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Sunderland AFC v wolves (away)...

Wolves are thirty-four points ahead of us and are looking certs for a play-off place at least. I can’t say that I’m at all confident of getting even a point this afternoon and as I look at the frost on the roofs opposite I’m wondering what I’m doing setting off to stand in the cold for a couple of hours and watch us get beat again. Still there’s always the slim chance that we’ll pull something off; a draw would be a good result. After the brief joy of the Burton match we of course crashed back to earth most horribly last Saturday. At least McManaman will be suspended today and hopefully we’ll give McGeady the day off to do a bit of Christmas shopping. Asoro has made a significant impact in both of his last appearances and should be given a start along with Gooch. Maybe there’ll be a lot of changes as Coleman must have been seething after the Reading game, though our injury list is long. There didn’t seem to be much demand for tickets for this match as I just called up the SoL on Monday and got one straightaway. Match prediction: 3-1 to them.

Despite there being snow on the ground in the Midlands, the pitch was looking in very good condition when I got to my seat around 2.30. Gooch was starting, which pleased me, and so was Love while Asoro was on the bench along with McGeady and Vaughan. One time Sunderland player Alfred N’Diaye was on the bench for them and I didn’t like the sound of that. The Wolves mascots were a pair of wolves along the lines of our own Samson and Delilah. No doubt in honour of Wolves fan Robert Plant ‘Kashmir was blasted over the p.a. Last time I was at Molineux, at Jody Craddock’s testamonial, Planty missed a couple of pennas. When the teams emerged there were flames shooting into the air, giant sparklers, flags twirling, the whole nine yards while their fans were prompted to burst into a quick chorus of, “Hi Ho! Wulverrampton!”

We started in our usual fashion:- passing backwards most of the time as well as making some terrible passes and the odd very alarming blooper near our penalty area. Other than that though, I realized about ten minutes in that we were looking quite solid and that Wolves didn’t look very threatening at all. Their number 7 Oliveira was looking very handy down the right wing and they were getting a few corners but there were no serious attempts on our goal in the first quarter. Sure, we weren’t threatening either but….one thing at a time, please. Then we started to attack more with Gooch and Honeyman buzzing around nicely without us creating any serious goalbound efforts. I wondered how Wolves had risen so high in the league as their shooting was terrible. One effort just after the half-hour mark was just stopped by one of their players from going for a throw-in. I think they must have been having a few lessons from Catts. We actually won a corner in the thirty-eighth minute, much to the chagrin of the home fans, who had no doubt expected to be a couple of goals up by then. Mind you, they were in good company there. I thought the game was dragging a bit and then realized that the clock had been stopped at 38.13 for a good while. For anyone bored by the game there was also the good old diversion of watching hefty lumps of snow fall off the stand roof and splatter the front row. Right on half time Bonatini skied a golden chance from inside the box and soon there was a chant of, “Top of the league – you’re ‘avin a laugh!” It was goalless at the break and the sides went off to a good smattering of applause from our end. There’d also been no shots on target. I was ready to settle for 0-0 at the final whistle, no problem.

We conceded a couple of free-kicks on the edge of our box in the early stages of the second period and that was nervewracking but we cleared them both. Gooch put in a couple of great runs down our right and was having a good game. There was a yellow card for, I think, O’Shea and a few minutes later we actually had a shot on target, a fairly tame Grabban effort. Ruiter was putting in a much more confident display, holding several corners instead of flapping at them but at times there didn’t seem to be any shouting from him to his back four and luckily we didn’t lose out because of that but it was hair-raising. Just after the hour-mark Catts received his customary yellow and I thought it might be a good idea to sub him before he got another. Unfortunately, there was no time for that as about a minute later he was booked again for a foul and walked the walk. We certainly don’t do things the easy way but at least playing for thirty minutes wouldn’t be as bad as last week’s forty-five. Maybe we can get it down to fifteen next week? Doherty was booked for them shortly afterwards and that was well-received in our end. N’Diaye came on for Saiss but he didn’t manage to join the ex-Sunderland scorers club. Their finishing continued to be terrible by and large, though they did get a few on target. Ruiter made a couple of decent saves and this match must have done him good. Our play wasn’t pretty after Catts went off and it hadn’t been much to shout about before either but it was effective. It was largely a backs to the wall effort with our defenders just booting it away as far as possible till it inevitably came back again. With ten minutes to go we brought on Galloway for Love, then Vaughan for Grabban and right on time Embleton replaced Gooch. Some fans had been shouting for Asoro but we weren’t to see him. Five minutes of stoppage-time were announced, which was cheered by the home fans but not by us. We held out though and all things considered this was a great result.

As I left the ground one of the faithful next to me said, “We’re shite and they’re shite anall.” Enough said but as I travel back to Euston in a carriage full of Millwall fans I’m feeling glad I made the effort to go.

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