Sunderland welcomed the “team that should never be” to the SoL this afternoon and lost to a side who’d never beaten us before, and while we huffed and puffed as we dominated the last half hour and the visitors giggled up their sleeves as their unlikely win looked more and more likely as the game wore on, our failure to convert the few decent chances we created meant that we deserved nothing more than we got. Which was nothing, as Power’s early finish gave us a lead that lasted barely five minutes before Jerome equalised, and a penalty right at the start of the second half sealed our fate.
In what started out as just another week at SAFC – cup defeats, injuries, club meeting with fans’ groups called off with the subsequent moaning – which, for once, looks to have been unjustified, as the club’s explanation of an imminent takeover might just have some substance. We’re apparently in the final stages of being taken over, with the majority of the money coming from Kyril Louis Dreyfus, of the Louis Dreyfus business dynasty (“Over 165 years of helping to feed the world”). Founded by Leopold Dreyfus in 1851, the company’s main business has been in agricultural commodities but it has diversified into several other fields too numerous and complicated for me, as a mere Sunderland supporter, to either understand or explain. The upshot is that Leopold’s descendant Kyril has an estimated personal wealth of £2b, in the form of a trust fund. Presumably his two brothers (including a twin, apparently, with the associated potential for mistaken identity) are worth the same amount, so there may be even more money floating about. His late dad used to own Monaco, in whom his mam still has a few shares, while that club is currently owned by Ekaterina Rybololeva, aka Mrs Sartori. Yes, that Juan Sartori, who has reportedly put together the consortium. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and initial reports say that Donald will keep 15% of the shares, Methven 5%,and Sartori 20% - which leaves 60% for young Kyril. At 22, the same age as the Stadium of Light (I have several items of clothing older than him), he’ll be one of the youngest owners around when the deal is completed “inside a fortnight” (timeline very much guesswork, I reckon, but that’s what the papers know/have been told). But hang on a minute – fizzy pop magnate and legend in his own coffee break, William Storey, reckons it’s all nonsense. Let’s hope it’s not, and that real changes are afoot, although real investment in playing staff is severely limited by the ridiculous salary cap.
While all this supposed good news was flying around, it was reported that John Hays, of Hays travel, the only Sunderland-born member of the Drumaville consortium and former vice-chairman under Niall Quinn, had died at work. Sort of puts things into perspective.
While taking the chance to watch any football possible, I caught Scotland’s game with Serbia, and just to add to the drama, I cursed Mitrovic for his magpie connections as he ran up to take his country’s fifth penalty, the last in the shoot-out. Drams gratefully accepted before the Wigan game on December 5th – I’d love to accept them in the Isis, the Peacock, or the Dun Cow, but if you can get yersel to Bishop…..
Willis Wright O’Nien
Gooch Power ©Leadbitter Scowen Hume
...a line-up which contained a couple of surprises, despite Flanagan and McLaughlin being away with Norn Irn, on a fairly calm afternoon at the Sol. Burge apparently has an ankle problem, so we have Matthews in goal, O’Nien at left of the defence wasn’t one of the surprises, but Grigg must consider himself lucky to get a start after weekend’s lacklustre performance. And where was the man with the most assist and goals in the last two and a bit seasons? No Maguire make no sense to me. Let’s hope that Embleton’s absence from the squad is nothing more than him regaining match fitness after his lengthy lay-off, and that Wyke can take better advantage of the crosses that will no doubt come his way from Hume – and that Gooch remembers to cross when he gets the chance. Is Kyril somewhere in the posh seats, or begging his mam for a £10 advance from his trust fund so that he can buy the live stream? That’s the live stream on which Danny Collins sounds remarkably like a grown-up version of Michael Owen as he took on the commentary task on his lonesome, with Frankie isolating at home(apparently without the ability to see the action – where’s yer £10, Frankie?) while we caught up on the latest news on asbestos safety training.
After a minute’s silence in memory of John Hays, we set up defending the North Stand against a set of visitors who hadn’t won in 25 attempts away from home, and they kicked things off. Ominous, to say the least. After what looked like a decent first couple of minutes for us, Gooch had to fly in to concede a corner on our right, and it needed a deflection off Lewington’s head to send a cleverly worked cross over the bar. We went straight up the other end and Grigg saw his low cross put behind for a corner, but the move following the clearance broke down when Wright hung up in an offside position.
