Autumn is here and we’ve lost our first match after several disappointing performances but we’ll still fourth. I hope McGeady and Maguire feature prominently this afternoon as until they appeared last week we were very insipid upfront. There’s been speculation this week about us going for Anichebe and I’d definitely have him. He’s built like a tank and he always tried hard for us. Rochdale have lost three already but we know we can’t underestimate anyone in this league as we’ll have to battle it out with all of them. If we can manage to score first, that would be a major boost and I’m sure we’d then go on to get a win but I certainly wouldn’t bet on that. I think we will win actually and that would put us in good heart for next week’s match at Coventry, where we’ll have huge away support and I’ll be one of them. I can’t make today’s match so it’ll have to be SAFSEE. Match prediction: 2-1 to us.
When I saw the teams at 2.40 I was pleased to see Maguire in there and there was a further shuffle with Flanagan and Hume starting at the back and Oviedo, Matthews and Sinclair on the bench. I got the game online and was feeling quite optimistic about what lay ahead. There was plenty of noise from our fans as the match kicked off and we were awarded a free-kick in the first minute but Maguire hit it way over the top. A few minutes later Flanagan and Hume combined well to set up a cross through the Rochdale box but nobody was there to finish it off. Just before the quarter hour Rochdale won a free-kick, their first set-piece, and they had several very tall lads in their side so my alarm-bells were ringing. We put it out for a corner which was headed away by Maja, of all people. I thought we were going to concede when Abraham went through and put a shot wide when it sounded like he should’ve scored.
By the midway point we hadn’t seriously threatened their goal, which was worrying. Loovens was yellow-carded for a daft foul and we could’ve done without that. On a brighter note, leaders Portsmouth were 1-0 down. It was all decidedly dull and the crowd was subdued. We won a free-kick on the left of their box when Hume was fouled making a good run but it went for a goal-kick. We won our first corner not long afterwards which roused the home fans and this was followed by another corner but Rochdale finally got it clear. Gooch soon created another chance from which we won another corner and the crowd was angry to see Baldwin fouled and a free-kick awarded to Rochdale. We’d been enjoying a decent period of pressure and we took the lead eight minutes from the break when a lovely ball in from Maguire found Maja in ample space to nod it home. It felt great for us to have our noses in front for a change. Shortly afterwards we were awarded a penalty when Gooch was fouled in their box following more great work by Maguire, and Gooch rolled it into the bottom corner to put us two-up. McLaughlin made a very good save from a Hart free-kick to keep it at 2-0. We needed to keep a clean-sheet by half-time but then things got even better for us when Hume made another good run down the left before feeding Maja whose shot took a deflection but sounded like it was going in anyway. I never felt it was going to happen but 3-0 at the break was definitely what the doctor ordered and there was loud applause as the teams went off. Rafferty managed to get booked after the whistle for too much verbal to the ref.
I hoped we wouldn’t sit back and settle for 3-0 as we needed to keep up our large goal-difference and of course I love us scoring. Rochdale sounded like they had a goal in them as well. Rochdale won the first corner of the half and Delaney headed it wide while McLaughlin had to be on his toes to save well from both Andrew and Henderson. Rathbone was booked for diving in our box which relieved that burst of pressure and Henderson soon joined him for a nasty-sounding foul on Gooch (the commentary team suggested it might have been an elbow). Gooch got up and then went down again for a while but thankfully he managed to resume. We created a couple of good chances, one of which went wide from Hume and the second hit Row ZZ when Catts reverted to his usual finishing style. Still, we’d got to the hour-mark without conceding and were surely on course for the three points. Hart made a very timely tackle to prevent Maja getting his hat-trick but almost immediately we were 4-0 ahead when a left foot shot from Gooch went into the bottom corner. Once again it was a pass from Maguire that created the goal. 4-0 sounds much better than 3-0 but then 5-0 sounds even nicer than 4-0. A chant of “Sunderland till I die” echoed around the stadium and a crowd of 28,764 had been announced earlier so there hadn’t been much of a drop despite the recent lack of success. Maja was denied a possible hat-trick when he was subbed by Sinclair but maybe Gooch would get one? Sinclair had looked dangerous when he came on in the first game of the season but last week he ran around a lot and looked fairly tricksy on the ball but in the end created little. Rochdale pulled one back through Done in the seventy-second minute and McLaughlin was going mad at his defence – Baldwin had gone down looking for a free-kick that never came and we were left short at the back. Maguire received a loud ovation when he was replaced by McGeady and deservedly so. Hart was booked so it was 4-1 to them in that contest and next thing Oviedo replaced Gooch for the last five minutes. We won a free-kick on the edge of their box in the final minute which came to nothing and then six minutes of stoppage-time were announced. There was very little noise coming from the crowd but I felt another goal was on its way. Sinclair won applause when he retained the ball despite being surrounded by four Rochdale defenders. A snap-shot from Oviedo was tipped over the bar by Lillis and that was the last real chance of the game before the whistle went and happy sounds came across the ether.
This was an important win and we’re back on track. We’ve also moved up a place. See you at Coventry.