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Sunderland fans got their first taste of football at the New Plough Lane and watched as the Lads came back from a ludicrous penalty to earn a point thanks to Pritch's second free kick in five days. new boss Neil switched to a back four, we showed a bit more tenacity, but simply didn't create enough chances against a side with some really big lads.

Friday night had been a cracker, watching our Gary's band in the usual company plus two more Villa boys having a night in Bush Vegas in their way to Sid James. That jollity soon changed on Saturday morning, and after the journey from Hell involving two cancelled trains, it was pretty much a sprint to the ground from the tube, and considering it's a new build, you'd not know it was there. Which is nice, but on the downside, there were no signs indicating where our end was... round three sides, as it turned out, adding nearly half a mile to the trip.

We defended the end where most of our fans were housed, and lined up, on a bright and breezy afternoon:


Hume Doyle Wright (c) Cirkin

Matete Winchester

Clarke Neil Pritch


... and it quickly became apparent that Stewart was in for a hard time against some large defenders, just as Doyle and Wright were up against a couple of monsters. The new gaffer seems to have told the players that if they can't see the ball, give their man a good dunsh. It turned out that it's acceptable in this league, even if it's us doing it.

Clarke had a couple of nice runs, but usually found a Wimbledon head with his crosses, and Pritch, early on at least, was out wider than we're used to. There were some tackles flying in from both sides that made you since, but with the new boss (AN?) standing in the field of play on occasion, you could see where the players were getting their ideas from.

The home side had the first chance, but we got in the way of that and got ourselves back into things with a few non- nonsense clearances (copyright Wimbledon, forever) but still couldn't find the perfect opening... or even sort of half decent opening, with Stewart well marshalled by Heneghan, Nightingale (a curious name for one so big and beefy), or Brown - whoever happened to be closest.

On 20, they got into our box on our right, chased it to the byline, and Chislett whacked in a cross that had travelled all of an inchwhen it hit Doyle. Firstly, Doyle had no chance of avoiding being hit, and secondly, the ref couldn't possibly have seen what it hit - and as my uncle Bob, aka tashy the ref, used to say "if I can't see it, I can't give it".

Patto had no chance with McCormick's well-struck spot-kick, and we gave their players dog (or cat)'s abuse as they chose to celebrate in front of the only part of the ground that housed none of their own fans. There's a word for that sort of behaviour, and I'm not using it.

We maintained our style of pushing the home side back with creating much, and Patto had to be sharp to somehow flip the ball over the bar after his punch was played back in. We cleared the corner, and when Pritch cut in from the left he was fouled. Twenty-odd yards out, and we prayed for a repeat of his Cheltenham strike - and our prayers were answered as he did virtually the same thing, but with the keeper getting closer and the ball going in a bit lower. A real thing of beauty from a player the new boss obviously rates.

A few minutes after our goal, Wimbledon screams for another penalty were probably heard on Wearside as their man threw himself over Clarke's leg, but even after giving a daft first one, the ref was having none of it, although I strongly suspect that had he not given the first, he'd have given that one because it looked more of a pen than the first…

Given the amount of welly the ball had undergone, it was no surprise that a replacement was needed on 38 minutes. Despite us looking quite comfortable on the ball, and not afraid to mix it up we never really looked like troubling their keeper. There were two added minutes, in which we conceded a free which Patti tipped away for another corner. Perhaps he should have held it, but at least he kept it out of the net.

We made no changes for the second half, which initially carried on from the first in style and content. Then Clarke had a couple of moments, firstly hooking it back for Neil to set up Cirkin in our left... but Dennis blasted into the back row, which might not be that high, but it's higher than the bar. Jack then got it to Pritch, who played it nicely to Stewart, but a big leg knocked it away from the LND for a corner on our left. Pritch, on dead-ball duty for the day, whacked it over but there were too many big lads in blue and it was cleared, with Clarke chasing back and getting booked for ending the Wimbledon break. Taking one for the team, I believe it's called.

Wimbledon's Osew was booked for another niggly foul as we suspected the ref wouldn't be too long in whipping out a red. Wimbledon's bench disagreed and the ref waved something at one of them.

On 61, with the visitors rocking the Cherry Red Records end with his name, Defoe came on for Clarke and Evans for Winchester. Matete then flew into a challenge on halfway, thankfully missing his opponent completely and ending up under the home bench, sparking another round of gobbiness from the home players and management. Just a yellow, thankfully.

As Stewart had been getting no change out of the home defence, we swapped him for Roberts for the last fifteen or so, and the wee fella’s dancing feet, such a favourite thing of our previous gaffer, were soon in evidence. Despite being about six Clem wet through, he dodged the clumsy boots of the home defence and was a bit of a pest - but without managing to create a chance. Cirkin crossed from the left, but it was highish when Defoe wanted it low to the near post. Evans was booked for being a bit boisterous, quickly followed by Wright for flattening their centre forward for the tenth time. Defoe took a pass just in their half, but with two defenders closing him down he had to roll it left, where Pritch was also denied space

As we entered the dying minutes, Jermain joined in the fun and brought down an opponent to fill page two of the ref's notebook. We defended that free, and just as the fourth official was raising the added time board (five, if you're bothered) McCormick clatters Pritch and the ref could at last wave the red fir a second bookable offence.

Five minutes to take advantage of a "power play"? Nah, not us. There was still time for a third penalty shout for the Dons, but it only produced another yellow for a really amateurish dive. Even Gareth Bale would have laughed at that one.

And that was it. I know a point's a point, but against a side that hasn't won since last year (like Cheltenham) we should really have been able to find a way to three. Had VAR been in use, we'd have won, although it'd probably have been eight against eight by 80 minutes.

Final disciplinary totals...

Us... Wright, Winchester, Neil (Dan), Matete, Defoe, Clarke, Evans

Them... Osew, Heneghan, McCormick (twice), Chislett, Assal

We win that by 7-6, although with McCormick's double yellow upgraded they make the walk of shame.

There were some good signs, but not enough of them, and they weren't that much better than the old signs. We'd looked tired late on, and something as simple as basic fitness needs sorting out quickly. Obviously not too quickly, as we'd get tired.

Man of the Match? Patto did well, but sometimes his saves, impressive though they were, were down to his punches getting the ball far enough away from the danger area - though I'm not moaning, as the only one he didn't keep our was a penalty. I do like Matete, as he's a tenacious little player who has no fear, so he can have today's trophy.

Now for the train home. Wish me luck.