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Sunderland AFC v reading (home)...

After the euphoria of last week’s win I’m trying to keep my feet on the ground as a lot of our bad habits, such as passing, were still evident against Burton. There’s also the slight problem of our ‘playing at home hoodoo’ and if we can finally get over that this afternoon, I think we’ll turn this awful season around and move on to better places. Vaughan is suspended after acting the goat following his goal last Saturday and that’s a blow but Grabban has done well and scoring goals hasn’t been our major problem so far. I hope Grabban won’t be recalled by Bournemouth in the transfer window – maybe we could ask for Defoe back? I wish. Vito will be returning to the SoL for the first time and I hope he gets a warm welcome, before conceding several goals that is. Match prediction: 2-1 to us.

Newcastle’s defeat at Chelsea was a pleasing aperitif to the main fare. When I tuned into SAFSEE I discovered that Gibson was a late replacement for McNair and I wasn’t sorry as I thought he put a decent shift in when he came on last week. The first real action was in the seventh minute when Catts set up Honeyman and his shot was just wide of the right post. Coleman switched Browning and O’Shea around in central defence after a while to play them in their optimum positions. McManaman was making his presence felt and received a yellow-card for his pains and shortly afterwards our ex-player Paul McShane was also booked for a foul on Oviedo, who was sounding lively again. Reading didn’t muster a chance till nearly the twentieth minute and things were going ominously well. The crowd, which apparently looked larger than of late, were certainly in good voice. Next thing Reading should have scored but Edwards put it over from six yards out after our defence had had one of its characteristic switch-offs. Commentator Gary Bennett said a few times that we needed to increase the pace and put more pressure on, adding that it looked more like a practice-match. It was still goalless at the half-hour mark and not much had happened really. Reading then won the first corner of the match, which said a lot. Catts was booked and he soon gave away another free-kick as Reading tried to frustrate us by keeping the ball a lot. It sounded like it was working. Elsewhere Bolton were two-up against Barnsley and that wasn’t good news for us. Oviedo was booked in mysterious circumstances and that means he’ll be suspended. The attendance was announced; 27,386. It looked like it was going to be 0-0 at the break and then deep into stoppage-time all hell broke loose as we had the ball in the net with the linesman signalling a goal but then ref Keith Stroud said it wasn’t. McManaman was promptly dismissed while there was no goal and so it ended 0-0 after all.

As we kicked off again a win seemed unlikely as we hadn’t threatened much so far with eleven men. Still, I was ready to settle for a scuffed effort in the ninetieth minute and so waited to see what would happen. It turned out that McManaman had handled the ball into the net but the shot by Matthews probably would have gone in anyway if he’d left it alone. Reading won two corners early on but we got them away without much bother but next thing Reading were ahead. McGeady, who hadn’t done much all game, gave the ball away and after a quick counter-attack Edwards scored from five yards out. Reading won another couple of corners soon afterwards and we were on the rack. Things went from bad to worse when Oviedo went down injured and was eventually replaced by...Galloway. Gulp! Our subs started to warm up and we needed some more inspirational switches like we had last Saturday. I reckoned Asoro was the man to make something happen. The crowd were sounding very frustrated as Reading knocked it around among themselves and we failed to pressurize them. There were still twenty-five minutes to go and the game was by no means lost. We won our first corner and our fans responded so we needed a lot more of the same to get even a draw. Asoro came on for McGeady but instead of giving us a boost, Reading promptly got a second when Matthews allowed the ball to fall to Barrow, who wellied it in. The game looked well beyond us now but things soon got worse when Barrow got his second to make it 3-0. With a fair bit of time remaining I was ready to stop it there as it sounded like we might concede more. Having just written that, hope reared its ugly head when Asoro was fouled and we were awarded a penalty. Grabban put it away. Could we get two back in fifteen minutes? I doubted it but Asoro had done what we’d signally failed to do i.e. put some pressure on their back four. We made our last switch when we brought on Gooch for Catts and then Burton went a goal down, which was good for us. Asoro was down injured for a while and we faced the prospect of playing with nine men but he managed to recover. Asoro won the applause of the crowd because of his endeavour and surely we have to start with him instead of McGeady next week. It turns out he’s also a long-throw man as well. There were six minutes of stoppage-time but it ended 1-3.

Defeat, injuries, red and yellow cards… Well, we’ve certainly come back to earth with a bump. Anyway, hopefully see you at Molyneux.

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