A foul on Power forty yards out saw O’Nien float it in and over everybody’s heads – a bit of a waste – giving their keeper the chance to take a return form the goal kick and do his party trick of dribbling out of the box – a party trick we’d surely take advantage of. Grigg did well to get on to Scowen’s deep, deep cross, but he was right on the line and it was easy for the keeper. With nine minutes gone, we got in trouble as MKD came into our box, and a corner was conceded on our left. They repeated the short routine, with Jerome clipping his shot short of the near post. Gooch took a pass from Willis and found Scowen, who was fouled. The free went to the right, and when the cross was only partially blocked, Power was on hand near the edge of the box to hit it right-footed into the net with ten minutes gone. Nice finish, Max, even if there was a teeny weeny deflection that made next to no difference to the likelihood of the keeper getting to it.
Another MKD corner, on our right, saw them try a long one, which we headed away at the back post, but a Gooch foul gave them the chance to put another ball in to the box- which Jerome got a head to as it dropped at the front of the goal area, and it lopped over and went in off the far post. Oh, well, the lead was nice for a couple of minutes. Hume’s touch was far too string as he burst in to their box in our next attack, and seemed to take a knock from the invisible man, but it turned out to be nothing.
A bit of harrying near halfway won us a throw, but we had to work it back to get it forward, with Wyke trying to get between two defenders to the punt upfield. The next lob into the box, as we passed twenty minutes, was right onto Grigg’s toe – or rather it should have been, but he couldn’t stretch far enough to get the vital touch with only the keeper between him and glory.
When MKD tried to be clever with a free on halfway, they could only put the return pass out for a throw – how very Sunderland of them – before we needed some neat defensive work by O’Nien to break up a visiting attack in our box as the game went from one end to the other. Matthews took a long-range shot comfortably as the ref halted play to have a look at an injured Don on the halfway line. A nice one-two saw Hume away, but the keeper was first to the first time cross from the line in what was a very open game. The visitors looked keen enough, but (thankfully) their passing in crucial areas let them down when coming forward – as when they charged in to our box but put the pass to Matthews rather than their man on 27. Another visiting free a couple of minutes later came into the box, but was easily cleared as it dropped the wrong side, from their viewpoint, of the defence.
Gooch’s low cross, after he’d got into the box, was cut out, and we had to work it across to the other side, from where Hume carried it back across for Gooch to fire way over and see the ball nestle comfortably in the big flag draped over the seats. A bit wild, Goochy, even if there has been a line of five defenders, plus the occasional midfielder, between us and their goal since the start. Another Sunderland corner was headed clear by that defence, and when we got it back in it ran for a goal kick. Wyke did well to chest one back for Scowen, but Josh still hasn’t got any shooting boots and he blazed it a few rows further up the Roker end than Gooch had managed.
An swift Dons break ended with a cut-back from the line right across the goal, to be hacked away at the back post by O’Nien as the visitors continued to look bright – and Wright had to head over our bar to concede yet another corner as the break approached. This one was fired at head height to the penalty spot and flicked clear for Willis to chase out and hoof southwards as a single added minute as announced.
The half ended with Wyke summing up our first half by fouling Lewington as he tried to dispossess their man right on the line – and a 1-1 scoreline was about right. We’d looked calmer without creating nearly as many chances for our forwards as we have in most games, while the visitors got forward at every opportunity put were let down by their final ball. The second half needs to see more coming into the box from Gooch and Hume, but more importantly we need to create more coming directly through the middle and turn their central defenders with some precise passes to Wyke and Grigg.
No changes for the second half, as we were - as usual – out well before the opposition – and we kicked off proceedings, but within a minute a Dons attack ended with Power doing a cracking impersonation of Edward Scissorfeet, catching Fraser as he swung to clear on the edge of the box – penalty, that Fraser himself put to Matthews’s left as the keeper dived to his right. Oh bugger.
