After a few weeks in which the loyalty of the Sunderland faithful has been stretched as taut as Neil Ruddock’s waistband, we welcomed (well, not really) Coventry, desperate not to reprise last season’s nine-goal nonsense, and player our part in a thoroughly dismal game, brightened only by the odd flash of mediocrity. A late equaliser from late sub Benji Kimpioka got us a point we just about deserved. Or not, depending on your outlook, after a game that matched the weather.
There was more than enough to fill the pre-match conversations – three cup runs ended, rumblings about the investment/whatever, certain players not living up to expectations, still catching up on our sleep after Gillingham, how we’re going to get to Gillingham for the League game, and the small matter of the looming election. Coventry? They’ve not won away this season. They’ve only lost one, mind, and drawn six – a recipe we certainly didn’t want to follow. At least we’d seen that Taylor and probably Bainbridge have what it takes to become decent footballers, and perhaps Parky would work out that Grigg isn’t Charlie Wyke and instruct his players to move the ball accordingly….and it was wet. No cash turnstiles probably reflected the diminishing enthusiasm for the beautiful game in our neck of the woods, but the least we can do is turn up and give the Lads our support.
They kicked off North on a foggy, soggy Wearside afternoon that could just as easily been an evening.
O'Nien Lynch Willis Hume
Leadbitter Dobson Power
Maguire Grigg McGeady
With us (me) expecting Dobson to do the running from midfield, while Power and Leadbitter did the ball-winning and holding, we won an early free in Maguire or McGeady territory in the centre. Maguire set the tone for the afternoon by placing it well over the bar. There was a fair bit of grief for Burge and Willis from sizeable Cov following as they refrained from chucking stuff at our fans.
There was a good tip over by Burge on 8 from a long distance effort, and we eventually cleared the corner. When the ball got up the other end, McGeady was quite clearly fouled on the edge of the box after drilled low cross from the right, but the ref saw nowt.
We appeared to be marking ourselves at times, giving the ball then moving next to an opponent, but Coventry were hardly any better, which made our lack of progress all the more galling. There was some good passing from our George to the wings, but despite Hume belting forward, we weren't getting the crosses in close enough to Grigg, and when we did, he had a git big defender on his back.
Lynch got away with three mistakes - treading on the ball etc, falling over, you name it, but we survived, and managed to get a good ball out from the left to Maguire on the right, but his low cross was cleared. Five minutes later, Maguire passed back to their man, whose shot was saved by Burge's foot for a corner that wasn't cleared properly and it was knocked into the net at the back post. Hells teeth, that was awful.
Willis, probably the pick of our defence, put in a good block after Lynch gave it away again, and we had to defend another corner. There was some awfully loose passing from Lynch, Leadbitter, and Power, which basically buggered up our attempts at attack, but we still managed a repeat of the earlier free - this time McGeady put it straight into keeper's chest.
There was a shout for a free kick, but the ref saw no foul on Maguire, and we eventually got it into their box for a spot of pinball that they cleared. The half ended, after an added minute, with McGeady coming way too deep, and Leadbitter almost giving away a second by leaving the ball on the edge of our box - but we hacked bit clear.
After a first half that had seen more loose balls than a hernia clinic, any of the midfield three, or Maguire, could have been replaced, but none were. The second half began as flat as a pancake with nobody really wanting the ball, and we desperately needed pace. There were calls for us to sacrifice a midfielder for Watmore - but what method of sacrifice?
Grigg was doing reasonably ok in terms of winning ball, but he had no support, with the midfield stuck on halfway most of the time.
On 65 Power was off and Watmore came on, and his pace down the right at least gave us hope, so we put together a few decent passes resulting in, McGeady cutting inside and seeing his low shot parried. Willis came off a couple of minutes later, replaced by Flanagan, which was a bit of a worry.
Watmore won a couple of corners on the right - the first of which produced a big shout for handball, then he ran into space only to see Dobson shoot. Aggh man, our George!
Kimpioka replaced Grigg for the last ten, when most of us would have liked to have seen a partnership, and he produced his usual awkwardness which eventually paid dividends when, after a big penalty shout, he held off his man and slotted it across the keeper and into the side netting. Magic
Maguire took a free on right, Lynch went down hurt in the box, and four minutes were added in which we weren't quite effective enough to get a winner. Not really a grandstand finish, but compared to the previous 80-odd, it was as entertaining as it got.
A draw was about right, and Man of the Match? Probably Watmore for the difference he made.