Things have definitely been looking up of late and if we can manage a win this afternoon, they'll take a major leap. I really didn't like the way Wycombe played when I was at the away fixture last season – timewasting from early on and feigning injuries all over the place – but they seemed to have developed better habits since then and are surprisingly at the top of the league. They're nine points above us at the moment but a win for us would make that six with a game in hand and that doesn't sound insurmountable if we can maintain our current momentum. Wycombe themselves are on a bad run with three defeats and a draw in their last four league matches so we're meeting them at an opportune time. The return of Gooch has obviously made a great difference while the increased fitness and pace of our players has also helped a lot. At the Gillingham away match, which for me was the lowest ebb this season, we missed out on almost every fifty-fifty ball because we were so slow. I was a bit sad to see McGeouch go as he looked handy when I saw him but I'm glad we have a few on their way in. I know Lafferty's name but that's about it though as a striker he can't be any worse than Grigg. Hopefully Grigg will be one of those on the way out and I'd be interested to see if he ever regains his goalscoring touch but I can't see him regaining it with us. I'll not be at the match but I think there'll be a 30,000 crowd there and not just on paper. I fancy us to win and my match prediction is 2-1.
When I saw the team-news, there were no surprises but Lynch was back on the bench. Staying with a winning team suited me. Unusually Wycombe had no goalie on the bench. I tuned into SAFSEE and within two minutes had lost the signal. I managed to get it back soon enough only to hear Wycombe getting the first corner of the game. We got it clear and shouts for handball were ignored but I was concerned about the amount of Wycombe pressure. Next thing, in the sixth minute, we were ahead after a Hume run found Gooch who passed it for Wyke to tap in. Cue a loud chorus of, “Sundland till I die.” I felt sure that Wycombe would get a goal at some point so we needed to get a second and we nearly got it when a Wyke header clipped the post following good work by O'Nien. There was loud applause in the thirteenth minute for a Wycombe fan Oliver Darlington who recently died of sepsis at that all too young age. Three minutes later we were two up when a Willis flick found Hume and he slotted it home into the bottom corner. “We're by far the greatest team the world has ever seen” echoed in the background as commentators Barnes and Bennett agreed that we were finally playing with confidence and playing as a team. Flanagan was down receiving treatment but recovered and stayed on. Next thing there was a nudge on Gooch in their box and Maguire put the resultant penalty away to make it 3-0. Some fans on the ALS Facebook page had predicted 3-0 and as their defenders appeared to be panicking it was certainly looking like we were going to do even better than we did last week. What a tonic a 4-0 or 5-0 against the leaders would be for all of us. We nearly made it four but a Wyke effort went out for our first corner. We won a few corners in a row and a Flanagan effort came off the bar before Wycombe made a change just before the half-hour mark, bringing on the huge Akinfenwa for right back Phillips. The game evened out a lot more for the remainder of the half with Wycombe making Akinfenwa the focus of their moves while we produced the odd flowing attack with Willis garnering a lot of praise from Benno. There were three minutes of stoppage-time and then the whistle went to much applause.
Would we get another goal or would it be a repeat of last week? I fancied us to get one more but I still thought Wycombe would nick one as well. Lynch was starting in place of Flanagan as we started again with us defending the Roker End, maybe as a result of injury or possibly as an attempt to counteract the Beast. We had the first attempt of the half when Gooch dragged it wide after good battling by Wyke. Soon it was the same combination with Wyke's shot going narrowly wide following a pass from Gooch. The hour-mark came and went without much further incident and a win was surely in the bag unless we imploded. The attendance, 29,331, was announced. With twenty minutes on the clock I wondered whether we'd bring another sub on, maybe Watmore for Maguire, but not long afterwards Wycombe made a double switch. Following a blatant push Maguire lashed a great free-kick off the underside of the bar and into the net in the seventy-eighth minute. I like 3-0 of course but 4-0 is so much better. Gooch received a great ovation as he was replaced by McNulty with about five minutes left. It might be the last we'll see of McNulty. There were another three minutes of stoppage-time and McLaughlin had to make two fine saves in a row to keep a clean sheet. “Sunderland played handsomely” was Nick Barnes's assessment while Benno added, “Fantastic performance.”
Spanking the leaders 4-0 sends out a warning to every other side in the league. See you in Milton Keynes.