A good day in SR5 saw Sunderland comfortably see off table-topping Wycombe to continue our run of good form and send the crowd home happy. Very happy. Three goals in twenty first-half minutes won it and were capped off with Maguire's sublime second-half strike.
They say that a week is a long time in football, but the last couple seem to have flown over at SAFC. Whatever side of the fence you put yourself on regarding the sale of the club, the results in the last fortnight haven’t been at all bad. Hearing fans singing “Jingle bells, oh what fun it is to see Sunlun win away” at Donny, then receiving an apology from the powers that be about the dismal refereeing decisions that robbed us of even more points… it’s made the matchday eminently more potentially enjoyable. Something to look forward to, in short. On the transfer window, the only thing surprising about Dylan McGeough’s departure was that it was to Aberdeen rather than Hibs, and De Bock’s return to Leeds (and thence back to Belgium) was met with… nothing. After being linked with what seemed like every Norn Irn striker apart from Will Grigg, we finally landed Kyle Lafferty. To say he’s a bit of a lad is a bit of an understatement, and his back-story would fill more pages than I have access to. Save yourself a bit of time, and have your eyebrows raised by Googling “Lafferty Palermo”. A genuine Big Bloke, with the longest arms since Craig Gordon, his contract is only until the end of the season, which seems perfectly sensible in the current climate on Wearside.
Another benefit of the last couple of weeks is that we can predict with a fair amount of certainty what the team will be. Barring injury, there should be no changes because the system that Parky has decided on is working – and in large part this is down to two players. Firstly, Gooch’s return has brought the tenacity that we’ve lacked since Honeyman’s departure, and pace. Secondly, McGeady’s ostracising has given Maguire the chance to be top dog, and he’s taken that chance. Add these factors to some decent results and you get a confident team – we’re not Brazil or Germany, but we’re no longer San Marino. We might not have turned the crucial corner yet, but we’ve certainly seen the bend in the road. With the alliterative Wycombe Wanderers having belied their lofty league position by having a poor run of results, drawing one and lost three of the last four, the optimism levels were building through the week - shown by today's full bus. Very full bus.
...and the team was almost predictable, which was nice. Very nice.
Willis Ozturk Flanagan
O'Nien Power Dobson Hume
Maguire Wyke Gooch
Nee Lafferty on the bench, which was a bit of a disappointment, but to be expected, I suppose.
The wind was out in force, giving the crisp packets a good workout, and Wycombe kicked off Northwards.
After a couple of Wycombe attacks, and a corner, we put together our first proper assault. O'Nien got it across to Hume, who played it to Gooch, and the low cross was on a plate for Wyke to turn in. Simple, yes. Effective, yes. Nice one, Lads.
More good work on the right allowed us upfield again, and when Maguire lifted a clever ball over the fullback to O'Nien, his looping cross found Wyke's head at the back post, but the post is what it hit. Not to worry, when Hume came steaming in from the left, he picked his spot and passed it across the keeper and in.
Keep up, you'll need to. There was a break in play when the ref stood on Flan, then Wyke harried their defender into a rash back pass, but someone clattered our lad (Gooch?) and it was a penalty that Maguire banged home. Only twenty minutes gone, and for the second consecutive home game we were three up early on.
On the half hour, they brought in Akinfenwe, with parts of his anatomy apparently offside and which he acknowledged, and we conceded a few silly free kicks in our half. Thankfully, McLaughlin had the wind sussed and dealt with them. Akinfenwe can't jump or run, but he's bloody good at barging folks about, so we were a bit on edge at corners and frees when Oz got involved. A cross from Willis (aye, up on the right wing) saw a flying header go wide of the far post, as we wondered how in the wide world of sport the opposition were top of the league... especially with their central defence, who wouldn't be out of place down the Station Rec tomorrow morning. Picking litter.
Three added minutes were announced as we conceded another free which we eventually cleared. There was none of the time-wasting that has characterised our recent Wycombe encounters, which was nice, but hopefully a vain attempt to get back into the game. Certainly, a happy half-time analysis.
Lynch was out early, confirming our fears that the ref's assault on Flan had caused some damage. Please don't try to play football, Joel, just hoof it.
The second half's first action saw Wyke win the battle for Power's hopeful ball and lay it back to Gooch, who took it left and shot across the goal and wide. The second piece was Charlie hoofing a loose clearance from Maguire's cross way over the top. The third was Gooch bursting down the left and Wyke's stretch not being enough to divert the low cross the right side of the back post.
We had a great bit of pressure on the hour, with good stuff down each side and good work by Wyke, but the ref missed the trip on Hume as he sprinted into the box. He also chose to produce no cards despite three naughty late ones by Wycombe as they sort of reverted to last season's nonsense. Hume, after a free partially cleared, chose to cross rather than shoot, winning a corner on the right. Willis got to it first, but his header went way over as the rain started.
A free to Wycombe on 70 was taken from nowhere near the site of the offence as the ref unwound and booked Lynch The pressure of officiating at the SoL was obviously way too much for him.
With fifteen to go, they brought on two blokes wearing gloves (13 degrees c) in an attempt to liven things up, but their first involvement was to concede a free in Maguire territory. Up he stepped, and from the inside left spot 25 yards out, crashed it home right-footed off the underside of the bar. An absolute beaut of a goal.
When Wycombe did have a chance, with a bit of a lucky bounce seeing their man run nto the box, McLaughlin was out and got his shins in the way. Gooch then made way for McNulty as we decided that, with only five to go, the game was won - although we needed another save by McLaughlin, at the expense of a corner, to keep them out. Wyke came back and won the decisive header to clear that one, and was quickly up the field to give the visitors more problems.
When Dobson's cross-filed ball to O'Nien was knocked back to Maguire, he must have heard my cry of "hat-trick", but the shot was more of a problem for the visiting fans than their keeper. Three added minutes were announced, Wycombe groaned collectively, and we smiled. There was still time for us to get a bit raggy at the back and need two cracking saves by McLaughlin to keep the sheet clean before Paint Your Wagon boomed out. As we left the ground, the Proclaimers sang "We're on our way from misery to happiness" and that couldn't have been more apt.
A great day at the office. Man of the Match? A great shift by Wyke, Dobson, and Gooch, but it has to be Maguire. Or Wyke. Charlie it is, then. Or Gooch. Nah, Wyke's the man today.