On a day that attracted nigh on 4,500 Wearsiders to the South Yorkshire Riviera, the subject of their affections spectacularly failed to get anywhere near the level of performance that any sane supporter would accept. 0-3 to a Barnsley side who, with absolutely no disrespect, are nowt special but fully deserving of their win, is simply not on, and a few players could well see the end of their Sunderland careers in the wake of it.
After a couple of games with no chance of refreshment in advance, we hit Wakefield. Ah, memories of stop-offs between Sheffield, Nottingham, and home, in years gone by. The Black Rock and the Ale House were both accommodating and providing of good beer (as was the one by the bus stop), and we were well up for the game by the time we got to Oakwell. We met our Ian with surprising ease, then got stuck in the queue for the bar. Memories of Agnew scoring against us, winning the league in the snow thanks to Clarke, Summerbee (happy birthday, Nicky) and that curl from Phillips, of sitting next to Dean Whitehead’s brother, and Liam Lawrence being refused entry to the players’ car park… I used to like Oakwell.
A packed away end, and we lined up, with a couple of sort-of expected changes:
Jones Kone Browning Oviedo
Honeyman Catts Ndong McGeady
It was sunny, it was warm, and there were well over 4,000 of us. In short, everything needed for a good, old-style, day out and three points. For the first twenty or so, it was pretty much like one of those games in the late 90s when the home fans would beseech us to be gentle with their team, and we'd inevitably run out comfortable victors. We teased them, we stretched them, and we generally made them look second best by a long way. What we didn't do was score, which is pretty much what it's all about. There was plenty of huff and puff, with Ndong seeing a lot of the ball across the middle, as he's done for most of this of season's games, but despite this and moves down both wings, we didn't give their keeper too much trouble. He won a corner early on after good work out wide, but Speedy McGeady’s dead ball, while causing a bit of a kerfuffle, was cleared despite us having what seemed like a bundle of chances to put it away.
Catts was next to set things up, with a class long pass giving Grabban the opportunity to run at the home defence. Resisting the temptation of Grabban glory himself (sorry. It's compulsory) Lewis rolled it to Honeyman - but the shot was blocked. Only a question of time, we thought. There were shots saved or blocked from Catts and McGeady (over the bar) as we continued to pile the pressure on and we waited for the inevitable breakthrough - which didn't come, despite Grabban's shot being deflected wide.
Almost inevitably, the home side took heart from our inability to hit the net, and started to look like they were gaining belief in themselves, winning a few corners, managing to head straight at Ruiter with the rest of the goal beckoning. A let-off there. But it didn't last.
Remember all the basic stuff about defending your posts at corners? You know, the sort of basic, sensible stuff that's virtually illegal these days? Well, if a certain defender of ours had ignored the manager and done what comes naturally, the ball would've hit him instead of the net when Ruiter and Kone failed to get it away on the half hour.
I believe my words at the time were "How in the wide world of sport are we not winning this?" The answer was made even more obvious only a few minutes later when Browning rose like a young salmon to head away -straight to their man (Barnes?) who simply did what came naturally and hit it past Ruiter. The end of the world as we know it? Not quite, but the end of our hopes today, and quite possibly the bursting of the Grayson feel-good bubble which had taken a bit of a battering against Leeds.
We did get a bit of a grip in the last few minutes of the first half, and there looked to be a foul on Vaughan as he bore down on the box. We screamed for a penalty, those with dead clever phones said it was outside, but McGeady’s effort was nowhere near anyway. Should have done better, Aiden.
I believe there was a solitary single added minute, but it was no good to us, and we went in two behind in a game that we should have gone ahead in, and I honestly believe that if we had the home side would have given up. Our fault.
No changes for the second half, and we had our chances to get back into it, with a McGeady free-kick almost finding Jones, then both Grabban and Vaughan seemingly fouled in dangerous positions, but we didn't get the decisions, which, to be fair, we only screamed for out of habit rather than belief. Grayson (note, not Simon any more) tried to shake things up by swapping Vaughan for Goooooooch, where I'd have paired Lynden with him rather than Grabban, but what do I know? Likewise, when Khazri replaced Honeyman, and every bad touch the Tunisian made drew a negative reaction from the visiting fans, which is hardly surprising given his recent wantaway comments.
With 20 to go, it was all over, as if it hadn't been for ages, when Ruiter did a Sunday morning thing and didn't stand up to a shot at his near, right-hand post and the ball fizzed over him and in. Poor goalkeeping, Rob. It didn't get any better, as both teams made half-hearted efforts to change the scoreline.
I can't recall how much added time there was, for which I apologize. Many had already left before the final whistle, which meant that the players got a little less gyp as they left the field to our left.
Bad day at the office? Too right, and on today's evidence it won't be the only one this season. Having said that, just as one swallow doesn't make a summer (after Norwich), two Whooper Swans don't make a winter. Call me a happy clapper if you like, and the last two league performances have been awful, but it's still early days, and after the drawn-out agony of the last few seasons, I'm not going to get all suicidal just yet. Mind, it was bad today, like.
Man of the Match? Probably Ndong for cruising around as usual and looking worth his transfer fee.
Keep the Faith
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