After a few minutes of them coming forward with a bit more confidence, we at least got hold of the ball and played it around a bit – just a bit, mind. Grigg chased a long ball down the left and won a throw, but Hume wandered offside as we tried to pass it forward. Grigg was off again, this time playing it back to Power, and we had to go back to go forward yet again as they closed us down all over the pitch. A spot of patience go the ball out to Gooch, and his cross was knocked behind for a corner. Gladwin and Wright had a bit of a tussle as we waited for it to be taken, earning a chat with the ref, then Scowen’s kick to the near post was headed behind by Jerome. O’Nien was first to the cross, but he’d climbed up his opponent’s back to get there and the whistle went for a free.
On 56, Grigg went wide on the left again, and turned to find Power, who put it back out to O’Nien, who slid it through to Hume – the cutback from the line looked really tempting from my couch, but found nobody. A lovely move which deserved better, I think. As the hour ticked by, Gooch picked up a rebound and fed Willis - but the cross showed why Willis is a defender and not a winger as it sailed straight out of touch. Oh dear.
A corner was won after Jerome flattened O’Nien but play was allowed to go on, with a yellow being shown to their man before the kick was taken. Unfortunately, they cleared it then replaced Walker with Carlton Morris. Hume’s ball to Grigg didn’t stick, and ran through to the keeper as Graham and Maguire warmed up. Gooch was away down the right, rolled across the goal – and missed by Grigg, surely ending his afternoon, according to the screams from my couch. From me. Just stick your leg out, man Will. Leadbitter was caught very late by Morris, who got yellow as Maguire made way for Maguire on 67. His first action was to take a free which was deflected for a corner on our right, but that was cleared as well, ending up as a throw our throw on the right. We put together a decent period of possession and pressure, Hume cutting it back again but not quite close enough to Maguire on the edge of the box. A nice ball in from Maguire, only for Hume to knock it behind rather than in – with Denver arguing that a defender had got the last touch. It had been the last touch for Grigg as Graham came on with 72 gone. Danny had removed the need for constantly putting his hair behind his ears by the clever application of a little man-bun. Let’s hope it makes a difference, and that he has a few more chances than Wyke has been provided with so far.
O’Nien Maguire, and Hume worked well together for the latter to see his cross blocked for another corner, but the ref was allowing sort of physical contact in the box and another free was conceded. Gladwin made way for Cargill immediately after this, as the visitors seemed to sense that they were getting close to a rare away win, even if there was still a quarter of an hour to go, as, no matter how much we pressed, we didn’t get through.
As yet another attack was repelled, this time with the EFL commentator commenting “Graham looks interested”, which is a start, I suppose, their Thompson popped a hamstring (ouch) as he chased up the pitch. On came Sorenssen in his place after O’Nien out the ball out. Ten minutes to save the world, Lads…and Gooch went for it, ending up in a heap as he tried to get into the box bit with no free-kick awarded. Hume burst to the edge of the box and lashed it a shot that took a deflection and had me celebrating – until realised it had hit the keeper’s boot and not the back of the net. We needed a great save by Matthews to keep us in the game as Sorenssen played it across to Fraser after a quick break, dashing off his line to block near the edge of the box.
On came Diamond for Willis and five minutes of fresh air and fun, and O’Nien moved to the right with Gooch on the left – where he promptly ran out of space on the edge of the area and lost the ball. Considering the amount of the ball we’d seen in the second half, the number of chances we created was pretty poor bordering on awful. Five added minutes were announced just after they broke and flashed a shot across the face of Matthews’s goal. Maguire found Gooch and his lopping cross was met by Graham at the back post – but headed straight at the keeper. The partnership was repeated, with Graham knocking it to Maguire, who was challenged, then we looked like we’d levelled when Power got a shot away in the box, but Fisher was down very well to tip it past the post. Close, and Gooch won another corner on the left, with Matthews dashing into the box – but Wyke got there first and headed beyond the back post. Last chance? Possibly, but we sent it long towards their goal and they hoofed it back, and that was it. What did I say about ominous? Their first away win since September last year, the first time they’ve beaten us - proving beyond doubt that nobody breaks that sort of run like SAFC.
Man of the Match? Gooch and Hume tried to play the wingback roles, but with the visitors having done their homework, they couldn’t get in as many crosses as we’d have liked, and when they did, Grigg managed to either not be there or not get the vital touch. Maguire provided more creativity in the short time he was on the pitch than the central midfield in the previous hour and a bit – Leadbitter sort of excluded, as that’s not really his job in this formation – so my vote goes to him. Take heed, Parky and stop leaving your best player on the bench.