Lines From London Blog: Sunderland v Bolton

Bolton have pulled their socks up recently and their form of late is better than ours so we may well have a fight on our hands this afternoon as they battle against the drop. At least our injured players like Willis and Gooch will be back in contention and though it wasn't saying a great deal, our performance against Blackpool was a marked improvement on the Gillingham match with Hume and Watmore creating a lot of nice attacking moves down the left. I'll be at the game and I'm sure there will be at least 30,00 bodies in the stadium and not just on paper. This will be my third game in a row and I haven't seen us win this season yet. Will it happen today? Again I can't say that I'm optimistic but if our defence is less leaky and if we can manage an early goal to get the fans going, maybe we can get a win. Match prediction: (full of Christmas wine and hopefulness) 2-1 to us.

I got the team-news while I was slurping a Guinness in Fitzie's and was pleased to see that Willis was in the starting line-up as well as Watmore, Gooch and Hume. Maguire was on the bench. The pavements were thronged as we walked across the bridge and there was a quite a queue to get in the East Stand but when I took my seat at 2.55 there only looked to be about 25,000 in at most. There was some great video action of Billy Hughes's glory days on the big screens but the traditional minute's silence for the last home game of the year wasn't very silent at all and the players looked confused about what was going on. It was the first time I'd seen any video on those screens so why don't they use them for that more often?

We started off sloppily but started to have the better of the attacking play, winning a couple of corners and free-kicks in threatening positions, but couldn't make anything count. Bolton looked dangerous on the break and in the twentieth minute they broke very quickly after we'd taken a free-kick at their end and McLaughlin was forced into a good block. Darcy was looking a constant threat but for us Gooch, Hume and sometimes Watmore were combining well down our left. O'Nien had a good header on target on the half-hour mark and just afterwards we had the ball in their net from a corner but it was disallowed, for offside I think. We all know that Ozturk is prone to the odd howler but he managed to produce three in several minutes though somehow Bolton didn't manage to capitalize on them. I thought O'Nien was yellow-carded just before the break but maybe I was wrong about that.

The second-half had an air of inevitability about it as you just felt that despite us having the bulk of the possession and attacking play, we would never score as the link-up between the midfield and strikers hardly ever worked. McLaughlin had to make a couple of great stops to keep us in it and Bolton never looked very ruffled at the back. We made three changes as the half progressed:- Maguire for Watmore, De Bock for Flanagan (cue quite a lot of booing) and McNulty for Gooch but it didn't make much difference. A good O'Nien effort seemed to kiss the left hand post around the hour-mark and a Maguire free-kick wasn't far away but that was about it for our scoring chances in the second session. There were five minutes of stoppage-time during which we won three corners but Bolton looked comfortable and it ended 0-0 to much booing all round. There was quite a lot of chanting from our fans in the second -half but much of it was the sad kind about heroes of yesteryear such as Phillips, Quinn and Rowell. The Bolton fans were well happy with the draw and they asked, “Is this a library?” at one point.

I haven't heard Parky's post-match press-release but no doubt he was extolling the clean-sheet. That is something I suppose but when you're struggling to score against one of the league's strugglers it will produce many comments such as that of a bloke who hurried out of the stadium in front of me i.e., “What a load of fuckin' bollocks!”