Sunderland continued our third season in Division Three with a mostly flat performance against one of the fancied teams, Peterborough, generally failing to create any chances that caused the visiting keeper any sort of problems, but taking full advantage of a clumsy foul with nine to go. A slight upturn in sharpness in the second half lifted things a bit, without increasing the number of chances, but at least we took the one very obvious one we got. Apparently, we’re up t fourth, for what that’s worth after so few games.
When is a match day not a match day? When you’re not there. Apologies if I moan yet again about not being able to attend, but I’ll probably do it every time there’s a game, because, like everybody else, I miss being a part of it. Being part of something big, something that is a football crowd, being one of thousands who want the same thing and make that desire known. No amount of screaming at the telly will make a difference to what happens on it, but when you’re at the match, the combined noise fills the ground and lifts the players. Who knows, your comment, overheard by the manager, might precipitate a substitution or change of tactics (unlikely, I know, but it just might) and therefore affect the outcome of the game. Then there’s the boiled sweets and jelly babies – which, of course, you can eat on your couch as you watch the telly, but where’s the surprise in that? I might be predictable with the jelly babies, but Brian in the next seat’s choice of boiled ket is always a pleasant surprise. Then there’s the fun of trying to get one out of the bag without Charlie in front hearing and grabbing a handful? Where’s the fun in walking calmly upstairs to the netty without having to queue and then having to squeeze past the folks doing a Led Zeppelin - coming in through the out door.
If there had been the usual pre-match chat, it would probably have been about Scowen and Leadbitter running the midfield if Max’s hamstring was still playing up, and about who’d play up front. With four to choose from, Parky has the option of keeping the opposition on their toes after weighing up the strengths and weaknesses of their defence. Mind, if any one of our four was anything like prolific, we’d be a lot happier – but they’re not, they’re what we’ve got, and we’ve got to trust the manager to use them to the best effect.
Anyway, after trying to replicate the usual matchday experience, I watched the VAR-enhanced footy down the Bay Hoss, where I was notified of our line-up, which included a deserved start for Gooch ahead of the inaccurate O’Brien.
O’Nien Willis Wright© Flanagan Hume
Maguire Wyke Gooch
Much as I’d expected, or rather hoped, although I was surprised that Leadbitter wasn’t captain, and we did have a strong bench, with Posh starting the game towards the North end. Thankfully, Barnesy and Benno were audible this week, so I didn’t have to focus on shirt number to see who was who.
After an opening few minutes of to and fro, Peterborough got through and the much vaunted double-barrelled lad (Clark- Harris – is double-barrelling alphabetical?)missed our goal, then we went up the other end and saw Maguire’s shot scuffed off target before hitting a series of shins and bobbling safely wide of goal. Scowen was then booked for halting Dembele’s progress 25 yards out in a central position, with Burge pulling off an impressive save from the free, and we cleared. O’Nien was tripped on halfway as we tried to get it forward, and our man got up to link with Willis then Maguire as we tried our luck down the right, but to no great effect.
Another save by Burge ended a Posh move down our right after ten minutes, with Dembele looking dangerous, and the ref decided to halt proceedings for treatment to Wyke when he went down in the box as we got the ball forward. Play restarted with one of those funny drop balls that are now part of the game. Flan got a block onto a low cross from their left after that man Dembele fed his marra through, and we had to deal with the corner – which we did comfortably. Maguire was dropping deep-ish to get more of the ball, and ended a move by slinging it from right to left and into the East stand. Still, we managed to get hold of it and have another go down the left, which ended up on the right with a throw to us.
Wright hoofed one out from the right to Hume, who got past his marker and put in a good cross, but O’Nien’s header was wide of the mark. Maguire eventually turned up field after seeming to have decided to spend an age in the centre circle to feed O’Nien, who won a corner when his cross was blocked. Maguire took it, to the penalty spot (oh, that’s what raising your left arm means).from where it was headed away. Hume’s timely tackle prevented a Posh break at the expense of a throw, and the subsequent attack was well defended. After a couple of failed attempts by us at intercepting a hoof upfield, they put in a rather tame shot that Burge dealt with easily.
