Can we make it five wins in a row today? I think we can and the confidence around the club is probably the highest it’s been for a number of years but we’ll have to be careful as Crewe’s home form has been good. If Mandron isn’t playing for them today, I’ll be happy as he’s an impressive striker. One thing that’s pleased me about our team is that we don’t just have a few players who are really in form but most of them are impressing, at least at times, and when I look at the options on the bench, I can’t wait to see some of them coming on. I haven’t heard any significant news about injuries so I imagine there’ll be few changes from the win on Tuesday but with the games coming so thick and fast we’ll need to do some rotating, maybe making earlier substitutions. As usual I’ll be watching the game at my Sunderland bubble and my match prediction is a 3-1 win for us.
I got the team-news around 2.00 and as far as I could see the only change was Scowen coming in for Leadbitter – that bench was looking tasty. Mandron was starting for them.
The pitch was very shadowy, but we started brightly and dominated the opening minutes culminating in a good shot from O’Brien that dipped over. We lost the picture in our bubble for a short while and when it came back Crewe were shouting for a penalty but replays showed the referee Sarginson was right to ignore them. Crewe had a decent spell and we were looking wobbly at the back. There was a short stoppage when O’Brien collided with the advertising boards off camera but he was able to carry on. Lowery had a good low shot in the twelfth minute but Burge got down well to save it. Elsewhere Plymouth were 2-0 up against Lincoln. We were struggling to put anything much together upfront but in the seventeenth minute Gooch lashed in a great shot from the edge of their box and Richards in goal blocked it. Wyke blasted the rebound well over but he was offside anyway. Next thing we won the first corner of the game and nothing came of it. At the midway point McFadzean, for reasons best known to himself, took a throw not too far from our goal-line and propelled it into our danger zone. Mercifully Sanderson was in the right place to head the ball for a corner when it looked like we were about to go behind. My pre-match prediction was looking very unlikely at this stage. We were looking slow all round and maybe the amount of games was taking its toll. In the thirtieth minute we went behind and it had been coming. The ball came to Mandron on the left of our box and he put a low pass in to the unmarked Porter who gave Burge no chance. It was nearly 2-0 just afterwards but we scrambled it away. McFadzean was the first booking of the day for a foul ten minutes before the break. We were all over the place and went 2-0 down when Mandron again put in a low cross, this time from the right, and Lowery drilled it past Burge from close range. It was no less than they’d deserved as we’d barely got started. If we could get one back before the break, we’d be in with a chance and we had a decent spell in the closing minutes though we never seriously threatened. It remained 2-0 at the break. Wyke and McGeady had been well marked and had only been mentioned rarely. I expected a few changes sooner rather than later and hoped to see McFadzean off and Leadbitter on, and Jones on too asap. Elsewhere Lincoln, Charlton and Doncaster were all losing.
As we kicked off again I was disappointed to see there’d been no changes. We started by doing most of the pressing but seven minutes in I thought it was 3-0 but there was an offence and we were awarded a free-kick after Burge had spilled it almost on the line. Ten minutes in, McGeady and Wyke combined at last but the latter’s shot was well wide. Some subs seemed to be warming up, not before time, and eventually Jones, Leadbitter, Maguire and Diamond replaced O’Brien, Gooch, McGeady and McFadzean. Within a couple of minutes Leadbitter was in a lot of trouble, possibly with a shoulder injury, and had to be taken off. Winchester came on so that was our last throw of the dice but there’d be a stack of stoppage-time. On Jones’ first run down our left we won a free-kick but we wasted it. In the seventy-sixth minutes Jones scored a great goal, jigging down the left and slamming a beautiful shot wide of Richards. The momentum was suddenly with us and with at least twenty minutes to go a draw was really possible and in the circumstances I’d be very happy with that. Scowen escaped a card for a bad foul and next thing Jones was awarded another free-kick in a very similar spot to the first, though we couldn’t capitalize on it. Time had been whizzing away too fast for me but then nine minutes of stoppage-time were announced. A draw was still quite possible but Crewe started to come forward more themselves. In the ninety-seventh minute we were level and it was a great move and a superb finish. Burge made a long punt upfield into their half and Wyke knocked it over to the right angle of their box where Maguire wellied a fantastic shot into the net. Winchester glanced a header very narrowly over but a win was probably asking too much and it soon ended 2-2.
LJ didn’t look happy at the whistle and rightly so but I have to say this is feeling like a win...for a while. Other results largely went our way so what was looking like a disastrous afternoon worked out not too bad in the end. Let’s start with Jones next time.