I just heard that four thousand of our fans are on their way to Doncaster so I hope they get some cheer from the day. There's been precious little of that around for the last couple of months so can things be turned around? Not while Parkinson is still in charge, that seems plain. As we know things can always get worse but we're already at our lowest ever ebb so how long do we have to wait to make a change? I think it's also the first time ever that we've not been in the 3rd Round of the F.A. Cup so that just rubs our present plight in even more. If Parkinson left, might McGeady stay after all? Stranger things have happened. I haven't heard any team news as yet but perhaps Flanagan will be missing after going off injured the other day. We're on the same number of points as Donny but they've managed to win one of their last six matches while we haven't. At least we didn't concede against Bolton, though I didn't feel like shouting about that, but as we created very few real goalscoring chances I think the best we can hope for today is another goalless draw. I've almost forgotten what it feels like for us to win and I can't see it happening this afternoon so my match prediction is 0-0.
When the team-news came through I saw that Dobson was back from suspension while Maguire and Lynch were also starting. Flanagan was off the map, as half-expected, but Leadbitter and Watmore were on the bench. I hardly noticed Dobson against Blackpool until he was red-carded but maybe that was just me...
I tuned into SAFSEE and was pleased to hear that we were playing in red and white. The sun was shining outside my flat and optimism reared its ugly head as we kicked off. We showed some endeavour from the off and Willis found Wyke in the box but he couldn't get proper contact. We then won a corner but nobody could get on the end of it. So far, so much like Boxing Day but two minutes later we did a lot better when Gooch hit a curved shot past Dieng in goal and into the corner to put us ahead. “Sunderland till I die” echoed across the ether as we kept up the pressure with Wyke putting a shot just over the bar. Doncaster weren't lying down and Taylor hit a good shot that just went past our post. We won another corner after a Wyke effort was pushed out and it felt like Wyke was going to score before long. The tempo slowed for a while and there wasn't much in the way of action but we sounded comfortable. I just hoped it wouldn't be the beginning of us doing our usual losing the initiative and then losing the lead. Anyway, the thirtieth minute came and went and we were still in the lead. Lynch, who sometimes has a tendency to do daft needless things, gave away a free-kick and got himself the game's first yellow-card. Five minutes before the break Doncaster were level when Taylor squeezed a shot under McLaughlin, who should've done better, after we'd allowed the ball to come all the way from Dieng in goal. We won a free-kick in a good spot outside their area that Maguire took and it bounced back off the bar. All in all it had sounded a pretty entertaining match so far but it was typical of us top squander a lead.
As we kicked off again it definitely felt that there'd be at least another goal to come. Almost from the restart there was a stoppage after McLaughlin was on the deck following a collision with Ennis but McLaughlin recovered soon enough. Maguire created a good chance for Wyke but he was just unable to convert it. The attendance was announced - 12,432 with our fans making up a third. Taylor had sounded a nippy player throughout and his speed was causing us problems. We were totting up the corners while Doncaster hadn't had one by the fifty-fifth minute. About five minutes later we were in the lead again after Hume fed Maguire who, finding himself in plenty of room twelve yards out, smashed a shot into the bottom left-hand corner. Cue choruses of, “Sunderland till I die!” McLaughlin made what commentator Gary Bennett called a fantastic save from Sadlier to keep us ahead and I could see it was going to be a long twenty-five or more minutes till that whistle went. Dieng palmed away a good headed effort from O'Nien and seconds later Ozturk, who hadn't done anything heart-stopping for a long while, did a bit of palming away of his own on the half-way line and was booked for his efforts. Gooch was sounding knacked and we hadn't made any changes with ten minutes left so it was no surprise when Watmore replaced him. Could we hold out for the final ten minutes? I tried not to think about that especially as there looked like being a fair bit of stoppage-time too. Doncaster made a switch too and went three at the back. We kept up the pressure instead of sitting back as we've so often done and our fans were clearly in a very good mood as the final minutes ticked away. There were four minutes of stoppage-time but we battled on and achieved a well-deserved victory.
This was a very pleasant surprise and through a fighting team effort with great performances from Hume, Gooch and Maguire in particular our great support has finally been rewarded. Let's do it again on New Year's Day.