There it is, then. Our first league win in August since Kirk Douglas was a twinkle in his dad's eye, or so it seems. The new G-Force struck as Grabban notched a brace either side of McGeady’s thunderbolt, and we weathered a persistent but generally ineffective storm after Norwich (not quite, but read on) poked a late consolation. Happy days.
If you think we had problems last season, spare a thought for Bishop. Despite Andre Bennett"s opener, they contrived to lose 3-7 at home to Benfield. Dull at Bishop? Played 3 drawn 1 lost 2, for 8 against 15.
Anyway, back to things Sunderland, a half four alarm and a fairly uneventful journey which included our bus overtaking on the A47. It'll be on the local news, but it meant we were at the Coach & Horses bang on eleven to meet the Wood brothers and young Liam, then complete the Telegraph crossword with the Norwich lads we'd shared a table with on our last visit. There was also discussion of a madcap scheme to arrive at Fulham by bo, which'll be different. They were also serving a beer, brewed on site, called Cattermole. Its honestly the only time I've seen the name when it didn't refer to our Teesside Terror, so it had to be an omen. Apparently, Mrs Catterrmole was the landlady in 1866, and it was a brilliant bit of marketing to have that beer available today. Let's see what happens...
Jones Kone Browning Galloway
Honeyman Mrs C's great great grandson Ndong McGeady Grabban Vaughan
Hang on, that's the same as last Friday! Consistency. I like it.
The Norwich lads in the pub had reckoned defence and lack of creativity were their weaknesses, and didn't think our two ex Canaries up front would score too many goals over the season. Let's hope they're only correct on the first count. We kicked away to the left of the corner we were in, and took a while to settle at the back, presumably while Kone decided if he could be bothered and Browning decided who to mark if his marra took Jerome. Galloway didn't look too happy against Wildschut, but thankfully their winger was all effort and not much in the way of delivery. After ten minutes or so of almost letting Jerome away, Kone decided that he was going to play properly, and gave their main forward very little room to manoeuvre thereafter.
With Catts doing his usual prowling about, Ndong swept across the middle of the park with McGeady and Honeyman out wide. The straightforward pairing of two proper forwards proved that football really is a simple game quite often spoilt by too much faffing about. When we played it forward, either Vaughan or Grabban went for the ball and the other looked to take the knock-on. This very combination produced a chance for the latter, but it was blocked, then for a second, time, but this one found the side netting. McGeady tried his usual stuff from the Sunday Post's latest publication : Oor Wullie's Braw Big Book o' Tricks fa' Wee Scottish Wingers - usually in the right part of the field, but occasionally, and worryingly, near our own goal. Mind, nutmegging an opposition forward in your own penalty box was as cheeky as owt and had one middle- aged home fan banging his two inflatable canaries together, presumably in frustration - and yes, I did say two.
There was a bit of a mystery when the ref pulled play back for a Galloway tug on Wildschut that we hadn't seen, but those with clever phones soon reckoned it could have been penalty rather than a free outside the box. We cleared it anyhow, so we might have got away with one there. Jerome had one in the net, but he was well offside, allowing us to take a deep breath and begin again. We'd had a decent spell of possession as the half hour approached, when a ball forward by Steele was flicked on by Vaughan and split the home defence. Third time lucky? Yes indeedy. Grabban was on it, running into the box, judging a naughty bobble just right, and slotting it calmly past Gunn jnr for 1-0.
Marvellous, but would it be enough for the points? A long way to go yet. What the home fans had said about lack of creativity was proving true, as we conceded the majority of posession and they either did nowt with it or ran into the rock that was Kone's personality of choice today. As we reminded the home fans by way of song: "How 'bad' must you be, we're winning away." Honeyman saw an effort saved and McGeady tried one from a free kick that Gunn watched go wide, while at the other end Jerome should really have done better with a header. A bit of a let-off there.
A single extra minute was announced, it passed, and we had a rare happy August half-time.
No changes for the second half by either manager, so it was more of the same, but our play looked more likely to bring reward than theirs. I reckoned we'd be OK if we kept them out beyond the hour, Pete reckoned 65 would do it. Just as the hour arrived, we won what was to be our only corner. Honeyman's cross was cleared, but Catts gave it straight to McGeady, who stood their defence up, and from a fairly central position 20 yards out, and with next to no run-up, sent a screamer into Gunn's top left corner. An absolute beauty that saw off the inflatable budgies for good, and which had us bouncing in the stands as we dared to dream of an August league win.
As prophesied, Wildschut ran out of steam and was replaced soon after the goal, by Murphy, then Jerome did likewise and Oliveira came on. A short period of defence ended with 20 to go when McGeady beat his man a couple of times, allowing us to get bodies in place, before curling in a cross that took out the whole defence and found Grabban in acres of space to stoop and nod our third past de Gea wannabee Gunn, sending us into the land of make believe. Is it October already?
Catts was replaced by Gibson, presumably to carry on the decent possession game he'd had at Bury, and we began to sit a bit deeper, which was perfectly understandable. Naismith, who'd seen a lot of the ball behind the forwards but hadn't been able to make a telling pass, made way for Hoolahan, and they won a string of corners. Of course, forwards come back to help in those situations, and when a cross to our back post bounced loose, Grabban was on hand to poke it away from the Norwich players. Shame that he poked it past Steele and into our own net.
That set up a fairly tense last twelve minutes, in which we conceded, and successfully defended, what seemed like a dozen corners. It was probably only eleven. We thought Honeyman would make way for Gooch, but it was McGeady who left, soon followed by Grabban, replaced by O'Shea. We're a naturally pessimistic bunch, a result of bitter experience over the last few seasons, and called to mind occasions when we'd brought on the extra defender late but lost the lead or the game. A couple of fine saves, some wayward shooting, and more resolute defending, including some great digging out of the ball on the byline by Vaughan, ensured that we didn't mess this one up. Even the added five minutes, and despite them hitting the post (Steele had it covered. Probably) though the source of nerves amongst us fans, were calmly and effectively dealt with on the field.
Peeeep 3-1, happy days, and it was a very pleasant feeling to be applauding the players for getting us a win rather than for putting in another shift and getting nothing. I know it's early - very early - days yet, but after years of scraping the odd victory here and there, we've got one and, added to the draw last week, it means that our season has effectively started two months earlier than usual. I know we're not Barcelona, but we've worked hard in our three games so far, and shown good levels of commitment, which is a good start. Simon's job is to keep those levels to at least their current standard.
Man of the Match?
Some good showings today. Ndong covered an awful lot of ground, and McGeady is a real box of tricks. Grabban could have had a hat-trick had he not leant back as he volleyed a chest high ball late in the second half, but two out of three aint bad. His partner Vaughan provided a second muscular presence up front and led the line well for the most part. Honeyman ran as much as usual but couldn't get into the game as much in an attacking sense, which meant more defensive work for him and Jones. Browning grew into the game, but Galloway worries me at times despite making some important tackles. Catts had the sort of game you want him to have, while Steele made a couple of decent saves and took several dangerous crosses. Kone - the enigma. When he wants to, he can, and today he must have heard Koeman was watching. Either that or he thought we deserved a performance from him. The subs did what they had to.
I'll probably McGeady as we've not had a goal like that for ages, and he backed it up with a cross as good as you'll see all season as well as being a pest. Oh, and that 'meg.
Never mind the stats, which will show the home side with about two thirds of possession - we produced more football, and three times as many goals, with what we had.
There's a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, a Christmas gift from our Ian, that's been awaiting a reason to be opened. Tonight, Johnnie, is your night.
Keep the Faith
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