Sunderland went up for the cup in a round two déjà vu at Walsall’s Bescot stadium/Banks’s Arena, and came back with a draw. Not what we wanted, but it’s what we got despite the home side playing the opening stages as if they wanted anything but progress in the competition. For the pre-match stuff, please see last week’s report, as it was much of the same. The Horse and Jockey provided the same old-school football followers, who regaled us with tales of Shack and the like, but one of whom believed that Jackie Milburn had played for us…of course he did, but only twice in wartime games. (there’s one for you pub quizzers).
Strangely, the journey to Walsall took about half an hour less than last week, so we were sat/stood in our seats (two rows in front of where we were last time) in plenty of time to see the 2,000 or so home fans arrive.
Luke O’Nien’s wonderfully enthusiastic performance off the bench, when he played like a fifteen year old who’d won the chance to play in the FA Cup final and then consumed three bags of Haribo and a gallon of Red Bull (other energy drinks are available) earned him a start in place of the injured Honeyman, and with Maguire pulling up just before the game, presumably celebrating his second consecutive Goal of the Month award – which could well turn into Goal of the Season - we lined up:
Matthews Baldwin Flanagan James
Oviedo Power O’Nien
Gooch Maja McGeady ©
A properly attacking line-up, kicking towards the visiting fans, and for the first fifteen minutes or so, the home side looked as if they’d rather be anywhere but the draw for the next round, such was their negativity and apparent lack of commitment. Unfortunately, we didn’t take advantage. A goal looked on the cards when Maja took a cross from McGeady, but a defender got in the way and all we got was a corner. Next up was McGeady, but he put Oviedo’s cross wide of the mark. It seemed only a matter of time before we scored, and we were hallway into the air when Oviedo cut in from the right and got away a shot that Maja poked away from the keeper, but he managed to change direction and keep it out.
At this stage we backed off a little, probably having decided that patience would prevail…which it did. With about 36 minutes on the clock, Oviedo took a nice pass from the ever-energetic Gooch, and played it in to Maja, who silenced his “he can’t hold the ball up” critics by holding off his marker and allowing McGeady to crack the ball into the net.
Tell me ma, me ma…
We had enough of the game in the rest of the first half to have put our name on ball 31 for Monday’s draw, but we didn’t get the killer second goal. The single added minute was more of a token gesture than a necessity, but gave the visiting fans the chance to provide a minute’s applause for Keith Charlton – you mebbe didn’t know him, but you knew him - and we went in for our cuppas with what looked like a comfortable lead that we could add to.
It was not to be. Whatever their manager said worked wonders, as they came out properly fired up for the second half, and we’d only had seven or eight minutes play when Devlin put it in for Cook to level. Bugger – a Bishop lad as well. We brought on Sinclair for Oviedo on the hour, and that added a bit more weight up front to occupy their defence and took the pressure off ours for a while. McGeady hit a decent effort over the top, then we replaced Gooch with Mumba for the final fifteen, and the kid, fresh from his Press Conference antics, did nothing wrong, carrying the ball across the field with confidence. The extra impetus of two up front only lasted a while, though, and Walsall probably had the chances to have won it. McLaughlin did well to deny Ferrier in a one v one, getting a vital foot to the ball, then Cook headed against the bar and we scrambled it clear. We failed to create anything meaningful after that, and, after three added minutes, a draw was probably about fair. Not what we wanted, but fair.
Man of the Match? At the risk of being monotonous, it’ll have to be McGeady again, as he’s now nicely settled into the team for his first real run of games, and is showing that he has the application to match the skill we always knew he had. He score the goal and was at the heart of all things positive for us.
Let’s play Walsall again a week Tuesday, eh?