan fired over the top, and a nice move down the right saw the ball arrive with Ndong on the edge of the box, but the volley was too high. We were showing our strength and Bury were tiring, but Jermaine Beckford, who'd been a pest whenever he played against us in years gone by (how old is he? 33, as it happens) came off the bench to keep O'Shea and Browning on their toes.
Four added minutes were announced, we played them out as Bury tried to create an equaliser - but that was never going to happen.
We won a game! Unbeaten all season! Scored in every game so far! 100% away record! Of course, it's very early days, but winning, even just the once in a cup competition, gives you a warm feeling, and brings about the beginnings of some sort of attachment to what is essentially a new team. It does for me, anyway, after the feeling of disconnection that had immediately preceded the Derby match, so it's a start. The draw for the second round gave us a tasty tie at Carlisle, which should get the interest going again as it's nearly a derby - and it's only a fortnight away.
Man of the Match? A decent showing from NDong with lots of running and some good passing to back it up. Matthews did nowt wrong, and Khazri buzzed about, although it didn't come to much. Steele handled well, despite a bit of a wonky clearance in the first half, and we're probably only asking questions of his distribution because we were spoiled last season - but he kept a clean sheet, and that's his job. O'Shea's experience showed, and will be vital over this long season, and Honeyman epitomised what Grayson's philosophy appears to be - lots of hard work, harrying, closing down, chasing apparently lost causes, that sort of thing. George for me.
Keep the Faith
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