Once upon a time, there was a cheeky Scouser by the name of Joey, who made his name in the world of football with a series of misdemeanours that would have made your average chav shudder. Once established as the heid-banger’s heid banger, he nutted his way out of QPR, betted his way out of Burnley, and somehow gained the trust of an owner, finding himself the manager of Fleetwood for their maiden visit to Wearside. After starting the week by trying to belittle our club, his PR people (presumably the same PR people who convinced him that quoting Descartes and dressing in roll-neck sweaters while wearing horn-rimmed specs would make him an intellectual) had a word, and he declared his utmost respect for our club and fans. And we all believed him. Or not – don’t ask me what I think of you, I might not give the answer that you want me to. If it rained, would he wear a Fleetwood Mac? Would his early comments turn out to be an Albatross around his neck? Oh well, he can go his own way and invite magpies to attend.
Anyhow, Sunderland huffed and puffed their way to a point in a far from convincing performance in a game which gave us enough chances for victory. It was a disappointing result from game in which we once again let the opposition get ahead early, and while we were worth the draw at the end, and had plenty of chances to win it, we need a game-changer like McGeady or Watmore.
Most of the week had been taken up discussing the Odd Couple, AKA Ndong merrily on hols and Papy Don’t Preach, and what we’d do with the latter now that he’d turned up for training, 72 days late. I mean, the buses and trains can be a bit of a bind at times, but ten weeks? We had the Stoke penalty shoot-out win, with a chance to see Wyke – our first big, fearless centre-forward in ages – and Sinclair – he of the rapidly-repairing hamstring – strut their very different stuff, and for Flanagan and Hume to show that they’ll not let us down if selected. All of whom give Ross a very nice selection problem, with our injury list getting shorter by the day. However, the less said about the EFL’s interpretation of a three-game ban, the better.
Matthews Loovens Baldwin Hume
Gooch Maja Maguire
With Enrico of the Black Cats of Brescia predicting 6-1, over a pint in the Dun Cow, our Ian immediately chucked a fiver of the daft variety on it. They made us kick North, and we started to a tremendous roar.
An early cross from Hume has messed up by the Cod defence, allowing Gooch to shoot, but the ref missed the deflection and gave a goal kick. We had to defend well to keep them out, but after a corner on 8 minutes gave way and Madden was unmarked in the middle to nod home. Aw, ha'way Lads. We can't keep doing this.
Maguire was then subjected to a tackle so high that he nearly got a black eye, with a yellow card shown to his assailant.
We did well to clear a throw in our left-back area to Maja in the centre circle and he did well to set Gooch away to win a corner. With Fleetwood pressing high up the field, Catts and McGeouch had no time on the ball, and we relied on the fullbacks, especially Hume, to build moves. Gooch was set away again, and was fouled in the edge of the box, only for Maguire's free to hit the wall and his follow-up to go wide on the half hour. Fleetwood kept fouling but escaping cards as the standard of reffing in this division was emphasised yet again.
Maja shot across the face of the goal from.the left, and Catts could only head over the top when it came back in. On 37, Honeyman got down the left and chipped a cross to Maja, who held off his marker and hooked it across and in. Magic, and it was nearly two soon after when their keeper couldn't hold a shot and Catts almost got there first.
Gooch switched to the right, then Hume put in a deep cross for Matthews to volley over with the outside of his boot.
Two added minutes were announced, which we saw out comfortably to go in deservedly level. To be honest, we shouldn't be seeing out time at home unless we're well ahead on ninety minutes, but that's the way it was today. We had once again allowed the opposition to get us on the back-foot earl on, and it took us a good while to get to grip of things. We eventually did, once it had become a more straightforward three up front with Maguire on the right and Gooch on the left., where most of our our promising play took place towards the end of the half. We need to start playing well before half three, simple as that.
No changes, and we'd hardly had time to settle when Matthews was late into a challenge in the by-line. Penalty saved down to his left by McLaughlin - the first by a Sunderland keeper at home since Tony Norman in 1988, and therefore the first at the SoL.
Sinclair was on for Maguire soon after, presumably to drag the visiting defence wider from his central position and thus giving Maja more space. Loovens produced the tackle of the season (to date) thundering in to clear in the centre circle and lifting their man three yards into the air. Boom. Splat.
We should have gone ahead in 59 when, following a corner, Honeyman got the ball from the left, but Sinclair somehow got his foot round the ball and hooked it wide. Bad miss, and soon after that Wyke replaced Maja, with Sinclair dropping behind him initially before joining him up to a few minutes later.
Flanagan replaced Matthews, who'd looked disinterested for most of the game, on 72, followed quickly by Sinclair forcing a corner - the first of two in quick succession. Throw by Flanagan eventually set Sinclair away in 76, he fed Gooch, and his shot was blocked for a corner, signalling a spell of pressure and corners. A yellow went to their keeper for wasting time, then their 22 for a foul. A slow-motion looping header by Honeyman was taken by their keeper after Wyke headed back. On 84, the keeper produced a tremendous save, then they cleared off the line as we looked like getting the winner. Gooch was found by Hume and burst into the box but went down way too easily - never a penalty, whatever Gooch thought.
Four added minutes were announced, Sinclair was away down the right and fouled just outside the box. There was a wrestling match in the box, prompting the ref to blow for a Fleetwood free as soon as the ball went in. Catts was booked on halfway, and that signalled the end of things as they took an age over it, but still managed to force a save out of McLaughlin.
Man of the Match? Our Ian reckons McGeouch, I reckon Catts. Seniority wins. And they all lived happily ever after - well, not quite. The end.