I don’t think I’ve seen us play consistently well throughout a match for at least three years and we’ve played in fits and starts in recent games especially. We’re still hanging in on the fringe of the play-offs and probably a play-off spot is the best we can hope for. It seems like only a few days since we last played Shrewsbury and I’m expecting our solid away form to get us another three points this evening. I was wondering what’s happened to Winchester – is he injured? Apart from that great back-heel, he hasn’t impressed me much so far but he’s come up a division and will need time to adjust. Jones looked great when he came on as sub on Saturday and those speedy runs are going to be a benefit. I’ll r4eserve judgement on Vokins for now but M.K. Dons managed to get plenty of attacks in down his flank on Saturday. As usual I’ll be watching the match with my Sunderland bubble and my match prediction is a 2-1 win.
I headed to the bubble in sub-zero temperatures and on arrival discovered that Matthews was in goal while Burge was on the bench, Jones was starting and that was a bonus while there was some confusion about who else was actually playing as the BBC Sports site had a couple of different names to those who were on the pitch. Anyway, McLaughlin and O’Nien weren’t playing and Leadbitter and Power were. Two minutes into the game Willis went down and looked in considerable pain after what had seemed a fairly innocuous encounter with Whalley and Sanderson came on after nearly seven minutes to replace him. It took a while for us to settle down but in the sixteenth minute we won a free-kick near their right corner-flag. It was a good chance to get Wyke’s head on the end of it but Leadbitter’s kick went too far and it was cleared easily. I didn’t know Scowen was a long-throw man but he hoisted a good one into their box and I hoped for more later. In the twenty-first minute we went ahead when O’Brien ran through, kept his cool and blasted the ball past Sarkic in goal. There was a suspicion of offside but the officials were happy with it. In the bubble we hoped that we wouldn’t do our usual act of sitting back after taking the lead. To add a little zest to proceedings Accrington lost 1-0 at home in an earlier kick-off. Shrewsbury enjoyed a good period round the half-hour mark and Matthews was in the right place to hold a good low header. Main also had a decent shot on target after we’d messed around on the edge of our box instead of clearing it. Chapman turned Vokins inside out as he raced down our left and he managed to get right into our box before Leadbitter booted it for a throw-in. In the forty-fourth minute we won our first corner and a diving Wyke header was cleared off the line before we won another corner. Only five minutes of stoppage-time were announced but that suited me really. It remained 0-1 at the break and we’d come back strongly after our usual going off the boil routine. Five of our immediate rivals were drawing so that was all to the good.
A few minutes after we kicked off again Scowen went down injured but was able to continue. Next thing we conceded a needless free-kick just outside our box and when it wasn’t cleared, the ball came in again from the right and Matthews fluffed his clearance. Unfortunately Ebanks-Lndell was there to head it back into the net. That was another soft goal to concede and we hoped for another couple of changes to liven us up. Matthews again looked all at sea when the ball bounced off his shins but we got it clear. McGeady had a great shot tipped over and we piled on a couple more good efforts as we responded in some style. Gooch replaced Jones in the fifty-eighth minute. McGeady went on a great jinky run down the left to put in a cross that Wyke didn’t make the most of. In the sixty-seventh minute we went behind when a long cross from the left was met by Chapman at our right post and he tapped it home with Vokins dithering. Just afterwards it looked like we were 3-1 down when a free-kick from the right wasn’t held by Matthews and it dribbled into the net. Mercifully the assistant linesman reckoned there’d been an offside and the goal was ruled out. With just under fifteen minutes to go there was a glint of hope when we saw Diamond and O’Nien coming on for Power and Vokins. Love was booked and we won a free-kick in a good spot on our left. Time was ticking away rapidly and even a draw was looking beyond us. In the final minute we won a free-kick in a great spot right in front of their goal and Sarkic pushed it away for a corner. Five minutes of stoppage-time were announced and it looked like Diamond had lashed one into the net but sadly the ball had gone behind.
Even a draw would have been disappointing tonight. This was a bad performance with Matthews and Vokins being particularly inept.