A sunny Saturday afternoon in Sunderland, what could be better? Not a lot!
However, three points against a substandard Sheff Wed would make the day complete. In the last few years a day like today would be ruined by going to the match to witness a poor performance and normally a defeat. After loosing to Ipswich last week the players were expected to respond positively. In hindsight losing to Ipswich may turn out to be a good thing, it’s brought both the fans and players back down to earth, there is a lot of hard work to be done over this season and we wont win every game as convincingly as Leeds. Keane brought Nosworthy and Danny Collins in for Neil Collins and Robbie Elliott respectively in defence. In midfield Liam Miller, Kavanagh (injured) and Wallace (suspended) were replaced by Lawrence, Leadbitter and Hysen. In attack Brown made way for Murphy.
We were slow to come out of the blocks and Wednesday were the team that had the urgency and determination in their game. The visitors should have been 0-1 up in the first ten minutes after some sloppy play by Sunderland, fortunately for us the striker dithered on the ball enabling our defence to close him down and clear, from this point Wednesday seemed to lose the initiative and sat back.
Still within the first ten minutes, we began to make chances and had two or three without really threatening the goalkeeper. From then on in we began to take hold of the game, almost as though their opportunity sprung the lads into life. Although we had large amounts of possession we never really challenged their ‘keeper, most of the play was in and around midfield.
Dwight Yorke was beginning to shine, showing us what an experienced class player we have. Yorke was pulling the strings, holding up the ball, laying it off into space everything that you want from him. To do this he had to slip into midfield which only left Murphy up front, who seemed off the pace and was unable to latch onto some of Yorke’s through balls.
Our cause going forward was not helped by the linesman’s lack of ability to officiate a professional football match. Time after time he seemed to take an eternity to raise his flag much to the dissatisfaction of the home fans. We made good chances from corners and crosses but just lacked that bit of class on the end of the cross. Going into injury time and we were really pressing, the ball broke for Yorke, just inside the box, you’d put your house on Yorke to score from that position, however he dragged the shot wide. In hindsight Yorke could have taken the ball further into the box, maybe lack of match fitness helped make his decision to shoot.
The second half started much the same as the first ended, Whitehead broke from midfield only to see a well struck shot rattle off the post for a goal kick. We had large amounts of possession and were really pressing Sheffield Wednesday; however we always seemed to be lacking up front and never really made any clear cut chances. For all the pressure their goalkeeper hadn’t had a shot to save.
At the midway point of the second half Nosworthy set Lawrence away down the wing. Lawrence whipped in a great cross picking out Leadbitter, who’d made an intelligent run into the box from midfield; the youngster needed no second invitation and coolly volleyed the black cats into the lead.
I expected us to go on and get another to make it safe. However for some reason, whether it was because many of the players that started were here from last year and might have become nervous taking the lead or were simply too drained from their efforts we lost the initiative and sat back.
In a game we should have had wrapped up comfortably, we began clock watching as Wednesday laid siege. The ball broke in the box for a Wednesday player in the last ten minutes, my heart was in my mouth, he lashed at the ball and sent it across the ‘keeper. Alnwick made a fantastic save but could only parry which prompted a terrific challenge from Collins to clear the ball and the oncoming attacker. The last twenty minutes seemed to take an eternity, but we got through the game and got the three points on the board.
Ten points from fifteen in September, inconceivable a month ago, much more of the same please Mr Keane the magic carpet is definitely heading in the right direction.
MOTM – Dwight Yorke, despite a small section of fans on his back he had a good game. He linked most of our play together and stood out, once he gets back to full fitness he’ll be a lot better. Dean Whitehead also had a really good game and covered every blade of grass.