In our first game of any sort against Wycombe Wanderers, we failed pretty miserably to make their keeper earn his corn, and glaringly lacked a shouty, bossy presence in midfield in a game where that sort of character would probably have made all the difference.
Thank goodness eight in a row scans better than seven in a row, eh? Mind, I was a tad worried for the continuation of our winning run when my Roker Park picture The Calm Before The Roar fell off the wall on Friday 9th, breaking the glass. The picture framers was closed on Saturday, meaning it sat, broken, in the hallway while we took on Port Vale, and was undergoing repair as we took on Morecambe. As we won both (which you might have noticed) I’ll no longer be regarding broken pictures as an unlucky omen. Lucky socks, on the other hand… I’m with Charlie on this one.
Speaking of Morecambe, we seem to be getting criticised on social media, the home of sensible and well-researched opinion, for attending Checkatrade Trophy games in such large numbers. We outnumbered the Shrimpers fans two to one on Tuesday, with many spending the night in Morecambe – probably the biggest “out of season” visitation the town has seen in years. What’s wrong with supporting our team, I ask? Fair enough, fewer of us attended the competition in previous seasons – purely because it was our reserves or whatever. This time it’s the first team, so more of us are inclined to watch. I don’t remember the 20,000+ who watched our stiffs against the mags’ stiffs at the Sol betting grief for attending. We’ll probably break more attendance records in the competition, but that’s not why we go – we’re there to cheer on the Lads. Simple. There was plenty of chat on the bus through about the payoff Richard Scudamore received for doing what most folks perceive to have been nowt more than a bum-kissing job at the Premier League. The Football Supporters Federation, of which you should all consider being members anyway, is urging Prem clubs to reject this ridiculous payoff, and while it’s (currently) nowt to do with us, Sunderland fans should do likewise. All 20 clubs are coughing up £250,000 towards his goodbye gift, when they should really be doing nothing more than chucking a token tenner in the pot to get him replica shirt with “££££” on the back. Over the last 19 years, he’s earned about £26 million (yes MILLION) as he’s “overseen” the money pouring into the top tier of the English game - come on, football, while Man City and Chelsea might not even notice their contribution, as they have systems in place to hide that sort of stuff, it's just wrong. In the words of Ant and Dec, just say no.
The team was a trickier subject - with McLaughlin safely on Wearside, and Flanagan returned unopened, the defence sorts itself out. Midfield though - would you like to choose four or five from McGeouch, McGeady, Maguire, Gooch, Honeyman, and Power? A great problem for Ross the Boss to have.
Of course, the naming of the South Stand was also a topic - many opting for the nostalgic in Roker, which makes sense, while the Colliery is also up there, although few across the country know what a colliery is/was.
Matthews Baldwin Flanagan James
Gooch Honeyman Maguire McGeady
Against Wycombe, in their Bishop Auckland kit, McGuire kicked off south, and he quickly fed McGeady on the left who fired over the top before collecting a short on the right and dinking in a cross that we couldn't get on the end of, and that was the first ten minutes. We had to work hard to defend a break down their left, and the subsequent corner, which was the first of many for the visitors. We employed a flexible midfield, with Gooch and Maguire moving about behind Sinclair in the trendy number 10 role, but neither to any great effect.
Gooch did find space for a shot on about 20 minutes, but it was easy for their keeper, who produced the only save of the half. Baldwin took off on a Benno run five minutes later, but got nowhere, and repeat it a little later, only to pass it straight to a visiting defender. Wycombe kept breaking down their left, aided by a McGeouch giveaway, and won more corners, but with five to go, McGeady went through but shot wide of the near post from inside left. On 43 Matthews took a great pass from Maguire to get right into the six yard box, but his cross was blocked and hoofed to safety.
One added minute didn't add anything of note to a half probably best described as a string of uncreated chances. A pretty miserable 46 minutes, to be honest.
No changes for the second half when any of our midfield could have gone, but we immediately won a corner on the right following Maguire's cross from the left. Baldwin managed to recover from three mistakes to get it clear, then we broke down the left twice and won a corner, then another after it was played short, and another when it was played long. And another on the right when a shot was blocked, then another, which was played deeper than any deliberate corner we've ever taken. On 53 Maja and Power replaced McGeouch and Sinclair as Ross shuffled his pack (copyright every football writer ever) to try and open up the Wycombe defence. A great long ball from Power found Maja, and he got to the edge of the box only for his shot to be blocked for a corner. Nearly, Lads.
On 66 we didn't deal with a free kick from way out, and their number 18 hoofed it into the roof of the net from the edge of the box, sending the noise amongst the 1,000 or so travellers through the roof. On 70, Maguire was fouled a couple of yards outside their box, but McGeady's effort hit the wall and went for a corner, which was cleared. With 16 to go, Oviedo replaced James - who'd done nowt wrong, but the passes Oviedo can produce....and he did. He had a hand in the move that ended with Maja having what seemed like ten minutes to turn and fire us level from a few yards out. That was with six to go, and we -at last- made their keeper do some work. Power had a blaster tipped round for yet another corner, their defenders kept lying down to run the minutes away - and they successfully did that despite us almost getting Maja in prime position a few times. You did feel that another chance to Josh would have produced the winner, but it didn't materialize.
There were five added minutes, Wycombe did enough to keep us out, and it ended level. A bad day at the office, but we didn't lose and it isn't the end of the world.
Man of the Match? Nobody really stood out today, but I'll give it to Oviedo for the difference he made. Apologies to the rest of the Lads.