Sunderland had to be patient to overcome an initially awkward Rovers side and another rotten ref, neither of whom could do anything about our three second-half strikes as we eventually cruised home with the three points.
It’s been a nice week off following our windy win at the Kassam, giving us time to draw breath and prepare for a hectic few weeks backing the Lads. Hopefully, the players will remember the roar that followed the final whistle at Oxford and carry on the togetherness and hard work that’s been a feature of our upturn in form. That roar was one of defiance and celebration, born of an appreciation of 96 minutes of togetherness and hard work, and a release of tension that had built up as we protected our lead for 94 of those minutes. It was a roar that said to the players “we’re with you”, a roar that said to our fellow fans “we’re in this together” and said to the rest of the division “we’re Sunderland, watch out.”
As we’d suspected, and as if to back up claims from Bristol City fans that he’s a good player but a bit femmer, Bailey Wright’s impressive start to his Sunderland career has been curtailed by injury. With his reappearance before the end of the campaign looking unlikely, and with coach Andy Taylor being mooted as a possible back-up ‘cos he’s still got his boots, Parky has brought in Tommy Smith (no, not that one). This Antipodean defender is Thomas Jefferson Smith, and after eleven years at Ipswich, which returned an impressive 65 league goals, he’s spent the last couple of seasons in Colorado, and, despite being born in Macclesfield, has represented New Zealand at international level, his eligibility being down to spending part of his childhood there.
After surviving the wind and flying water as we crossed the big bridge, we as entirely expected, lined up
O'Nien Flanagan Ozturk Willis Hume
Maguire Wyke Goooooch
Rovers kicked off North, towards an impressive away following. We tried a break down the right, with Wyke holding it up well when the space disappeared, but nobody was available in the middle. Maguire shot over bar on six from distance after Wyke had won the ball forward as we kept the pressure on. He was then fouled in an identical position seconds later, and we picked the corners for him to aim for. Ignoring us, he fired low under the jumping wall...and into the keeper's arms.
With the defence backing off, Flan ran forwards and played it to Hume in the box, but his low cross was put behind for a corner on 14. More pressure ended -briefly- with another shot over the bar.
On 18, Willis hoofed it to Maguire, and his low cross caused havoc, with Hume and Wyke's efforts being hacked off the line. Close, Lads, keep it going and we'll be alright.
There followed a fairly flat few minutes on our part as we relaxed a bit and a couple big decisions went the wrong way...and Rovers had a bit of the ball. Not that much, and when Wyke was rugby-tackled on halfway with no free kick given, we wondered if we had another ref determined to be the star of the show. Yes, we did.
Gooch was booked on the half hour after being denied a couple of decisions and diving into a challenge on our right out of frustration.
O'Nien's took Wyke's pass and won a corner, but we couldn't get the vital touch on Maguire's cross before clever interplay between Maguire, O'Nien, and Willis almost got us in.
Power shot way wide from 25 yards out after Flanagan had been pushed over and set us away with the subsequent free kick, but we were struggling to create real chances in the box… then Willis put in another low cross that was crying out for a tap-in. We had two big shouts for a penalty, the second looking pretty certain( I've seen the video, and it was as obvious as the nose on Mr Punch's face) but only got a corner for our troubles... prompting Parky to have a word with the fourth official. For all the good that would do, but something had to be said
As halftime approached, Wyke won it on halfway out left and set Hume away, and the cross was met soundly enough, but the effort went just over and two extra minutes were announced. That gave the ref the time to award a ludicrous free against O'Nien when their man fell over and end the half with the crowd, deservedly, on his back. Yet another showboater in yellow determined to remain unswayed by a large crowd, but just ending up being ridiculously biased against the side backed by that large crowd.
No changes for the second half, either in personnel or the ref's competency as he waved on an obvious block on Power. He did wave a yellow for a late one on Wyke out on the left ten minutes in, but we didn't do anything with the free kick.
After a yellow for Oz when he manhandled their man as they broke, Maguire recovered from a slip but obviously replied in caustic fashion to a comment by a Rovers player, and was chopped down. Straight red, no question, it was oh go go for Ogogo, and we won a corner on the right, then another.
Rovers went six at the back, Hume won a corner on the left after a brief dalliance on the right, and Maguire's cross evaded everyone to bounce behind at the back post. Cue some more time-wasting by the keeper as he took the goal kick in a vain attempt to get something out of the game
Their 24 was getting Gooch well wound up with a series of niggles and off-the-ball stuff that our Californian was in danger of rising to, prompting us in the seats to wonder about a replacement for safety's sake. Fortunately, Parky left him on, and he was on the end of Maguire's low cross from the right to hammer it home with 20 to go.
And two minutes later, Wyke ran from halfway on to a clearance, dodged to the keeper's right, and rolled it home from just inside the box.
Boom boom, gerrinnnnn!
A pretend head injury for Rovers ensured some moans and a booking for the visiting manager as we wallowed in the joy of a comfortable lead.
As Gooch wound his way to the edge of the box, Rovers contrived to foul both he and O'Nien, but the free flew over the top.
With ten to go, Gooch arrived onto a clever pass into the box from the left and shot through a defender's legs to draw a save low at the near post. He was then replaced by Semanyo to generous applause. A minute later we were cursing when Maguire cut back rather than square it to Semanyo as we broke down the right, but it fell to O'Nien whose shot took a deflection and looped over the keeper for 3-0. Boom boom boom, gerrinnnnn!
Off went Maguire, job done, for Watmore, and Wyke for Lafferty with five to go. Four added minutes verre announced as Flan had a run down the left, but Rovers were well beaten by then. Semanyo drove to the byline from the right and whacked in a low cross, but O'Nien got his foot under the cutback and the ball flew into the north stand...and the whistle went to signal another comfortable win. I could get used to this. You do feel a bit for our subs, who obviously want to do something to impress, but you can understand the team settling for another clean sheet and a 3-0 win.
Man of the Match? A tricky one, with neither keeper being forced into many saves and none of our outfield players really standing out - for the right reasons, as they all did well. Despite us winning by three, I'll give it to Willis for being solid and a calming influence.
Quote of the day? As my mate asked, as I was getting my celebratory post-match burger, "what are you doing next Saturday? I can get you a game refereeing in this league.'