Have Doncaster beaten us in recent seasons? As far as I recall we’ve done really well against them but if they’re going to reverse that trend, today could well be the day. We were lucky to get away with just a 2-1 defeat on Tuesday as I didn’t see anything wrong with that free-kick that Matthews let in and our defence was looking very leaky. The honeymoon period for LJ is certainly over now and he needs to pull something out of the bag today to give us back some faith in him. Burge back in goal or maybe even Patterson would be a start and Vokins needs to be used sparingly until he gets his confidence back. I’d always have Gooch on at the start as long as he’s fit enough. Perhaps LJ will make radical changes – we certainly need to do something and very fast or it’ll be another season of League One. Donny, if I may be so familiar, are already seven points ahead of us with two games in hand so we really need three points today to reduce that gulf. No team in the league has drawn less than them, three, while we have drawn more than any other side. I’ll be watching the match with my Sunderland bubble and don’t feel optimistic about our chances but I think we could manage another draw so my prediction is 2-2.
When I got to the bubble, I could hardly speak because my face was half-frozen. There were six changes including Burge, McLaughlin and MacFadzean coming in at the danger-end. Gooch was starting so that helped too. I opened a can of chilled Guinness and awaited developments.
Doncaster made a lively start and had a shot on target in the second minute. We struggled to get the ball off them but we produced a swift effective move in the sixth minute which resulted in a corner. We didn’t mess around with a short one and when the ball was pumped high, Wyke was there to nod it into the net. We needed to get another and not give possession away like we have recently and we were certainly going for it as we kept the ball in their half. To our delight we went further ahead in the twelfth minute when McGeady jigged down the left and put a cross in that was nutted high into the net by the goal-machine that is Charlie Wyke. I immediately exclaimed, “They’ll never come back from two-down!” but the furrowed brows of my fellow bubblers made me realise the rashness of that statement. We were allowing Doncaster to have a few goalbound efforts but fortunately they finished weakly and Burge seemed unruffled, thank God. Taylor really should’ve done better when he had an almost open goal but he tamely hit it wide. We were riding our luck at the back but were still making impressive forays upfront and just after the half-hour mark we made it 3-0. Again it was McGeady down the left who looped a lovely ball into the middle where who else but Wyke was there to head it home. The Doncaster defenders were looking at the assistant referee but he kept his flag down. It’s got to be down to LJ that Wyke has gained in confidence and instead of not leaping for crosses is blasting them into the net again and again. Just before the break McGeady, who’d been involved in all the goals, put a fantastic long ball through to Gooch and it looked like it was 4-0 but Balcombe in goal made a good block. Next thing O’Nien picked up one of his regular bookings and then all too soon it was half-time.
Often when a team has a big lead at half-time, the second-half is a bit of a bore but we were all rooting for more goals and the team started brightly, winning a corner in the first minute. We kept pressing them high and I felt we’d get another goal before long. In fact it was Doncaster who got one back in the fifty-third minute when Halliday, who’d been turned inside out all day by McGeady, put in a low cross from the right and Richards shot bounced off the right post, hit Burge in the back and went into the net. We didn’t have long to mooch about that as about a minute later were got our fourth. Yet again it was McGeady who lobbed in a cross from the left and the Donny defenders really should’ve learnt their lesson and not left Wyke in loads of space. He duly headed the ball into the net. When was the last time one of our players scored four goals let alone four headers in one game? The excitement didn’t stop there as very soon Donny were awarded a dodgy penalty for supposed handball but justice was done when Burge made a great save and it went for a corner. We made our first switch around the hour when Leadbitter replaced McLaughlin. A Scowen shot-cross hit the woodwork and the time was going too fast for me as I was really enjoying it. LJ had been yellow-carded just to add spice to proceedings. With around twenty minutes on the clock we’d allowed Donny to get much more into it but I have to say, happily, their finishing was crap. Five minutes later we made a double switch bringing on O’Brien and Diamond for O’Nien and Gooch. In the eighty-second minute Jones replaced McGeady and what a shame that there was no crowd there to give him the ovation he deserved as he’d been brilliant all over the pitch. Sub Lokilo looked more than handy for them but Burge saved well after he’d got through our defence and hit a low shot on target. With three minutes left Lokilo was blatantly fouled by MacFadzean in our box and as he shaped up to take the resultant penna we thought that Burge surely wouldn’t save two penalties in one game. He did. It was one of the worst penalties I’ve ever seen as it dribbled low and straight at Burge. It ended 4-1 which to me sounds a lot better than 3-0.
This was an excellent result and more importantly it was the best I’ve seen us play for a very long time, despite some slack periods. We’re now in sixth spot and surprisingly are only five points behind second-placed Hull with a game in hand. This has got to be the kind of game that’ll be mentioned in pub quizzes for ever more.