I was as sick as a chip after Tuesday’s performance and am expecting a lot better today. We couldn’t take care of basic elements of the game such as passing and shielding the ball so many passes went astray while Plymouth found it easy to dispossess us. I went past the Academy of Light for the first time the other day and I didn’t notice any cows’ arses and banjos there but I think several of our players and especially Scowen should get down to some serious shooting practice. I’m also wondering how the pitch will be shaping up as I’d never seen it as bad as it was the other day. Shrewsbury have won four out of their last five league games and that pleases me as whenever I’ve heard that a team hasn’t won an away game for a year or so, they’ve beaten us. There’ll no doubt be further reshuffling of the team today as Willis at least looks like he’ll be out. Hopefully O’Nien will be on for at least some of the game as we’ve missed him. I’ll be watching the match with my Sunderland bubble as usual and as the sun’s shining and I’m feeling in a good mood, my match prediction is a 2-1 win.
When I got the team-news around 2.00, it looked like the only changes were that Power and Leadbitter had replaced Sanderson and Winchester. I have to say I thought that Winchester didn’t impress on Tuesday but he was in good company there. So, surprisingly Willis was starting. Ex-Sunderland player Donald Love was starting for them but like so many of our recent players he’s left no memories with me.
I got to my bubble, opened a cool can of Guinness and awaited developments. After twenty seconds Scowen shot wide and we soon conceded a free-kick in a dangerous spot so we were showing a certain consistency. We won our first corner in the fifth minute and it was better than many of our recent efforts. McGeady was looking for a penalty shortly afterwards but we only got a corner from which Scowen had a good shot on target though it was blocked. Our passing was definitely looking better and we’d also had most of the attacking play in the opening quarter of an hour. Next thing we were ahead and it was a well-worked goal when McGeady powered down the left and from his cross Wyke put a looping header into the upper right corner. It didn’t look like it was going in but thankfully it did. I thought he was about to get his second when he got past Sarkic but the ball had gone too far wide for him to get a decent effort on target and he put it wide. I could feel a second coming anyway as Sarkic and his back four didn’t exactly seem to be in harmony. It looked like Shrewsbury were about to equalize just after the half-hour mark but Clarke hit it over as Leadbitter was making a kamikaze dive in front of him. Shrewsbury enjoyed a purple patch and Chapman powered through to put in a good shot that Burge did well to turn out for a corner. There was only a minute of stoppage-time and I was glad really as we’d gone off the boil. The pitch was holding up well. Portsmouth and Charlton were both losing at home so overall the situation was looking pretty good.
We conceded a corner seven minutes in when Shrewsbury were threatening again and we were looking vulnerable at the back. We didn’t manage to press forward much at all and suddenly we were at the hour-mark and it was time for a change - Maguire-time, I hoped. He did come on for Diamond six minutes later. We were giving away too many needless free-kicks in our own half and it was looking like a nervous arses-to-the-wall final twenty minutes instead of what had looked like a fairly comfortable win. We managed to block a couple of shots in a row as Shrewsbury piled it on and we really hadn’t got going at all in the second-half. Twelve minutes to go and I was checking the clock all the time but then we finally had a chance when Power blasted a decent effort into the side-netting. Next thing Winchester replaced McGeady and we started to get forward a lot more. With three minutes to go I was delighted to see the return of O’Nien when he replaced Scowen. There were four minutes of stoppage-time during which Maguire had a long-distance effort and we won a free-kick just outside their box and then the whistle went.
Three points and a clean sheet so I’m happy with that but this has to go down as an ugly win.