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Sunderland AFC v leeds (home)...

I’m really looking forward to this afternoon’s game and there’s a good feeling among our fans for a change. Leeds matches have always had a certain extra spice and it’s been that way for me since the early Sixties when we were both going for promotion from the Second Division and their great striker John Charles was pitted against Charlie Hurley. Our Cup Final victory will of course always be remembered too. We’ve done well so far and are currently in a play-off spot while Leeds are right behind us on goal difference. It looks like Oviedo may be in the squad and I’d like to see him play while Rodwell may also feature. To say that Rodwell has been a disappointment would be an understatement but amid last season’s gloom I thought he was starting to show that he could slot through a killer pass here and there. With the difference of class in the Championship, hopefully he can have more success. Here in London it’s proving difficult to find a pub showing our matches, especially when you’re up against an Arsenal match like we are today but the staff in my favourite bar have come to my rescue and told me last night that they’ll put our game on one telly just for me while the rest can watch the Arsenal game. There’ll be no sound but it’s better than nothing. Anyway, match prediction: 2-1 to us. 

I got to the bar just after 5.00, got a pint of Mahou in and took a seat near the screen in the quiet end. We were unchanged and there was no sign of Rodwell and Oviedo while I didn’t know any of the Leeds side. We were playing 4-4-2 and Leeds were in a 4-2-3-1 formation. McGeady won a corner in the third minute but it was hoofed clear. Grabban just failed to get a toe on a low cross from the left after a great flowing move and we’d started brightly. It was clear that it was going to be a tight hard-tackling match. Both Ndong and Catts were getting plenty of the ball in midfield and spraying it around well. It’s nice to have a midfield again. Leeds were showing that they could break quickly and in one such move Galloway got away with a penalty shout when Alioski went down on the edge of the box. When he fouled the same player Leeds were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous spot but Steele saved. By the quarter-hour mark Leeds had fought their way back into it and a few of our big-boots from the back had gone alarmingly astray. We broke quickly ourselves and Vaughan crossed in the box for Grabban to turn and shoot but his effort went onto the bar and was cleared. Almost at once Leeds went one-up when Alioski set up Saiz Alonzo in the box and he slotted home into the bottom left corner. Hernandez headed narrowly over not long afterwards and we were losing our grip with Alioski giving Galloway the runaround. We fought back but Leeds were looking solid in defence while we looked vulnerable to swift breaks down our left. With just less than ten minutes to the break Galloway was yellow-carded for a foul conceding another free-kick in a dangerous spot. If Leeds scored again, I reckoned we’d have had it but if we could pull one back before the break... Catts nearly did that with a low shot but Wiedwald in goal saved well. It was Jones’ turn to be penalized for a free-kick in a dodgy area four minutes before the break but we cleared it, though we were running out of luck and would need to be very careful. We conceded two corners in a row in a tense stoppage-time and I was relieved when the whistle went. Leeds clearly hadn’t read, which was decent but it looked a lot less than that to me.  the script and had proved a real handful and we’d need to improve our shooting accuracy as well as our left side of defence if we were going to get anything from the game. I got another pint of Mahou in and brooded.

As we kicked off again the pub had filled up a bit and the drunken singing from the far end was getting louder but nobody except me was showing the slightest interest in our match. Leeds pressed from the off and I could see Galloway being sent off by fair means or foul as Alioski went down in our box again. We’d hardly been in their half till we won a corner eight minutes after the restart but it came to nothing. Next thing we brought on Khazri for Vaughan and Matthews for Galloway and I was pleased, especially by the latter switch as Galloway had looked a liability. The crowd was 31,237 but it looked a lot less than that to me. Kone made a super cool clearance while under heavy pressure in our box and I started to feel slightly optimistic. Ekuban was down injured for a while and had to be replaced by Dallas. By the sixty-fifth minute we’d pepped up and I scented a goal. Steele made a great diving save from an Alioskli free-kick after Kone was penalized. With sixteen minutes on the clock we made our final switch when we brought on Asoro for Catts but instead of giving us a boost, it was Leeds who scored again when Dallas leapt high to head in a Saiz cross. The bar manager shouted across to me to come over and watch the Arsenal match instead. At least Saiz was subbed with ten minutes left so he couldn’t torment us anymore. Ndong was booked for clipping co-tormentor Alioski and the latter was on the deck for a good while. We pressed as best we could and Matthews of all people had a decent shot and Jones hit the side-netting and then six minutes of stoppage-time were announced. It was one of those days when we could have had sixty and still not scored so it ended 0-2.

We didn’t play well today and Leeds were a cut above us for most of this match so this was a wake-up call after the near euphoria of recent days.

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