I was delighted to discover that we’re definitely going to have a match at last this afternoon after what seems an eternity. It looks like we’ll have nearly all the squad to choose from too apart from more long term injured players like O’Nien. No disrespect to Northampton but I didn’t realise till last week that they were in League One as with one thing and another their promotion last year had escaped me. They’ve shipped a lot of goals so far and just dragged themselves out of a relegation spot during the week so I think we can get a win today. I consider the Lincoln match to be the only one that LJ has been in charge of as the AFC Wimbledon game was to a large extent out of his control. I’ll be watching the game with my Sunderland bubble and my match prediction is a 3-1 win, though maybe today’s date 2.1.21 is trying to tell us something.
I got the team-news at 2.15 and we were fielding a strong side with Wyke, Diamond and McGeady all starting. I was surprised to see that Scowen was fit after all while Willis and Maguire were among the subs. There was no sign of Will Grigg or McFadzean.
The opening stages were messy and our passing left a lot to be desired but in the seventh minute Wyke got his head to a Leadbitter free-kick from the right though it went well wide. Five minutes later Wyke received an unusual booking for blocking goalkeeper Mitchell’s goal-kick. Leadbitter wasn’t happy about that and looked like he was going to follow him into the book for mouthing off a lot at referee Leigh Doughty. We had our first effort on target in the twenty-first minute and it was a long-distance blast from the shaven-headed Power but Mitchell handled it easily. It continued to be a sloppy affair and though we started to press more, our passing had too many hopeful lobs for my liking. The commentator apologised for any swearing that we might have heard from the stadium but there was more swearing going on in our room than on the telly. At the half-hour mark it remained goalless and it had been lacklustre but that may well have been a result of our enforced lay-off as well as Covid. Five minutes later a Northampton player blocked a Burge goal-kick but wasn’t yellow-carded and that didn’t go down well with the players or with us at home. Watson was booked for going down unnecessarily in the box so it was 1-1 on cards but Scowen, with a foul, soon made it 2-1 to us. Northampton had a twice-taken free-kick at the angle of our box on the stroke of half-time but it was still 0-0 at the break after an unmemorable first=half.
We hoped to see Maguire and Gooch on to give us a bit more zip and taking Scowen off seemed to be a good idea as he was working his ticket too much after his first booking. Scowen was still there, though, as we kicked off again. Northampton had a decent chance three minutes in, but thankfully Watson failed to capitalise and he really should’ve passed to an unmarked colleague to his left. Northampton continued to do most of the pressing and we were looking a mile off the Lincoln performance. The hour-mark came and went but still no substitutions. We finally brought on Maguire and Gooch for Power and Diamond in the sixty-seventh minute so I hoped for some creativity, which had been lacking so far. We certainly started to look more effective upfront and won a rare corner but Wyke hoofed it well over from close range. Maguire didn’t waste much time getting booked for what looked like a revenge tackle. With just over ten minutes left I was surprised to see McGeady being replaced by O’Brien. It was looking like 0-0 was the best we could hope for. Northampton forced Burge into a save with five minutes to go and he did well to dive and save it on the line. We brought Danny Graham on for Wyke near the end but it wasn’t exactly a switch to warm the cockles of my heart. There were three added minutes but it ended as it had seemed likely for ages to end 0-0.
I suppose we have to take the extenuating circumstances into consideration and an away point with a clean sheet is usually okay but I still feel disappointed. I’ll leave the final word to my bubble-friend who on hearing that we were about to be shown the highlights of the match exclaimed, “What highlights?! Are they takin’ the piss?!”