Sunderland took a deep breath, shook off the lethargy produced by an international break, and came from behind to comfortably win a game that was never pretty in more than patches, but which produced a result that sent the visiting fans home with smiley faces.
The sun was out, the views across the southern end of the Yorkshire Dales were spectacular, it was a fairly relaxed half eight start, and the mood on the road was upbeat as we discussed the formation and the individuals likely to be involved. We were in Colne for what seemed like the tenth time in as many weeks, way too early for normal socialising – and found a new watering hole in the Northern Whisper tap. “You’ll want the football on, you’re from that way” said the barmaid, confusing our Durham dialect for that of Tyneside. We forgave her mistake, munched our way through a few portions of chilli pork scratchings, worked out who would be playing there, and eventually watched as the football. It went well. We were at the Wham Stadium in plenty of time to soak up a few rays and enquire as to what on earth folks had found to fill their time since the last game while wondering what had happened to the full-on body search that had slowed our last entrance to the place. Two games a week, nowt for a fortnight, then two games a week. Weird – you avoid a team for well over a century then visit them four times in less than a year.
O’Nien Ozturk Willis Hume
Gooch Maguire McGeady
The replacement of Power with Dobson was the most noticeable and talked about change, with Max probably suffering because of our George’s extra pace and movement. With McNulty up front, Maguire roaming behind him, and Gooch and McGeady providing the width it looked a positive enough set-up as we set off kicking away from the open end housing our standees. By the time we’d worked out that their number 8 was their best player and their number 5 was still seven feet tall, they’d left our defence for dead with a ball lover the top, and their lad (Clark?) went past Big Jon to open the scoring. It was too early to say if it was against the run of play or not, as we’d not really woken up, but a couple of minutes later we confirmed that it was. Hume bombed down the left and played it to Gooch, who hit a smart volley past their keeper to level things, sending the dafties in the away end into heaven as they/we sensed a comeback. Mind, the home side kept coming at us, and a bit more quality in their team might well have resulted in another goal for them, as they kept trying to play football and piling forward, which made for a pretty breathless game as the play moved from one end to the other – although we did look the more composed of the two sides. Dobson’s runs from deep towards the far end were good to see, and after ten or so it got a bit less manic – which gave us on the terraces a chance to draw our breath and sing another song.
Maguire did well to set up McNulty with about twenty minutes played, but with our fans expecting 2-1, it stayed level as he fired just wide. Not to worry, it all went well not long after that, when McGeady, who’d not been able to create much so far, was given the ball by a Accy player who obviously mistook blue for red after our cross went too deep, and Aiden showed typical coolness to pick his spot. Whooop Whooop! Here we go, this is more like it, 27 gone. That goal seemed to knock a bit of the stuffing out of Accy, as you’d expect, and their heads went down about as our chests puffed out. Mind, it could all have all gone wrong eight minutes after the goal when a cross took a big deflection to leave McLaughlin wrong-footed and come down off the bar. Too close for comfort.
That near miss sparked Maguire into more of his good stuff, taking the mickey out of his markers, and ten minutes after McGeady’s strike, the king was away onto a through ball, leaving his oppo on his backside with a clever jink, and putting the ball on a plate for McNulty. One of those you’d struggle to miss, and he didn’t. 3-1, that’ll do nicely….and it nearly got even nicelyer, when O’Nien, on one of his foraging runs upfield, got on the end of a cross only for his header to glance off the post via a defender. The single added minute saw us keeping the ball well, and we head into the break happy with what we’d seen despite there not being too much free-flowing football on show. We’d had little periods of decent passing, but the home side had kept harrying away to frustrate us. Never mind, 3-1 will do for me.
No changes for the second half, and we looked forward to the goals flying in at “our” end. Maguire was first to try to add to our tally, but his effort didn’t quite curl enough on 50 minutes, then Dobson and Leadbitter decided to get hold of the ball and control the pace of the game – which was nice. It did mean that there was less bashing forward and more passing and carrying around the middle of the park, but that took away whatever sting the home side had possessed. When they did get a chance, their scorer (deffo Clarke, Trev told me) somehow managed to shoot against his team-mate’s head to save McLaughlin the bother of having to make a save. Mind, we did need a decent save from McLaughlin with twenty to go to prevent Accy reducing the arrears, but that’s what he’s there for.
With about fifteen to go, McGeouch and Grigg replaced Leadbitter and Maguire, meaning a bit of positional shake-up as we went two up top – enough to give the home defence a bit more to think about. It was our defence, though, that came under the immediate pressure, with Big Jon having to make a couple of smart saves as we on the terraces began to wonder if a two goal lead was going to be enough. Pessimists!
Embleton came on for McNulty straight after that as we tried to shore things up, and it just about worked. – actually, it almost got a lot better when Grigg found space, but the home keeper was big enough to keep it out. We effectively saw out the final few minutes and the five added to leave the Wham with a victory for the third time, maintaining our 100% record there (we’ll forget about the watery effort last December) and put big smiles on our supporters’ faces. Happy days.
Man of the Match? We’ve already said that it wasn’t the prettiest of games, but you can only beat the team you’re up against, and we did just that. There were periods when McGeady and Maguire clicked and were a delight to behold, and that the sort of thing you pay your money to watch. Willis and Ozturk are purpose built for games like this, and our two full-backs enjoyed their afternoon with plenty of bombing forward. Probably for the way he left his marker on his backside just before setting up out third, I’ll give it to Maguire the entertainer. Well done Lads - onwards and upwards.