LINES FROM LONDON: SUNDERLAND V COVENTRY CITY


There's not a trace of Storm Jorge in the skies as I sit here at Marylebone Station awaiting departure for Birmingham and the mood so far is buoyant. Results yesterday went very well for us though I'm keeping an eye on Oxford as they're emerging as a dark horse. A draw today would be a good result but a win would be excellent and would put us in second spot confirming us as serious automatic promotion candidates. Coventry took us to pieces in the home game last season but we're made of sterner stuff these days, apart from some serious wobbles against Fleetwood that is. I don't know of any injuries or other issues so we should be fielding the same side again. Coventry's recent form, four wins and a draw, is exactly the same as ours so it's going to be tough. As ever, a good start will be crucial so let's hope we take it to them from the off. Match prediction: 1-1.


I've travelled around the world, visited many new cities and have rarely got lost but nearly every time I go to Birmingham I find myself going astray. Anyway, I managed to get to the ground in plenty of time and having decided to forego a pre-match beer I watched the team warming up. My seat was 122 but the next seat was 99 for some mysterious but pleasing reason. Even fifteen minutes before kick-off huge swathes of the ground were empty, and maybe would remain so, while the Coventry 'end' was close to ours which promised a bit of atmosphere. There were no surprises in our starting line-up but Grigg was on the bench.


Instead of us getting off to a great start, Coventry did. I don't think we'd been in their half when after two minutes, a poor clearing header from, I think, Power gifted them an attack. The ball was fed through to Godden and he hit a low shot that gave McLaughlin no chance. That was a real sickener but our fans made a lot of noise and we battled back. Five minutes later Wyke won a challenge near the edge of their box and fired in a good effort that went just wide of the left post. Hume was giving Dabo the run around down the left wing but nothing much was happening at the end of his runs. Flanagan's long passes were decidedly dodgy while Ozturk resorted to some more effective Route One wellies. Wyke was getting very little change out of the Coventry backline but we continued to pump up high balls to him. We won three corners to Coventry's one but failed to do anything with them and Flanagan needs to take some finishing practice as he had several good scoring chances but duffed them all. I thought he was going to be yellow-carded for booting the ball out of the ground after he'd given a throw-in away but he escaped and there was of course an accompanying chorus of 'My Garden Shed'. Among the 'These You Have Loved' chants was one of “Soft as shite! (x3)” when Godden went down looking for a penalty. There was a large banner of Jimmy Hill over to our right and this was responded to with “Na-na, na-na, na-na-na, na-na-na! Jimmy's in a box! In a box! Jimmy's in a box!' to the tune of KC and The Sunshine Band's Seventies smash 'Gotta Give It Up'. Meanwhile back on the pitch Coventry looked dangerous on their occasional breaks but we didn't look like scoring and we were even reverting to our perennial bad habit of passing it backwards instead of forwards from an attacking position. There was good applause, though, as the sides walked off into the corner at the break.


We started the second period with some gusto and won a corner in the first minute but it was cleared and Coventry broke dangerously. We pressured well for the opening quarter of an hour without creating a serious scoring chance. As the hour-mark approached there was a chant for Kyle Rafferty to come on but he didn't make an appearance till nearly ten minutes later when he replaced Hume. Wyke actually got a header on target soon afterwards but it was a weak effort and went straight to Marosi in goal. We all thought we'd equalized shortly after that but the ref went over for a pow-wow with the assistant referee on our left and Power's deflected 'goal' was ruled out for offside, much to the delight of the Coventry fans (bastards!). The crowd had been announced - 10,055 – and it had felt strange, as it had when we played them last season, to play in a ground where two ends were almost completely empty. The match was being played at a frenetic pace with the ball bobbing around in the air to nobody in particular a lot of the time and as time went by it felt like it wasn't our day. We were certainly trying but too many passes were going astray or our players were too slow to reach them and there was little in the way of creativity. I thought Rafferty put a good shift in and he gave us more bite but Somenyo didn't have much impact during the fifteen minutes he was on. In the last minute of normal time we turned the screw but couldn't find a way through their defence and I made my way towards the exit as stoppage-time ticked away. It ended 0-1 as I got to the exit steps.


It's been a bad day and a bad week with five points dropped against our close rivals and this defeat coupled with that against Portsmouth has shown that we've still got a long way to go if we want to go up automatically. Anyway, see you at the SoL next Saturday.


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