Sunderland ensured qualification to whatever the next stage of the EFL Trophy is with a 3-1 win over Carlisle – all the goals coming from products of our academy – meaning that we can have a bit of a party at Morecambe next month.
As is apparently compulsory in this competition, there was a subdued pre-match atmosphere, and there was the rather unusual sight of visiting supporters having their photo taken next to Bob Stokoe’s statue. Despite all the talk of however many players were unavailable, including Power who was suspended but not suspended but still wasn’t allowed to play, Ross put out a pretty strong team, watched by the east stand and the Carlisle lot up in the north stand. At £3 a pop, those who witnessed Maguire’s warm-up routine - reminiscent of Kieron Brady, as he caught a dropping ball on his toe, bounced it down, and caught it again, this time between his calf and his thigh. – had already had their money’s worth before the real thing began. Their bench included Dickson Etuhu’s brother Kelvin (ask yer slightly older brother), and our included lots of youngsters.
Matthews Ozturk Baldwin James
McGeady Honeyman Maguire
We kicked off southwards, but it was the visitors who showed the first attacking intent, winning an early corner which we dealt with comfortably, and James set McGeady away down the left. He went to the byline, cut back inside onto his right foot, and pinged a perfect cross for Kimpioka to head down to the keeper’s left and in for his first competitive goal. Two minutes on the clock meant that it was officially a canny start, and the wind that had been blowing fiercely by the main entrance had thankfully decided not to blow into the ground and spoil things.
As we’re Sunderland, we had to make things a little difficult, though. McGeady was trying to replicate his early assist but it didn’t quite come off, and when he had a shooting chance, he hit it way over the top into the empty south stand, where it evaded the ball boys for a while. Kimpioka was obviously buoyed by his goal, and as the crosses hadn’t quite got to him, he tried doing it all himself with what will surely become a trademark mazy run, only being stopped on the edge of the area. Ruiter had us on the edge of our seats, or rather hiding behind the one in front, as he dribbled around an opponent only yards from his line, right in the middle of the goal. Dinnet, just dinnet!
A Carlisle free-kick went just over the bar and hit the net after rebounding form the advertising hoardings – sending the visiting fans into raptures, as that sort of thing must count as a goal in Cumbria. The visitors were well up for the game despite the early setback, and, not for the first time, set the centre forward away with a ball over the top that caught our central defence out, and he worked enough space to shoot low across Ruiter for the leveller on 21. Thoughts of a cup upset obviously entered our heads, but we could see where we needed to sort things out – with both fullbacks pushing forward, the central midfield needed to protect the central defence more. Still plenty of time to do that, and with McGeouch operating as the fulcrum alongside Ethan Robson’s tackling and chasing, we showed we had the base on which to build the game.
Not for the last time, McGeady and Maguire swapped wings in an attempt to get ourselves back in front, and we had several nearly moments, with shots going just wide, and more crosses being cleared by the Cumbrians. There was almost a goal from an unlikely source when Matthews galloped from his own half into the visitors’ box, but his shot cannoned off the keeper and bounced back into his arms off a defender. Maguire was doing his usual good work out on the right, and Honeyman was growing into the game. It probably took him a while because of his more central role behind Kimpioka, but he got there in the end. His shot hit a defender in the chest, and fell nicely to Robson, who thumped it low into the same place as Kimpioka’s header. Relief, but it was no more than our general play deserved and there were still ten minutes of the half remaining.
Unfortunately for Robson, he took a knock in setting up a chance for Honeyman with about five of those minutes gone, and despite treatment, went down again and was replaced by O’Nein just as the three added minutes were announced.
No changes for the second half, and we pushed forward from the off, with Carlisle having to produce some desperate defending to protect their keeper as McGeady and Kimpioka exchanged passes in an attempt to open them up. The visitors were having plenty of the ball, but Baldwin produced some good interceptions and tackles to keep them out of our box. There was a half-hearted shout for a penalty when McGeady went over, but it probably wasn’t a foul. Another lovely cross found the head of Kimpioka, and we were all ready to celebrate when the keeper somehow clawed the ball away from the line and it was hoofed to safety. A third goal looked almost inevitable, and it arrived not long after the hour when we passed our way forward, and eventually found Honeyman in acres of space in the box. He took his time, and calmly slotted it home. Game over. It could have been four soon after, but with bodies crowded all around him, Kimpioka did well to work the space for a shot, but took a fraction too long and it was blocked. O’Nien got a bit too enthusiastic and got the evening’s only yellow card when he flattened an opponent. A header just wide a few minutes later showed how close our young Swede came to scoring again, then we made our second change, with Jack Diamond, fresh from scoring on Monday night at Hetton, replacing McGeady. He showed some confident touches and shot just wide with the first chance he got after swapping passes with Honeyman. Looking good
With five to go, Lee Connely replaced Kimpioka, and buzzed around in fairly effective fashion, finding himself played through after more intricate play, but couldn’t beat the keeper with his shot. Three added minutes were announced, we pushed forward a bit more, Baldwin kept things secure at the other end, and the whistle went.
Overall, a satisfactory evening’s work, and at one stage it looked like we might go a bit mad and score enough for Enrico’s bet to come up. (6-1, if you must know). The only sour note was Robson’s injury- let’s hope it nowt serious.
Man of the Match? The wide men, Maguire and McGeady, linked well with the full-backs, and were a constant pain for Carlisle. Kimpioka still has a lot to learn, but showed individuality and lack of fear, and it was good to see him, Diamond, Connelly, and Robson do so well. Baldwin, despite being caught out for the goal, put in some great defending after the break to protect our lead, aided by the physicality of Ozturk. For me, though, the way McGeouch took the pace out of the game, particularly in the second half, was the major factor in the win, so he gets it.
Cheesy chips on Wembley Way? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.