Like us all I’m feeling well buoyed up after Saturday’s great win but I’m trying to keep my feet on the ground. I recently read a great book ‘Sunderland: A Club Transformed’ by Jonathan Wilson which was all about the last time we were promoted, under Roy Keane in the 2006-2007 season. I’d forgotten that it was by no means plain sailing and that we’d been hit and miss before Christmas but after a couple of astute signings in the mid-season transfer window, especially Johnny Evans on loan, we never really looked back. So, can we do the same thing again? I think we can but I’ll be feeling more confident if we can get a decent win tonight too. Watching the highlights of the Lincoln game I was immediately struck by the speed at which we were moving forwards, especially for the great final goal, instead of the usual turgid passing it sideways and backwards mode of attacking we’ve employed much too often. I was also struck by the way Wyke took his two goals like a real striker and with his confidence high we’re starting to see him like he played for other clubs before he joined us. The return of McGeady can’t be a coincidence to our recent change of fortunes and he’s still probably not at peak fitness so things can only get better with him. Wimbledon are mid-table and have lost three of their last four league games so with the impetus we have I think we’ll win and my match prediction is 3-1.
I got home about an hour before kick-off and was shocked to hear that eight players had to drop out of the squad because of Covid precautions and that there’d be five changes from Saturday’s starting line-up. My main concern regarding the match was where the goals would come from as Grigg and O’Brien were about to be thrust into the fray while Wyke, McGeady and Maguire were missing. We still had Diamond and McFadzean to get those crosses in so Grigg and O’Brien would really have a chance to prove us all wrong, again. There were a few names on the bench with whom I wasn’t acquainted but we also had Willis and Gooch there so that was reassuring though how fit they were was debatable.
I was surprised that the game wasn’t postponed but we just had to get on with it and try our best. I got the match on SAFSEE and awaited developments. We won the first corner of the game after good battling by McFadzean and it was already clear that Wimbledon were going to get lots of men behind the ball and wait for us to try and break them down. Grigg had a lob straight at Trueman in goal and O’Brien tried a shot that went well wide but not a great deal else happened in the opening quarter of an hour. We were certainly doing most of the pressing and Wimbledon hardly had a sniff till they put a few passes together around the twentieth minute when Rudoni went down too easily in the box. They were soon back with a much more threatening move and Longman forced Burge into putting the ball out for their first corner. Embleton had a good strike straight at the keeper but we won another corner from it though it came to nothing. Even for these strange times the SoL was very quiet and the whole match seemed flat so a little bit of individual magic was needed to break down that Wimbledon defensive wall. Elsewhere Lincoln went one behind at home against Shrewsbury and as half-time approached we continued to do most of the pressing having an occasional shot that went straight to their goalie Trueman. Out of the blue three minutes before the break McFadzean fouled Rudoni in the box and Pigott easily beat Burge to put them ahead. I couldn’t see them going all out for a second either so we’d have to up our pace in the second-half and get an early one back if we wanted to win.
As we kicked off gain Dobson had been replaced by Gooch and we switched to a 4-4-2 formation, which was pleasing. Things continued pretty much as they’d left off with us doing doing most of the pressing without creating any dangerous chances. Time was going too fast and our attempts at an equalizer were going nowhere fast as the hour-mark came and went but next thing we were level and of all people it was Bailey Wright who shot home after it’d looked like he might have to go off with an injury not ling before. There was still best part of half an hour to go so we had plenty of time to steal another but Wimbledon were clearly going for it too as the dangerous Longman had a shot that came off the bar. I wondered who else LJ would bring on and I’d heard good things of Neil so I was hoping he’d come on before long. McLoughlin had a great chance to score for them but mercifully he hit it wide and next thing Curry came on for Grigg. Curry had played yesterday and scored twice for the U23’s so I hoped he’d still be in the mood. Thomas had a good scoring effort for them and it had become a much more competitive game than in the first-half. With about ten minutes to go we brought on Willis for McFadzean but despite another three minutes of stoppage-time we never really threatened and in fact Wimbledon had a better chance to score. It ended 1-1.
Certainly our performance was a far cry from last Saturday’s but all things considered this is probably a decent result for us in very difficult circumstances. We just have to wait and see whether this Saturday’s game can go ahead.