The crowd duly turned up and provided the sound and colour backdrop to the afternoon's events as we squeezed past an enthusiastic but low-quality Bradford side that played their part number a big day out for their fans - and ours. McGeady's clever finish was all that was needed to secure the three points and make Boxing Day a happy day for a change.
You can run all you like from the classroom or the cot
From a great big man or a tiny tot
But from this day everyday will be boxing day
Don't need your indecision let there be no doubt
Don't need you permission I can count you out
They put the numb into number they put the cut into cutie
They put the sun into sunder and the boot into beauty
But from this day everyday will be boxing day
It's a fight to the finish let there be no doubt
As seconds turn to ninety minutes I can count you out
Of course, being Boxing Day, we set off an hour early, presumably to give us more time to avoid the Boxing Day sales - are they still a thing? - and folks returning unwanted gifts to M&S. Being naturally sceptical, which is part of the DNA of any Sunderland fan, our minds were inexorably drawn to previous Boxing Days when we buggered things up. For a change, and harking back to the good old days, the town was bouncing. A bit scran in Fitzgerald's, a pint in The Isis and the Vaults, and a coffee (aye, a narr) in the Roker End café, then match on.
O''Nien Baldwin Flanagan Oviedo
Gooch Maguire McGeady
No Honeyman anywhere, so it must be the Accy Flu. Or an ankle. Anyway, we kicked off Roker-way, with Gooch on the right and McGeady on the left. They swapped from time to time just to give the visiting defenders summat to think about, and we generally bossed things without worrying their keeper. O’Nien was his now accustomed Duracell right-back self to link up with Gooch, and we threatened to break into some good play from time to time without quite Getty there. There were a few nice triangles, particularly down our right, but shots on target were at a premium.
Bradford, hitting us on the break, put a couple well beyond our goalposts and we dragged a couple wide. Maja was doing well to hold it up and bring in Maguire and McGeady, with Gooch always eager to burst down the right.
McGeady got in a low effort that the keeper did well to smother away for a corner. Soon after, a cross came in, the keeper didn't hold the initial shot at the back post and McGeady did well to clip it over the flying bodies and in for 1-0 on 31. Magic.
There were other chances, but none that went on target, and we pretty much controlled the remaining 15 plus one. Maja's hold-up play had been in complete contrast to the criticism levelled at that part of his game, and he stuck his backside out and held off his marker. Put it at his feet and he'll make something happen.
Well worth the lead, and with a cracking rendition of Shipyards by The Lake Poets, and Charlie's thank you, including the Bradford fans (despite the announcer and the scoreboard losing 10,000 people from the 46,305 crowd), and we were happy bunnies at the start of the second half.
With an early corner, we got the half off to a positive start, although no substitutions had been made. An uncharacteristic bit of hesitancy by McLaughlin necessitated a clever chest to the safety of the recovering keeper's arms by O’Nien to relieve a bit of pressure. There was some neat short passing stuff down the right, which won a corner after it came out to the left and Oviedo crossed, but we had to survive a big shout for a penalty before we broke and Gooch chose to shoot rather than set up McGeady. His cross a minute later was headed wide of the far post as we continued to pile on the pressure. A free in the right was almost curled in by Oviedo, and the resultant corner was headed behind for another.
Looking canny, but a second would have been good -and deserved. Presumably the flare(s) in the away end were to put us off our game. McGeady shot from distance, bringing a standard save, then we let Bradford get at us before Flanagan did a Benno. His run upfield ended in a tackle, but their lad held onto Flan's leg. The visitors were shouting for a red for Flan, but it was their lad doing the fouling.
Watmore came on for Maja on 75, and quickly did the zipping about stuff that we love him for. We had a couple of frees we should have done better with, but then on 81 Oviedo dithered, was dispossessed, and McLaughlin fluffed a standard save. Thankfully, he scrambled back to save, with the visiting fans celebrating a goal that wasn't. Oops.
On 84, Wyke replaced Gooch to mutual applause and a bit of a kerfuffle bin the away end. Big Chas quickly got stuck in but gave away a couple of frees before Maguire made way for McGeouch on 87. Immediately, our free from half way was won by Wyke’s head and Watmore could only head the keeper's touch over the top. Four minutes were added, just after Wyke survived a big clatter - clearly he's properly mended this time.
Watmore picked the ball deep in our half and vaulted a couple of desperate challenges as he galloped down the left, finally being brought down. He produced another run, with the same result, soon after, just to prove he, like Wyke, us properly fixed this time. Another free, that we used to run down the clock, and the whistle came as Catts booted a clearance high into the air.
A highly satisfactory three points, but it should have been a lot more comfortable than it was. No complaints from this happy chappie, though, as we bust the Boxing Day hoodoo/curse/whatever it was. We didn't let the big crowd down, and hopefully many of them will be back. The substitutions made sense and worked, so well done Ross the Boss.
… and Portsmouth lost. Happy days
Man of the Match? Great to have Flanagan back alongside Baldwin, although their passing is generally not of the Stan Vargas class. Catts was a constant source of calm ( you know what I mean)and O''Nien was again a flurry of activity, enthusiasm, and not wasting the ball - and he came out after the game to play shooty-in with a bairn in the Roker End goal. I'm going to give it to Maja, though, because he was the focal point of our attack while he was on and brought the wide men into play.
Ha'way the Lads!