In a game that was as much about the return of one player as the actual result, Sunderland progressed to the next round of the Checkatrade Trophy with what turned out to be a fairly comfortable win, 2-0 over the Alternative Magpies, AKA Notts County, who were backed by thirty daft lads having a good night out.
It was a damp and chilly Wearside evening that saw Duncan Watmore line up after virtually two years getting his knee ligaments sorted, and the announcement of his name, although we all knew it was coming, brought the first big cheer of the night. David Vaughan’s name also brought applause, as did Jon Stead – the former starting, the latter among the subs – as we squeezed into the unfamiliar (for 75% of us) of the East Stand. It’s strange how the patter/banter/chat from relative strangers sounds so nonsensical, but I’m used to whatever rubbish is spouted by the people I sit amongst every week. Presumably it sounds nonsense to visitors to “my” part of the ground, but tonight’s combination of Jeremy Kyle and a very post 5-a-side match sounded very weird to me.
Ozturk Loovens Bainbridge
Mumba Power McGeouch Oviedo
There was also the chance for Ross to try a change in formation, as we began, kicking South, with three at the back – Ozturk on the right, Loovens in the middle, and Bainbridge on the left. The latter looked very comfortable on the ball and had a willing runner in Oviedo to release it to, while Mumba repeated the trick for Ozturk on the other side. Captain Power and McGeouch looked a well-balanced pairing at the base of midfield, with O’Nien chasing about between them and the front two.
We pretty much attacked from the off, and there were a number of close things in the opening exchanges, but all eyes were on Watmore. He chased and moved as we remember he did, and he emerged from a few hefty challenges unscathed and looking unworried. We had a few chances, with Sinclair failing to get a shot away on a couple of occasions and Oviedo having a shot blocked before McGeouch found Watmore on 22 minutes. Duncan turned his man on the edge of the box, came in from the left, and fired in a shot that the keeper pushed away – straight onto the knee of defender Jones, and back it flew into the net. Credit to Watmore, but the scoreboard announcing him as the scorer was a tad optimistic, and probably cost the club a bit in free post-match shirt printing. Still the lead was well deserved, and it could have been increased soon after. Power had a shot blocked and a second from the rebound saved, then curled one just wide of the far post before Oviedo had one tipped over and Sinclair fire high. In between this, Ruiter, who’d confidently claimed anything that came his way, did well to get down to his left to stop a header at the foot of the post, then got his legs in the way of the follow-up. A couple of added minutes were controlled by us, as we looked to feed the Road Runner at every opportunity.
No changes for the second half, and the match continued in the same vein, with the visitors playing some confident stuff but being successfully kept away from Ruiter, even if we did give them the ball on halfway a couple of times – recovery by the three at the back was good, and they always had an outlet. Mumba really came into his own in the second period, taking the ball and turning his marker inside out on a number of occasions, and winning a handful of free-kicks after being impeded in repetitive fashion. Some great inter-passing worked the ball up the field on the hour, and after exchanging passes with O’Nien, Watmore’s effort was well saved. A few minutes later, his comeback was complete when he left the field to generous applause, replaced by Kimpioka.
Young Benji is a different kettle of fish to Watmore. While both run at defenders, the latter’s intentions are fairly clear, but defenders can do little about them due to pace and strength. The former, however, is a bit of a mystery as to direction – sure, he’s headed for goal, but he’s all twists, turns, and unexpected changes in direction. Great to watch, and when he wove into the box, jinking between defenders, on 72 minutes, he was hauled to the ground. He was desperate to take the resultant penalty, but Sinclair played the seniority card and duly put a very good kick low beyond the keeper. Game over, really. Ten minutes later Hackett replaced Power, and took a couple of good corners, the first won by Sinclair’s mazy run in from the left ending with a cross being headed just past his own post by a defender, the second when O’Nien chased a clearance down. The first was to the near post and flicked on by O’Nien, the second a training ground speciality, right to the far edge of the box, from where Oviedo’s first-timer was straight at the keeper. Our Costa Rican fired another typical strike into the side netting as he dominated play down the left, even after the introduction of Jon Stead to the fray. The former SAFC striker (category: it’s hard to shoot without any bullets) was well marshalled by our back three and posed little threat.
Sinclair was replaced by Diamond with three minutes remaining, and he chased about up front as you’d expect. Three added minutes doubled his game-time before the ref ended it and we went home happy.
Man of the Match? It’d be easy to say Watmore on his return, and for a while Bainbridge was in my thoughts, while Oviedo’s showboating was effective. For a decent first half, and an outstanding second, it’ll go to the youngest ever recipient – Bali Mumba.
When’s the draw?
Pic credit CW's dad...