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Sunderland AFC v burton (away)...

Will this be the day our season finally turns the corner? I’m certainly not getting my hopes up but a win would take us above Burton while fellow-strugglers Bolton have a tough match against Wolves. McNair and Catts will be available and we’ve had a real lack of bodies lately so that’s a positive. I’ll be going to the game but have to get a ticket from somewhere as our allocation was sold out. Against Villa it sounded like we were more of a threat going forward but the same old defensive frailty was all too evident. There was frost on the rooftops in London this morning so it’s going to be a chilly day and I’m off to catch the train from St Pancras soon. Match prediction: 1-1.

Our train was delayed and we got into Burton half an hour late at 2.20 so time was getting tight. I’d noticed a few lads at Derby Station sporting Chris Coleman masks and ended up sharing a taxi to the ground with them on discovering it was a good hike from the station. There was still the problem of not having a ticket but this was quickly sorted by buying one from the ticket office where I was able to get a seat ticket for our end. By 2.45 I was sat down chatting away to one of the faithful who told me he lived in the Derby area. On approaching the ground I’d thought it was a medium-sized factory and it was very small inside. It was clearly going to be up close and personal. There were no surprises in our starting eleven and both Catts and McNair were in there. I didn’t know any of Burton’s side but goalkeeper Bywater rang a vague bell. Before the game started Oviedo was on his knees saying a prayer and we certainly needed something of a miracle to turn our season round. Our fans filled a standing area behind the goal to my right while I was in a sizeable area of seats, many of which were still empty at kick-off and for the rest of the game. How come when I called the SoL yesterday morning, they told me our allocation was sold out and there’d been no returns? Anyway, our fans were in good voice.

I was pleased to see that we didn’t start well as of late this has usually been the prelude to giving a couple of daft goals away and then losing the match. We let Burton have the honour of doing much better in the opening twelve minutes or so while we displayed some of our classic backwards-attacking moves. We slowly started to get into it a lot more and Oviedo was involved in a couple of threatening runs and we won our first corner in the nineteenth minute. Oviedo blasted a good chance well wide but five minutes later his opposite number Matthews made an even worse job of a similar chance. A little while later a guy behind me opined, “They’re shite, aren’t they?” and he wasn’t talking about us so a glimmer of hope appeared on the horizon. Actually I thought Burton had a couple of decent players in Miller and especially no 9 Scannell, who raced down their right, skinning both Oviedo and Oshea in the process, before putting in a great cross that we put out for a corner. We had our chances through shots from Grabban, McNair and McGeady but in the dying minutes of the half Burton had two good efforts when Sbarra shot just over and then Sordell shot just wide after we lost the ball in a crucial area. Still, it remained 0-0 at the break and I’d seen worse.

During half-time there was much cheering when Newcastle 0 Watford 2 was announced but not a word when the more immediately relevant Wolves 2 Bolton 0 came over the p.a. 

We started brightly after we kicked off again but Burton soon got stuck in at the other end and a good dipping shot by Miller went only just over. Our passing was often lousy, again. I was pleased to see Miller replaced by Mason just before the hour as he’d provided a good deal of their threat. What had been a bright crisp sunny day turned very dark and next thing it started to sleet like hell and temperature dropped. It could’ve frozen the balls off a baboon and not wanting to get soaked we moved three rows back to an area of empty seats. Maybe the cold gave us a boost as we started to pepper their goal with attempts forcing Bywater into a fine one-legged save before Grabban fired a shot just over. Midway through the half the dangerous Scannell was subbed and I was very glad to see him leave the pitch. He’d maybe pulled a muscle as he was feeling his leg earlier on. O’Shea was yellow-carded maybe for timewasting at a free-kick, maybe for a bit of verbal. With twenty minutes on the clock we made our first switch, bringing on Gibson for McNair. My heart usually sinks when I see Gibson coming on but he had a decent game, looking strong and passing better than some of his team-mates had done. We soon replaced McGeady with Vaughan and with ten minutes to go we brought on Asoro for McManaman. These proved to be match-changing substitutions as in the eighty-third minute we won a corner and from Catts flick-on Vaughan was there to hit it into the net. He loves to score that lad and he ran over to knock seven bells out of the corner flag as all around him rejoiced. I even dared to think we’d win as with their two most dangerous players off and only seven minutes left, I couldn’t see them upping their game. Instead it was us who upped our game as five minutes later we got our second. Asoro had looked great since his late arrival, getting really stuck into challenges and pelting down the right wing in a manner that suggested he meant business. He raced down the right again and put in a great low cross that was stabbed in by Honeyman from close range. The friendly Burton stewards had their work cut out but nobody got on the pitch. Five minutes of stoppage-time were conjured from somewhere but it was our day and it ended in a 2-0 victory. There was a great roar as Coleman came out and turned to wave to us all.

I had to get back to the station at a fair lick to catch my return train but when I got there a small group of lads started singing ‘Get Down On It’ by, I believe, Kool and the Gang’ and soon loads of other fans were joining in. It was high time we had something to sing about.

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