There's a lot of discussion about whether we should play our strongest side tonight or the usual Checkatrade team with the likes of Ruiter and Ozturk. Although those two players have redeemed their reputations somewhat, surely we've got to go for the strongest team with a Wembley final, and all the joy that brings, only one game away. Like many people I'm a bit nervous about this match and am certainly not counting on a win just because we beat them down there the other week. I'm not sure about the Checkatrade rules but I'm supposing that if it's a draw after ninety minutes, then it'll be extra-time and penalties. I'll be watching the game with other members of the faithful at a secret location and I'm looking forward to it. I think we're going to win but I've a feeling it'll not be after ninety minutes.
I got to the meet up place at 7.30, got a pint of stout in and managed to get a seat with a perfect view of the screen. I wondered who the bearded and bespectacled Sky Sports pundit was and was surprised to discover that it was Micky Gray. I only got the team news right before kick off and we were fielding a strong side with Power and Matthews taking the places of Catts and James. We were playing 4-3-3.
Morgan seemed to be starting where he left off at this ground and he looked pleasingly dangerous in the opening minutes. The TV reception wasn't so good and the picture kept freezing which was sure to add a bit of mystery to the evening. Our first goalbound effort came from a trademark McGeady shot in the seventh minute that Bonham in goal palmed away and shortly after that a Flanagan header went just over the bar. We dominated possession in the opening quarter of an hour and I was listening out for oles at one point but we conceded the first corner of the match a few minutes later when Flanagan scooped out a dangerous cross. Bristol were starting to do well down their right flank but still hadn't had a serious effort on target. The TV signal gave up the ghost just before the half-hour mark when we were shaping up well outside of their box and when it came on again about eight minutes later we were still near the edge of their box but the score remained 0-0. Next thing Nichols was yellow-carded for sending Honeyman into a tailspin which resulted in him leaving the pitch for a while. A minute or so before the break we went ahead and it was Grigg who received a pass from Power in the box, swivelled like a striker should and slotted a low shot wide of Bonham into the bottom right-hand corner. The telly continued to stall and it looked like Gooch had replaced Honeyman but all was happiness around me as the whistle went.
You could have got 10-1 for McGeady to get the next goal and that was tempting as we kicked off again. Within two minutes we were 2-0 up and it came after Bonham had parried a fierce Gooch shot only for Morgan to pounce first and smash it home.
Good job I didn't take that bet on McGeady. Both sides were going at it hammer and tongs but I could see us getting a third and a great shot by Power was also just parried away but this time no Sunderland player was close enough to hit it in. The stout and the time were going swiftly and soon there was just a quarter of the game to go. McLaughlin pulled off a great diving save and apparently in those lost TV minutes in the first-half he'd done even better so I felt glad once more that we'd gone with our first choice. Next thing the proprietor of the bar produced three very large pizzas which he asked us to tuck into and there was an immediate chant of, “Cheesy chips on Wembley Way!” Bristol were really putting some pressure on but I have to say that Wembley Way was definitely looming. I'd been chatting to one of the faithful sitting next to me and despite his strong London accent, he was red and white through and through. He'd attended his first game at Roker Park a month before I did in October 1962. The TV signal went on holiday again with about fifteen minutes left but in a way I didn't care as I'd slipped into the tipsy mindset of the match being unable to hurt me if I couldn't see it. Everyone around me was in a very jolly mood and there were no mobile updates bearing bad tidings. Anyway, the telly revived after around ten minutes but the score hadn't changed and we still looked to be in the driving-seat. There were three minutes of stoppage-time and we nearly had a third but Bonham made a great block (come on - I can afford to be generous) and next thing we'd won. As the whistle went a chant of , “And now you're gonna believe us! We're gonna win the cup!” broke out in the bar. Happy days.