With 22 gone, the visitors had created the better chances, although none of the subsequent efforts had caused Burge much trouble, and we needed Leadbitter to get in a vital toe in our box to prevent another shot. Gooch claimed obstruction when trying to get onto Wyke’s headed flick on, but got nothing as we put together a little moment of pressure, winning a throw on our left. When we eventually got it to the right, Maguire’s cross was way too deep and went for a goal kick. Gooch then popped up on the right, but the outcome was the same as we were still a little bit slow in moving the ball into dangerous positions. You could call it patience, I suppose, and we did move it across the pitch again for O’Nien’s cross to hit a defender and go for a corner on our right –a generous (very generous) ref might have given handball, but only the most optimistic fan would have shouted for it. Too much pushing and shoving in the box gave the ref no option but to give a pretty obvious free to the visitors, but we went mob handed on Dembele and won the ball back from the dead ball. Willis and O’Nien combined well down the right as we played it out, with the latter’s cross being headed clear from the penalty spot – and another cross from the same player soon after was equally well dealt with.
Maguire then went down under no challenge, making us think “hamstring”, but no contact was apparent to me – mebbe just an excuse for a cuppa. He eventually wandered to the touchline pointing to the back of his knee, and on came O’Brien on 38 minutes. That’s a blow, but no reason to change the shape of things to come – so Scowen went to Maguire’s position and O’Brien went behind Charlie. Wyke, obviously.
Willis played it down the right to Scowen, who took the corner that he won – but again it was won on the penalty spot by a Posh defender and we had to do a bit of defending near the edge of our own box. After a bit of decent play down our left, Hume put in another decent cross which somehow didn’t get put away, with O’Nien being muscled off the ball as in arrived in the box. As the 45the arrived, 3 added minutes were announced and Leadbitter launched a free into the box as the rain came down to join the wind. Wetter and windier than my front room, apparently. O’Nien burst forward to feed Scowen, but the cross found the defender rather that Wyke for our fourth corner, on the right – and was headed away again by their central defender, who seemed to have a magnet in his head that matched the one in the ball, so many times did he seem to win headers.
And that was that. Plenty of the ball, but not managing to make the visiting keeper work. All of the shots had been at Burge, and he dealt with them all quite comfortably, although , to be fair, they were all within the “Lee Camp could stop that” category. Half time discussions, had there been anybody to have them with, would no doubt have been about why and how we appeared to be slightly half asleep at times through the first 45, and how we really needed to have someone to provide a burst of energy to up the pace. On the plus side, we’d put in far more crosses than the visitors. On the minus, we’d not really worked the keeper from any of them.
So off we went for the second 45, attacking the North end as is the correct way of things, and with no further changes. Hume played it low to the right, and when it came low into the box, our man missed his kick completely and Hume slashed it into the side netting. Ha’way, Lads, that was poor – it should have been in twice. We needed a spot of resolute defending to keep the visitors at bay thereafter, and conceded a corner when O’Nien had to head a deep cross behind. Leadbitter headed that one away, but it came straight back for Burge to collect a loose through ball.
A foul on O’Brien just in their half allowed us to get Scowen away down the right, but his cross was easily dealt with before O’Nien won a corner on that side – which wasn’t cleared and another corner caused a bit of mayhem, which ended when Gooch was clipped on the right corner of the box. Scowen whipped it in to the near post, but O’Brien headed it wide. Good play by Gooch and Hume got Wyke through, and our best attack ended off the keeper’s foot and for a corner on our left. After Clark-Harris headed it (inevitably) clear, Flan was fouled near the right corner of the box, and Scowen’s free was dealt with. When it came back down the right, Wyke went down as the refd awarded a corner – at last, we were looking lively and Peterborough were looking a bit ragged at the back. Another free was awarded when their keeper charged out to his right, but Scowen’s effort was headed down and wide in front of the near post by Wright on 57.
