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Sunderland AFC v barnsley (away)...

I’ve just read that we’ve already got as many points in our first five league games as we got in our first fourteen last season and that’s put a bit of a smile on my face. I’ll be off in a minute to catch the train from St Pancras up to Barnsley for my first game of the season and I’m really looking forward to it. With three wins and a draw from four away matches so far I’m feeling confident that we’ll get t least a draw today. Oviedo should be back and he’s got to be better than what we’ve seen of Galloway so far. Ruiter has surely merited a start too but there probably won’t be any other changes. I’ve never been to Barnsley before and the Barnsley team are very much an unknown quantity to me but they’ve got a few players out with injury and have lost three games out of four. There are going to be at least four thousand of the faithful at the game and we’ll be making a hell of a racket to roar the team on. Match prediction: 2-1 to us.

After a £2 punnet of skinny chips I made my way towards our end of the ground and the Sunderland presence was very strong with singing coachloads passing by and lads singing, “Bobby, bobby give uz a wave!” to two attractive WPC’s. As I entered the bar area a red flare had just been set off and it was a bit of a battle to squeeze my way through. I was in my seat by 2.40 and our fans filled the whole of that end. There were large areas of seats that had been left empty between the home fans and our end. The sun was blasting down and spirits were very high.

Apart from the expected starts for Oviedo and Ruiter there were no other surprises.
After a bit of a flurry from Barnsley in the opening minute or so we started to take over and ran the show for fifteen minutes, catching them on the hop with quick long through balls and good runs to the line by Honeyman and McGeachy down either flank. In the fourth minute it looked like Pearson was about to turn it past Davies in goal but the latter managed to grab it and ten minutes later Grabban really should have done better when he had plenty of time in the box but put his shot well over. Vaughan was putting himself about a good deal but with a bit more effort he would have got on the end of several good passes instead of always being nearly there. And that was about it for the enjoyable part of the game because things started to turn decidedly in Barnsley’s favour. For all that attacking we’d done we still hadn’t had a shot on target. A good run down the left by Potts won Barnsley their first corner and they soon won a couple more. We fought back for a short while but on the half-hour Potts had a free header in our box and though our fans laughed at the Barnsley fans oohs and aahs, it had looked ominous to me. A minute later Ugbo had put them one-up after a low shot came across the goal to the right hand post. Barnsley took a lot of heart and even their fans woke up to make their first audible chant. They were soon two-up after Barnes lashed in a shot from near our left post after getting on the end of a cross. Five minutes before the break there was a controversial moment when Vaughan was brought down on the very edge of their box. I thought the ref had given a penalty but after yellow-carding Lindsay he awarded a free-kick. In the final minute we managed to get a shot on target but even that was deflected slightly. For the final minutes of the half my eyes were dazzled by the sun reflecting from a VW advert in the far right corner and I could hardly see a thing. If only it had dazzled me for the rest of the game, things might have felt better. There was a lot of booing from our end as the teams went off at the break and I think most of it was for the ref over that penalty incident.

Our players came out a few minutes before Barnsley and I reckon things might have been getting too hot in that dressing-room. We certainly needed to pull something out of the bag if we wanted to get even a draw. As it turned out we never looked like doing that and apart from our passing, which was often lousy, our players didn’t seem to have much communication with each other. Vaughan was replaced by Gooch about ten minutes in and I was glad to see him go as he struck me as one of those players who’s always just about to score or get on the end of a great move but doesn’t quite make it. Khazri came on for Honeyman twenty minutes in and though he raced around a lot, this mostly seemed to be sideways. Barnsley were defending in numbers and we seemed to have little idea how to penetrate their solid ranks. Our fans had been decidedly muted since that second goal went in and many angry shouts began to ring out e.g., “Are you watching, Ellis Short?”, “Fuckin’ embarrasin’ the lorrayuz!”, “You’re not fit to wear the shirt!” and most particularly, “Fuck off, Khazri!” Just after the midway point of the half Moncur gave us something else to chant about when he smashed in a great goal after steaming down our left (again in Jones’ defensive area). There was a repeated chant of, “We’re fuckin’ shit! We’re fuckin’ shit! We’re fuckin’ shit!” Sadly that was true. Plenty of our fans left after that third one went in but I was determined to get my money’s worth of misery, as well as a potential case of sunstroke as that sun continued to blast down. Grabban had a good shot ten minutes from time that was topped over by Davies and that was easily our best effort of the game. We picked up a couple more yellow cards, for Oviedo and McGeady, and large numbers of our fans, who must have made a significant contribution to the crowd of 15,697, had gone long before the end. The announcer forgot to mention how much stoppage-time there was and the game seemed to be drifting on horribly forever but that whistle finally went and Khazri in particular came in for a torrent of abuse as he skulked off.

Barnsley clearly hadn’t read the script as they comfortably beat us today. If this is how we’re going to play with Ndong and Kone in the side, God help us without them. I can’t see Vaughan scoring…

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