Sunderland took on the Wombles of South West London, and eventually took apart a very one-dimensional set of furry litter-pickers. A hat-trick for Maguire did the business, despite us allowing the visitors to score with their only effort on target. A deserved victory, with the only complaint being that we didn't get a hatful.
Three wins in eight days, then announce the likely takeover and subsequent investment – if you weren’t in a good mood before kick-off, you want your head looking at. After Tuesday’s clinical win at Rochdale, where we did to them what others did to us last term, an unchanged line-up was a distinct probability – let Big Chas (he’s a beast, he’s from the North East) give the Wombles a battering like they gave us both home and away last season. A tough afternoon beckoned for Willis and Ozturk if our opponents fielded a Land of the Giants side again. In sweltering heat, we stuck our faces as close to the air vents on the bus as possible, in a vain attempt to cool off as we did the easy job of picking the team.
We nearly got it right, missing only the Hume/McLaughlin 2 swap - with young Denver's attacking nature, Ross can't be accused of negativity there. Potential US investors present - Denver - another possibility?
O'Nien Ozturk Willis Hume
McGeady Maguire Gooch
I've lined them up like that 'cos Maguire tends to drift about as he seeks an opponent to wind up. They kicked off towards their fans in the north stand, who looked quite a lonely bunch.
Their reputation from the days of the Crazy Gang, all hoof and no subtlety, proved to be accurate, as anything they did was 50 yards long. We looked as if we'd been practicing hitting Maguire on the run, and he had a couple of near things before their defence, in concentrating their efforts on Wyke, allowed it to bounce through, and The King was on hand to lift it over the keeper. Lovely finish, not yet eight minutes gone, and we could have been forgiven for expecting more. We virtually camped in the sunshine of their half and pinged in crosses from both sides. Gooch and McGeady briefly swapped wings around the half hour, after a wicked spin almost let Wimbledon get a shot away - but we got in the way at the expense of a corner.
There were numerous close things at the other end, not so much in terms of their keeper making saves, but more of the final ball being a foot astray. On 33, they managed their first effort, working it out to their right and heading in the simplest of goals at the back post. Where had our defence gone?
That it took two minutes for them to shape up and allow us to restart was a sign of things to come. All free kicks in their half were eventually take by their keeper, as they tried to run the clock down. Maguire shot a yard wide of the keeper's right hand post, then on 45 he hit a free a foot wide if the other one. A single minute was added, which was ludicrously less than bit should have been, and somehow we went in level after 46 minutes that we'd dominated.
Funny old game, football - one effort from the Wimbles, and it went in.
No changes for the second half, and rightly so. Wimbledon eventually appeared, and Maguire set things away. Five minutes in, McGeady, Hume, and Wyke worked some nice stuff down the left, but Gooch's shot was detected for a corner - which floated over everyone. A minute later, McGeady was set through again, but hit the post from close in. Another corner on our right was cleared to Maguire 25 yards out, and his blast took a deflection and flew in. Eight minutes in again. Then it was Wyke's turn, and he did well to get a shot away under pressure before McGeady ran through and won another corner.
Before it could be taken, Gooch was off for Grigg in a repeat of Tuesday's change. Hume belted down the left onto McGeady's clever flick, and cut it back, almost forcing an own goal but winning another corner. We maintained the pressure, with O'Nien crossing for Wyke to head back across and just wide before Wimbledon changed central defenders in an attempt to deal with Big Chuck (US version, OK?).
After a clever short corner to McGeady, we got it into to box and a backheel apiece from Wyke and Willis ended in the keeper's hands on the line, but we should have had a third soon after when Grigg worked space (with his shirt being removed) but shot wide. Immediately after their player was booked for diving in our box, on came McGeouch for Power. Another repeat substitution...have we got a game plan?
With just over ten remaining, Maguire completed his application for the match ball with the simplest of headers at the back post, leaving their keeper, who looked like a bairn they'd picked up at the Station Rec on the way there, staring at his boots. Chris then left the field, probably at his own request, to a standing ovation as he walked three sides of the ground. On came Dobson, and we basically kept the ball for the remainder, including the four added minutes.
O'Nien responded to a sign in the North Stand, and duly handed over his shirt as the happy crowd sang Sweet Caroline.
Man of the Match? Against very poor opposition, there were ample chances to shine. McLaughlin took crosses well, Hume did more than justify his selection with numerous bursts down the line and decent linking up with McGeady, who seems to have gained a few MPH over the summer. O'Nien was his usual effervescent self, while the central defensive partnership grew despite not much quality opposition. Leadbitter ran the show from deep, while Power tried to pick the passes. Gooch didn't look too chuffed to be subbed, but he'd had a decent afternoon and the change was obviously part of the plan. Wyke was immense, relishing the physical challenge and winning most of them.
However, you don't score three times and not get the nod. Well done Chris Maguire.
Who scored the last Sunderland hat trick, anybody?