Sunderland succumbed to a Leicester U21 comeback after a reasonable if unspectacular first half to lose 2-1, with the visitors dominating the second period. The result may or may not put progress in the Leasing.com Trophy at risk, but many couldn’t give a magpie’s chuff about that – however, while the League remains the priority, we want to see the team win whenever they play, especially when it gives the new manager a chance to try out those players on the fringe of the first team. What he learned last night won’t have given him many selection headaches.
In a surreal atmosphere, with the 7,649 (alleged) attendees allowed to sit in their own seats meaning that the sparse crowd was scattered all around the ground – even the few dozen visitors were allowed to sit in the front section of the upper North Stand – the Lads attacked the Roker End.
McLaughlin Ozturk Flanagan De Bock
Maguire McNulty Watmore
We had the better of the opening exchanges, with Watmore getting several runs down the left and Maguire on the right, but the visitors had three Git Big Lads at the back – including a number 16, their lowest shirt number by about 20 - who gave Kimpioka little room to do anything with the ball when it arrived. They’d had one effort that flew across McLaughlin’s goal when we won a free-kick on the edge of the box, and Maguire smashed it home in spectacular style – here we go, we thought, this is only the first. How wrong we were, as that 14th –minute goal was as good as it got for us. We needed a brave save from McLaughlin, going down at the feet of the onrushing Hurst.
There were a few half-chances for each side, probably more to us with de Bock hitting one over the top, before Ozturk had to go off, being replaced by Willis about ten minutes before the break. The rest of the half was more of Watmore being shepherded away from goal on the left, and of us looking to be too patient around the edge of the box when trying to create a shooting opportunity. Leadbitter was bizarrely booked for taking a free-kick too quickly, a decision which the ref followed by not meting out similar punishment when they took one ten yards from where it should have been, despite spotting the offence. I give up with the men in black this season, I really do. After three added minutes, we had the chance to discuss the potential for postponement at Bristol – McLaughlin 2 would surely be suspended anyway, so would that affect our decision? Train tickets and hotels have been paid for, you know…
No changes for the second half, and whatever had been in the visitors’ half-time cuppas needs to be bottled and sold at about £50 a pint, as they suddenly turned into a passing machine – probably aided and abetted by our turning into a non-passing machine. I know we’re two divisions below them, but they are the kids and we “boasted” ten experienced professionals and Kimpioka. Hurst scored from the spot, slotting the ball low into the tiny gap between Big Jon’s left hand and the post after a penalty was awarded – VAR would probably have taken a good ten minutes to sort that one out, but we were behind on 50 minutes.
On 53 we were even further behind, when their double-barrelled number 46 fired in a beaut, giving McLaughlin no chance from the edge of the box.
That was it, really. On the hour, Kimpioka finally worked himself a shooting chance, but put the ball into row 30, and was soon after spending a bit of time on the deck as he clashed heads on halfway. He was replaced by McGeady a few minutes later, who managed a shot over the top himself. Conor McLaughlin and Maguire worked the ball down the right several times, but only won a string of throw-ins. Grigg came on for Watmore, we tried to play one-twos into their box, Big Jon had to go down at feet again, and we won a corner. Five added minutes were announced, we got the ball into the box with a cross from the right that the keeper dropped at Leadbitter’s feet beyond the far post, but Grant volleyed it into the turf and it bounced over the bar, summing up our night.
About the only positives to take from the game were that Willis is still a canny central defender, and Maguire’s goal was a beaut.
Man of the Match? Jon McLaughlin. No chance with either goal, and a couple of good saves.
See you at Scunthorpe?