2-2 to the goalkeepers just about sums up the afternoon. For a time in the second half it looked like we’d run away with the game, but even when you look like you should be winning 4-1, you have to actually put the ball in the net – and we didn’t. You don’t need me to tell you that, statistically, we’re now the worst home team in the history of the professional game, having failed to register a home win in eleven months.
Of course, the big news is that we’ve got a manager. Of the names being bandied about over the last few days, his was the one I fancied the most, although I did wonder if it was just his agent trying to get a better contract out of Wales. Anyway, he’s ours now, and hopefully he signed something before the game, otherwise he could be excused for changing his mind. Mebbe he’ll play himself in goal.
Matthews O’Shea Wilson Oviedo
Catts McNair Williams
Watmore Grabban McGeady
Kicking south, we started the game in a fairly lively fashion, with a sizeable visiting crowd making some noise and the home fans about as upbeat as you could expect with a new manager in the wings. McGeady had already tested the visiting defence a couple of times before his effort was turned away for a corner. Oviedo had shown us enough of his usual attacking intent to have us expecting nice things when he chucked over the resulting dead ball. Keeper’s ball all day, we thought, and we’d just about slumped back into our seats when Archer failed to keep hold of the ball and Grabban was on hand to score what will probably be the easiest goal of his career. That’s us with a bloke who’s scored nine goals by mid-November, and we’re still down the bottom. Beyond belief, but that’s us and that goal had some of the dafter amongst us thinking that we might just turn the corner.
Williams, who’d been his usual busy self, then showed why he’d not been getting a regular start at Palace by knacking himself when conceding a free not far outside our box. By the time we’d glued him back together and brought on Honeyman, at least two minutes had passed. It was a fairly straightforward free-kick down to Ruiter’s left-hand side, but somehow he let the ball through both his hands and his legs and we watched horrified and it bobbled over the line. Oh how the Millwall fans laughed, and how they smiled five minutes later when they won another free in just about the same position. This time, Ruiter got both hands to the shot, but seemed more concerned about where he’d land than where the ball when, meaning that he simply palmed it into the side of the net. Seriously, what chance do you have with that sort of nonsense going on? The young lad a couple of seats away, currently going through the ranks at Shildon, was going ballistic, screaming basic instructions at someone supposedly a seasoned professional. I’ve probably said this about eight times this season, but selling Mannone and bringing in the current pair has to be one of the worst pieces of business in our history.
That goal took a most of the energy out of our game, and you can understand why. We allowed Millwall to get forward and create a few chances, but they seemed to be feeling a bit sorry for Ruiter and fired off target every time. We did get forward ourselves, and had a decent shout for a penalty when Watmore went down in the box before he made a bit of a mess of a half-decent chance by changing feet and shooting wide. He appeared to twist his knee soon after that, meaning that he had to be replaced by McManaman with about five minutes of the half remaining. Five minutes plus the eventual seven of added time, that is.
Most of the half-time chat was understandably about the Sunday morning style goalkeeping, and the fact that we couldn’t really change things in that department without shooting the keeper’s confidence to a level that he would find it nigh-on impossible to recover from. Understandably, there were no more changes for us, and it only took a couple of minutes for Matthews to get his first Sunderland goal. Well, the records will say that it was his goal, but it was nothing more than a half-decent cross that their keeper went for unchallenged. Again, we were just about back in our seats when he inexplicably patted it into the net. How we laughed, and how we would have felt sorry for him had our keeper not been perfectly likely to do exactly the same.
Well, here we go, lets pezzle him with shots and crosses and get the game won. Grabban did get the ball in the net soon after, but his header (it was a diving effort, just in case you thought he’d learned to jump) was ruled illegal for either handball or a push. I saw neither, but Grabban didn’t seem to protest too much, so mebbe he felt a bit guilty. With our luck we’re never going to get those decisions anyway.
With two out-and-out wingers on the field, there were plenty of crosses going in, but we know that Grabban relishes nothing less than an aerial challenge, so they were mostly wasted. At the other end, Millwall looked to have taken the lead when a deflection sent Ruiter the wrong way, but he managed to change direction and make the save. Well done that man, and for a while it looked like we’d run away with the game – a team in a run of decent form would have surely relaxed and stormed into a two or three goal lead. With about ten minutes to go, Wilson went down injured hand had to be replaced by Browning (I’d almost forgotten about him and Galloway). There were still chances to win the game, most notably when Grabban completely missed yet another cross, and again in the added five minutes when McManaman worked enough space for a shot, but put it over the top.
All in all it wasn’t that bad a performance, apart from the obvious chappy with the gloves, but the draw means that we’ve now gone nearly a year without winning at home, and in that time have only been in the lead for a total of less than six minutes. Have fun with that, Paddy Power. Had we not been forced into substitutions, the addition of Vaughan could have given us the edge to win it, but when you’re down, your luck is out.
Man of the Match? Probably Matthews for scoring that scorcher and generally being OK defensively.
Welcome to Wearside Mr Coleman, you’ve got your work cut out. By the way, I hear Real Madrid are wanting shot of Gareth Bale.
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