It was matchday again and after the previous weekend’s 2-0 defeat at Portsmouth this would be a huge game. The lads started the year on a high, resulting in Phil Parkinson being deservedly awarded as the League One Manager Of The Month for January. The gaffer made a total of five January additions to bolster the squad, with Kyle Lafferty, Bailey Wright, Josh Scowen, Declan John and Antoine Semenyo all arriving on Wearside. All of which would have to wait before being involved, with only Bailey Wright starting in this game against Ipswich.
As for the rest of the Sunderland lineup, Parkinson opted for just the one change from last week’s defeat. This just reinforces the confidence that he has in the squad and should really spur the lads on. This change saw Tom Flanagan replace Joel Lynch in defence, with Lynch going off injured at Fratton Park. This continues the debate as to what is happening with Alim Ozturk, with the Turk falling down the pecking order despite putting in some sturdy performances this campaign. Max Power and George Dobson was the chosen partnership in the heart of midfield, although many supporters believe that Josh Scowen should be given a run out in the eleven. Charlie Wyke led the line, with Antoine Semenyo and Kyle Lafferty both options from the bench if necessary.
The visitors were 4th in the table heading into the game so it was a real six pointer. However, Peterborough made a statement last weekend by dismantling The Tractor Boys by four goals to one, proving that Ipswich can be beaten. Paul Lambert set his side out for this match with two strikers, James Norwood and Will Keane. Norwood is a player who knows where the net is, scoring eleven league goals so far this season. Fortunately, he wouldn’t add to that tally on this occasion...
With over 32,000 supporters in attendance, Ipswich got proceedings underway. The first opportunity of the game arrived when Chris Maguire’s delivery was met by the head of Jordan Willis, who could only head over. Moments later, the ball was in the back of the Ipswich net, but the linesman raised his flag for offside. Charlie Wyke poked home from close range, but the goal was disallowed. The rest of the half was dominated by the visitors, with The Tractor Boys having the majority of possession. Bailey Wright blocked away Will Keane’s effort and James Norwood fired wide from distance soon after. The only real positive was the fact that we weren’t behind at the break, with the lads second best to virtually every ball. It was obvious that things weren’t working, something had to change.
However, Phil Parkinson chose to stick with the same eleven in the second half. There must have been some strong words from the manager during the interval because things really seemed to click in the second 45. Less than a minute into the second-half Denver Hume had his attempt blocked, a positive sign for things to come. The noise in the ground really cranked up a notch as Lynden Gooch weaved an opening, only to fire against the post. Charlie Wyke was presented with a great chance when the ball rebounded into his feet, but his shot was straight at Tomas Holy. It seemed that the opening goal had finally arrived, but Bailey Wright could only fire his shot against the crossbar on his home debut. A goal was surely coming, with every effort seeming closer to nestling in the net than the last. Eventually, the all-important moment of magic did arrive. The ball set up invitingly for Chris Maguire, who fired a thunderous effort into the back of the net from outside the box, 1-0 Sunderland. The lads held on, despite a couple scares, to claim a huge three points.
It really was a game of two halves, fortunately we took our chances and they didn’t. Four of our upcoming six matches take place at The Stadium of Light, these are the games that will really make or break our season. There’s no doubt that we have the quality to gain promotion to the Championship, it’s just whether we have the consistency to keep getting positive results.
Rochdale are the visitors on Tuesday night, another huge game in our bid for promotion!