Having laid our Burton hoodoo to rest, the time’s right to do the same to another bogey team tonight. At least Joey Barton is no longer with them and we can defer the pleasure of meeting him again till we take on Bristol Rovers in March. I definitely feel that we’re at the start of a roll and the last three games have been pleasing to watch. That’s not to say of course that we haven’t had any wobbly moments in these games, especially at the back, so there’s still room for improvement. Wright will be out again and Fleetwood have some very tall players if I remember rightly but we managed a clean sheet on Saturday with a revamped back line and I think we’ll not concede more than one this evening. The finalisation of the takeover must have made everyone at the club feel more relaxed, like in any business, and Kyril has already started to make improvements concerning the pitch. I’ll have to change my tag-line as I’ve been in Sunderland for most of the last year and will be watching the match with my bubble here as usual. We’ve tended to do worse against lower-placed teams this season but I think we’ve got over that and I reckon we’ll win tonight so my prediction is 3-1 to us.
I could see the lights of the SoL beaming in the distance as I walked over to my bubble and when I arrived, I discovered there was just one change from Saturday with McFadzean replacing Vokins, who was on the bench. I mentioned that Fleetwood were on the large side and one of their subs was appropriately named Biggins. I got there early partly to get a takeaway from Shandiz down my neck but also to watch the new streaming service. It was looking good till it blanked out for several minutes but when it returned I was pleased to hear the theme from ‘Z Cars’ blaring out at the stadium.
Fleetwood did most of the early pressing and Sanderson conceded the first corner of the match in the fifth minute and they created a serious chance just afterwards but it went wide. We finally woke up and started putting together a few decent moves down our right. We continued to have the better of things and in the seventeenth minute we had our first real chance when O’Brien fed McGeady who powered in a strong shot that went out for our first corner. It was nice to have a few new camera angles. Fleetwood were packing their defence and not giving us much space but Power managed a decent low shot from outside the box that went just wide of the left post. O’Nien conceded a free-kick thirty-five yards out and right in front of goal but we managed to get it clear, though the camera can distort the angle sometimes and I thought the ball had fallen to an unmarked Fleetwood player right in front of goal. It hadn’t thankfully and we were soon pressing up the other end again. Gooch was having a good game buzzing around all over and he set up McGeady who blasted a shot on target that Cairns in goal blocked. It remained goalless at the break and it looked like one goal would win it. Fleetwood had defended solidly and our passing hadn’t been as good as recently. Elsewhere at half-time Hull and Lincoln were both losing while Charlton and Portsmouth were both drawing. Doncaster weren’t playing at all so we could well gain ground on them.
We watched the interview with KLD at half-time and I liked the words passion and ‘long term vision’.
We won a free-kick in a great spot five minutes in McGeady lammed it well over. McLaughlin had been having a good game and soon he had a powerful shot on target. Ten minutes in, I was hoping we’d get a couple of subs on early but Gooch upped my spirits with a nifty run into the box and a low shot that Cairns did well to save. Lincoln made the first changes bringing on the aforementioned Biggins as well as Burns. I was just thinking we should take O’Brien off when he put us into the lead. McGeady, of course, supplied a cross from the left side of the box and O’Brien put a well-placed header wide of Cairns. We’d been about to make a couple of changes ourselves and maybe LJ was thinking the same as me as after the goal our subs sat down again. We did bring on Jones for McGeady and his first touch was a header on target. He soon went on a good run down the left and was fouled winning us a free-kick in a tasty position. I like that lad. Next thing Winchester replaced Gooch. Jones hit a great low shot that Cairns had to dive to save and then we brought on Maguire for O’Brien. It’s great to see some quality coming off the bench. Elsewhere Burton were beating Charlton and Lincoln were drawing so the overall picture was looking positive as long as we could hold out. Fleetwood were doing a fair bit of pressure so it was going to be nail-biter as we entered the final ten minutes. I needn’t have worried as we won a corner and Power moved in from well out of the picture to blast in a header that Cairns couldn’t keep out and we were 2-0 up. With five minutes to go Maguire was fouled on the edge of their box and a free-kick was awarded from which we won another corner. Four minutes of stoppage-times were announced and Jones was well splattered by Hill but happily he managed to continue. The stream cut out again just before the whistle went but I could see on BBC Sport that we’d won 2-0.
Another three points, a clean sheet and we’ve gained ground on Hull. Lincoln, Accrington and Charlton. Net result - happiness.