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Sunderland AFC v derby (home)...

I see we’re second bottom of the Championship already but thankfully that’s just alphabetically. Anyway, I’m finding it hard to work up very much enthusiasm for tonight’s match but hopefully that’ll change when I see the teams coming out. Given our debt and our miniscule transfer budget, Grayson has done pretty well to bring in some new blood and I like the look of Ruiter especially. Ross McCormack should be an asset but Vaughan sounds like a liability having missed two penalties out of two. Darren Bent won’t be playing for Derby this evening and that’s a shame as it would’ve added a bit of spice but they’ll be fielding a few new players including Huddlestone and Curtis Davies. After the misery of last weekend and Gibsongate it seems Gibson himself may well play after all. I’ve been far from impressed by him so far but let’s hope he and the rest of them put some effort in and give us something to cheer about for a change. I’ll be watching the game on TV in the Kings Cross area and I’m not feeling optimistic so I think it’s going to be a draw. Match prediction: 1-1.

I got into the Euston Flyer, a popular watering-hole for our fans returning home via Kings Cross, about 7.30 and got a good spot in front of the big screen. At the beginning of every season I find it hard to recognize half our team and tonight was no exception with six new players starting. I was a bit surprised to see Ndong and especially Kone starting as I assume they’ll be off sooner rather than later. The management switched on the sound just before we started and I began to get into it. There was a minute’s applause for Bradley before the start and I joined in while the only other member of the faithful I could see in the bar shouted, “C’mon, Bradley son!” There were stacks of empty seats in the SoL as we kicked off.

We started off playing 4-4-2 and put some decent pressure on in the opening minutes but Derby had plenty of big lads at the back and looked solid. We won two corners in a row in the eighth minute after a nifty dribble down the left by Grabban and this got the crowd roaring. It was short-lived, however, as lots of sloppy defending (some things don’t change) allowed Derby to get a cross in from their right for Johnson to hit home from close range. There were shouts of joy from some previously unnoticed Derby fans in the bar and I had the horrible feeling we’d be hearing more before long.  It looked like 0-2 in the twentieth minute but Steele did well to get down and block a low shot from just outside the box. By the half-way mark we’d got back into it more and from a McGeady free-kick from the left of their box Catts, of all people, forced a great save out of their keeper and we soon had another corner. Grabban had a great shot with eight minutes to the break but it didn’t hit the mark – he looks handy that lad. As soon as I’d typed that we were awarded a penna for handball by Butterfield and Grabban stuck it away into the bottom-right corner just beyond the hands of Carson in goal. I’d just been hoping they wouldn’t let Vaughan take it. In stoppage-time Derby had a penalty-appeal turned down by referee Oliver Langford after a Catts tackle. Would Catts foul anyone? Get real, man. Anyway, my spirits were good as the whistle went and I don’t think it was only down to the Heineken as we’d displayed some fight and had also managed to get the ball to the by-line and stick a few crosses in. We were third in the league at half-time! Well… sort of.

It had been a fairly end to end game in the first half and as we kicked off again I fancied there’d be another goal or two. We started off with another nifty McGeady dribble and cross from the left and next thing Steele had to save well as he dived to push the ball out for a corner. A few minutes later Vaughan did well to get a shot in despite being surrounded by five Derby defenders but his low effort went tantalizingly wide of the left post. Vaughan did well again to keep in a long pass that looked certain to go for a throw before setting up another Catts goal-bound effort. Catts was there at the other end to head a Keogh effort out for a corner and it was all systems go. Next thing Catts burst through at the front and set up a great chance for Grabban, whose shot crashed off the right post. Still, at the hour-mark it remained 1-1 and it looked like anything could happen. I’d forgotten Superkev was on the Derby coaching staff but that beard was helping him to keep a low profile. Five minutes later Derby replaced Weimann with Vydra but we were still to make a change. Vydra gave them more oomph and they were really going for the winner. I wondered what had happened about that new rule about diving as Russell went down as if he’d been poleaxed by Grabban when he’d barely been touched but the ref took no action – is it retrospective? Martin missed a golden chance for them when he skied it from close range after more dodgy defending from us. Ndong conceded a free-kick in a dangerous spot just outside our box with twelve minutes on the clock and though it was blocked, Derby won a corner but Steele gathered the ball. He was doing well after the stick he’d taken last weekend. Derby were pressurizing more as we entered the final stages but then we turned the tables and created a couple of good chances as the crowd roared us on. I got chatting to a Swedish guy next to me and he asked me where Seb was now; I didn’t know the answer though I wished he was still with us. Anyway, Derby surged forward in the dying moments but another good Steele save denied them. It was 1-1 as the final whistle went.

It ended as I’d thought it would but I was impressed by the tenacity we displayed and there were some promising individual displays from Catts, Steele and Grabban. I think McGeady’s dribbling skills are going to bring us considerable pleasure while Ndong often looked great in the air. It’s very early days...

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