LINES FROM LONDON BLOG: SUNDERLAND AFC V IPSWICH TOWN


Ipswich have started to slip, with two defeats in the last two games, so we have to beat them today if we want to entertain serious hopes of automatic promotion. I've heard next to nothing about how Wyke and especially Lynch are doing after last Saturday's injuries but I doubt we'll be seeing either this afternoon and Lafferty should be making a start. There's likely to be a real crowd of 30,000 there and they need to roar us on from the off. Portsmouth and Coventry are both likely to win today but we'll overtake Ipswich if we can beat them and I think we can. Our defending went all to pieces against Portsmouth after four clean sheets so I hope we've been practising set pieces all week. I won't be at the match as I'm back in London after my Sunderland sojourn so it'll be SAFSEE for me. It's likely to be a nail-biter but I think we'll edge it and my match prediction is 2-1 to us.


When I got the team-news just after 2.00, Wyke was starting and Flanagan was in for Lynch while Ozturk was back on the bench. That all seemed fine to me and I thought we might need Alim on in the later stages to beef things up – he does beefing well when he's not overdoing it.


I tuned into the commentary and was pleased to hear that the weather was dry and sunny as I knew that Storm Ciara was looming up and I didn't want it to have an effect on proceedings. We won the first corner of the game after three minutes but it went for a goal-kick and though Willis launched himself at it, he only managed to crash into a defender. Commentators Barnes and Bennett soon said that it'd been a nervy start and we hadn't been able to get our foot on the ball. O'Nien made a great block on Kenlock as Ipswich threatened in the seventh minute. Next thing Wyke had the ball in the net from a great Maguire cross but you could tell by the cheer that it'd been ruled out. Still, it was promising. Things were going from end to end and Keane put a header just over the bar from a Woolfenden cross but apparently we were creating nothing down the left hand side and we needed to rectify that as Gooch and Hume have been very effective of late. All in all Ipswich had made the brighter start. McLaughlin had to save well to deny Nolan in the fifteenth minute and I could feel a goal coming and not where I'd like one. O'Nien was yellow-carded for a foul and he must be close to a suspension now. He takes some stick but he can dish it out too. Around the midway point Benno said we were getting outmuscled and outfought – a bit too much muscle it seemed as Downes soon joined O'Nien in the book. Ipswich seemed to be playing much more controlled football while we weren't stringing much together at all and were still nervous. The home crowd were making very little noise and I was rather looking forward to getting in goalless at the break and shaking things up a lot as our playmakers were hardly creating anything. Benno said we were second best all over the park and had shown no urgency. Nick Barnes said we were half-asleep. Anyway, we made it to the break without conceding and I hoped Parky would gee them up before we started again. Coventry and Portsmouth were both winning so the picture wasn't looking at all rosy.


There were no changes as we kicked off again. We started brightly and within a minute a Hume shot was blocked by Donacien. Soon Gooch went on a mazy run and his shot hit the inside of the post but Wyke couldn't capitalize on the follow-up. We were playing a lot better and our fans had responded in kind. A Maguire free-kick came off the wall and soon we won a corner from which Power drove a shot just over the bar. Barnsey said it'd been a transformation and that we were knocking on the door. I'd prefer us to kick it down but anyway I felt a goal coming for us. About twenty minutes in we conceded a free-kick eight yards out when McLaughlin picked up a back-pass as Keane bore down on him. Our defenders had to stand almost on the line but the resultant shot went wide and we all breathed again. Watmore started warming up. With about a quarter of the match left I still felt we were going to nick it and just after I'd written that a Wright effort came off the bar. With fifteen minutes left we still hadn't made a change but before long Lafferty came on for Hume. Elsewhere Bolton had equalized against Coventry and if we could get that goal, we'd make significant progress. Well, we did just that when Maguire hit a low shot from eighteen yards to put us ahead in the eighty-first minute. Our fans really came alive and I had to stand up and pace around to try and help kill off the remaining eight minutes or so. Three minutes to go and things were looking good as McLaughlin took his time with a goal-kick. Two minutes to go and Flanagan recovered well to tap the ball back to McLaughlin again and prevent a real scoring chance for Jackson. Four minutes of stoppage-time were announced, which was more than I expected, and Downes drove an effort over the bar. We brought Connor McLaughlin on for Gooch right near the end to much applause but there was even more applause when that whistle finally went.


Whatever Parky said at the break it worked very well as we sounded a different side after that. Sub Lafferty played his part in the build-up to our goal so well done again. A big three points and another clean sheet while we're now above Ipswich and in the play-offs. See you at Oxford.


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