I’ve enjoyed this season so far and I’ve been lulled into an optimistic mood about today’s game. I don’t have any solid team news at this early hour but Catts will surely be back and he played a stormer against Derby while O’Shea was very solid in the Bury match so at last we’ve got a bit of steel in the side. Norwich have a very good home record but we beat them last time we were there and I think we’ll do okay again today. I’m hoping to watch the match at the Old Red Lion at the Angel, which is a London home for both Norwich and Sunderland fans, but with Spurs playing the Mags at the same time they may well be showing their game instead. Match prediction: 2-2.
Disappointingly the pub was showing the Spurs match and another bar in East London that often showed our games in the past, wasn’t answering the phone so I had to stay at home and try to catch it online as I knew all my local pubs would have the Spurs game on. My Sportsmania subscription had run out and I needed a code to resubscribe but despite much searching, I couldn’t find a code anywhere. My colleagues at ALS had sent me info on how to watch games but it was all over my head so I had to resort to the radio. I have a subscription to SAFSEE (£45 this season while it was always free before) so I got that on. We were starting with the same line-up as against Derby so O’Shea and Khazri were both on the bench and the two Norwich old boys, Vaughan and Grabban were upfront. Jerome was starting for them and he often does well against us.
The crowd was around twenty-five thousand and a good lively racket was coming down the line as we kicked off. Norwich had much more of the ball in the opening stages but we had a free-kick in a good spot in the sixth minute though nothing came of it. Kone seemed to be having one of his sloppy days and he conceded a free-kick just outside our box from which Norwich won the first corner of the game. Norwich were still having the better of it and they kept trying to catch our defence on the hop by slotting balls through for the speedy Jerome. They won another corner after fifteen minutes but we were weathering the storm. Vaughan and Grabban then linked up well which resulted in the latter shooting into the side-netting. That was more like it. Steele made a good save from a Martin shot and that was their best effort so far. Norwich won another corner in the twenty-fifth minute and with plenty of tall lads in their side they were always a threat but we again cleared well. Next thing we were one-up and it was the combination of our front-men that did the trick as Vaughan flicked it on for Grabban to slot past Gunn in goal. That’s two in two league games for Grabban and there’ll surely be plenty more to come. Norwich had to go for it and they’d be leaving gaps at the back for our front two to nip into. Six minutes later Vaughan just failed to get to a great McGeady cross; 2-0 would have been very nice to go in with at the break. There’d been a chant of ‘My garden shed’ and not long afterwards the ball disappeared over the stand and we had to have another one. Norwich were pressing as we neared the break but we were hard to break down and were covering for each other well, which produced rumblings of discontent among the home fans. There was just one minute of stoppage-time but we got through it well and ended the half ahead. This was a good solid performance but we’d have to keep it up till the end. We sounded quite capable of getting another goal and I couldn’t see Norwich coming back if we did.
Norwich were quick out of the traps, as expected, and Steele had to save niftily from Jerome before we cleared another free-kick. Vaughan and Grabban combined well again without any end result and immediately at the other end Kone made a crucial interception to clear a dangerous chance for them. Vaughan got the first booking of the match and then Norwich won two more corners so it was all going on. Again we had to weather the storm and maintain concentration, especially when Norwich took their free-kicks quickly. We won our first corner of the game after a nifty run and cross from McGeady. It sounded like Norwich had cleared it but Catts fed McGeady and he lammed it in from twenty yards or so giving Gunn no chance. “We are Sunderland! We are Sunderland!” came over loud and clear. Norwich promptly replaced the dangerous-sounding Wildschut with Murphy and I was pleased to hear him go. (Meanwhile at Sid James’s the Mags were one behind and one man down with Shelvey having been sent off.) The sun was streaming in my window and all seemed right with the world.
Oliveira came on for Jerome and I was glad to hear him go to but apparently Oliveira came on and got their equalizer last weekend. Newcastle went 2-0 down and then we were 3-0 up after McGeady put in a great cross and Grabban headed home. McGeady’s not fully fit yet… We brought Gibson on for Catts with about a quarter of an hour to go and I fancied another goal. Hoolahan came on for Naismith and Norwich promptly got one back when Grabban hit it into his own net. Can he claim the match ball? As we entered the final ten minutes I began to feel tense in case we folded under pressure and when they hit the post it did little to soothe my nerves. We brought on Gooch for McGeady but maybe a defender would have been better.
As Norwich got yet another corner I had to get up and start pacing around. O’Shea replaced Grabban and surely that would see us out. Steele made a great save from Watkins with a few minutes to go and then five minutes of stoppage-time were announced, which I could have done without. Norwich won their thirteenth corner of the game and I kept glancing at the time but it finished 3-1 to us.
Well, that was a nervy ending but this was a great result against one of the fancied sides in the league. We’re playing together well as a team and Grabban and McGeady in particular are looking like very good signings. Bring on Wednesday on Wednesday.
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