Burge had to produce a good save from Taylor’s long distance effort after we gave it away, and we had to defend the resultant corner on our left. Thankfully, Clark-Harris headed it away, forgetting he was attacking this time, and O’Brien was booked for kicking the ball away as we passed up the chance to build an attack. When Gooch was fouled from the restart, Burge hoofed the free straight into the West stand, which was poor. A free for the Posh from Reid in their inside right position hit the bar, and we eventually, and gratefully, got it clear as we approached 65 minutes. We were crying out for a change of personnel, tactics, or energy, as we were looking decidedly off the pace as Peterborough upped their game.
We relieved the pressure with a move down the right, but had to move it backover to our left to try and build anything – and Hume couldn’t get to the resultant through ball, and Flan conceded another free when the visitors chased the goal kick towards our box. Scowen could only put it out for a throw as he tried to get it up to Wyke on the right, we built a move when we won it back. O’Nien’s cross looked like causing problems, but it was too deep for even Hume to collect. On came Danny Graham for Wyke in a fairly obvious swap as we tried to get hold of the game, while they brought on Ward – presumably to try and win it in the last twenty minutes.
Hume took a throw by the corner flag, and Scowen missed his kick (again!) when it came in –how many times, Lads? That’s Sunday morning stuff. O’Nien’s cross wasn’t Sunday morning, and won us our eighth corner, but it was headed away for a throw on our left. Hume took a return pass and crossed, but Posh cleared as Scowen clattered Butler in the box, resulting in a lengthy period of treatment and their keeper hoofing it, eventually, into our half. We chased it back down the North end, and Denver wove into the box after we won a throw, and was very obviously tripped. Oh yes.
Ten to go, and Grant picked it up as Posh whined pointlessly to the ref before placing it and taking a short run-up before blasting it low to the keeper’s right. A text-book penalty for his first Sunderland goal in a lifetime. Nice one, son, and you could almost hear, behind Barnesy’s commentary, the collective sigh of relief from the players and management. Gooch got a bit over-enthusiastic with a tackle out on the left, when calmness was the order of the day, and got a yellow for his efforts with seven to go.
Graham came back to help clear, and set O’Brien away, but with no options to pass to and lacking the pace to go it alone, he had to play it patently to O’Nien on the right and the move eventual petered out with O’Nien conceding a free near halfway. Burge leapt confidently to claim the ball into the box, and Hume did well to press their defence from the clearance. Wright had to concede a corner when their sub Jones ran wide into the box, and the corner from the right was headed only just past the post off a Sunderland leg. This corner was headed up into the Roker End by Willis for another, which Burge punched away, and the visitors kept the pressure up, causing a few nervous moments across the TV watchers of Wearside. A Git Big Hoof by Scowen relieved things for a moment, but the Posh were quickly back on the offensive into the five added minutes. Graham headed on Flan’s throw, and O’Brien looked to have been fouled as he flicked it over his marker just past halfway, but the ref was having none of it.
Hume came inside to find O’Brien, who got forward but passed up the chance to shoot in favour of giving it back to Hume, and when it went out for a throw, Gooch made way for McLaughlin (remember him?) as Parky, presumably tried to run the clock down. A Peterborough shot from the edge of the box took a touch and won them another corner on their right, which we cleared – and dealt with the ball when it came back into the box, winning a goal kick.
And that was it. Hardly a classic, as we struggled to find any fluency, but a win’s three points and that’s the most important thing. Whatever the formation up the field, we at least have a solid defensive shape, and have options to change personnel , at least in the centre, there.
I’ll take that. Now for my tea at a ridiculously normal time on a Saturday.
Man of the Match? Hume was a constant pest, and his crossing is getting better, but fo r me it was Leadbitter, who played a steady game as others got a bit agitated, and was the calmest man in SR5 when the ball was on the spot.