Pete Sixsmith sent a half-time seven last night:
“Playing well but need a second goal”.
Unfortunately, it never came and I, for one, was worried by the arrival of Stephen Fletcher in the second half, because I’ve seen him at his best and ex-players do well against us. He did do OK. But how OK, and did he and Kieran Westood stop us getting that win? Pete’s match report will tell you all you need to know:
Sheffield Wednesday (away)
This was the Championship personified; intense, quick, full of action and played in front of a crowd that understood what football was and what it means to their respective communities – there are no Montys or Ruperts at Hillsborough. Had I been a neutral, I would have thoroughly enjoyed it.
But I’m not. I’m a Sunderland supporter and the other 2,700+ who are of my persuasion would have left with a mixture of relief and frustration; relief that we remain unbeaten after 4 competitive games and frustration that we did not take all 3 points on offer.
We made a dream start when we took advantage of disarray in the Wednesday defence and an aberration by former keeper Kieran Westwood to take the lead. While they were reorganising after an injury to Jack Hunt, McGeady moved into the space vacated by the stricken full back, Westwood charged out of his goal and the winger calmly squared it to George Honeyman, who equally calmly stroked it into the net. Four minutes gone and 1-0 to the good.
For the rest of the first half we were streets ahead of a Wednesday side that looked thoroughly ill at ease. Their manager, Carlos Carvalhal, was a picture of misery on the touchline – hands in pockets, shoulders hunched a pose we have seen so many times from those in charge of our club. One paper said that he was likely to go sooner rather than later and that David Moyes was lined up as a replacement. No wonder he looked depressed.
Had we taken our chances, Carlos would have been calling the Samaritans. Lewis Grabban missed a header from eight yards, Brendan Galloway took too long over a shot and allowed Westwood to save and Hot Shot Billy Jones put a subtle header just wide of the post.
At the other end, imperious performances by a rejuvenated Lamine Kone and the quietly impressive Tyias Browning blotted out Winnall and Hooper. Both full backs were untroubled and Galloway had his most impressive start in a Sunderland shirt. Steele had one save to make and that was it.
|Cattermole and Ndong were equally imperious in midfield, winning challenges, stepping in and pinching the ball and feeding Honeyman and McGeady. They look comfortable alongside each other and allowed Barry Bannan, the Owls’ playmaker, not a sniff.
The turning point came on the hour. Stephen Fletcher had been brought on at half time and Wednesday looked more dangerous. Bannan was beginning to find space down our right flank and that second goal was looking necessary rather than desirable. James Vaughan had been inches away from a diving header and then he missed a golden opportunity to wrap it up and expose the Wednesday players and manager to the ire of a crowd that was becoming grumblier by the minute.
Unfortunately, he snatched at his shot and instead of putting it past Westwood, he put it over him – and over the bar. Vaughan needs a goal. He works hard, flicks the ball on well but he has hardly bothered the keeper in any of the four games. Hopefully he will not be a Danny Graham or a Brett Angell and his first goal will come while the leaves on the trees are gloriously green rather than lying all brown and crinkly on the ground.
To their credit, Wednesday dragged themselves back into the game and equalised with a stunning strike from Jones after Kone committed his one error in the game. Steele had no chance with it (although others may disagree) and it lifted crowd and players as The Owls laid siege to our goal.
Fletcher showed those qualities that we occasionally saw at Sunderland as he led the line well and it took a bit of luck and a couple of smart saves to keep the point that we (and ultimately they) deserved.
Kone and Browning were as solid as solid could be and never wavered, the latter showing that he would be an excellent permanent signing, the former arousing suspicions that he is showing prospective employers how good he is. But his attitude and demeanour are good. He encouraged his partner throughout and took time to explain to Galloway what he should be doing. It’s a real shame for him and the club that he wasted last season.
In the past I have seen Sunderland sides buckle under the pressure that Wednesday exerted in the final quarter. But this team appear to have a resilient streak running through them and that augers well for this marathon that we are being made to undertake.
Referee Stephen Martin, a Staffordshire man, officiated well and like the other Championship refs I have seen, likes to keep the game flowing. There is no room for prima donnas in this league. Rolling round on the floor seems to be at the minimum and it is like football as it used to be – plenty of action, lots of movement and both sides in with a chance.
It was also a pleasure to renew acquaintance with Hillsborough. It’s a proper football stadium and under floodlights it looks brilliant. The North (cantilever) Stand is still a thing of great beauty with its sweeping lines and it was just about full last night. It should be a listed structure and if ever Wednesday attempt to replace it they should be relegated to the Reserve Division of the Pete’s Patisserie Sheffield and Hallamshire County League. That said, it’s a pity about the posts that obstruct the view of those in the Kop Stand and in the away area. Can’t they build cantilevers in Sheffield anymore?
It was a pleasant journey as well, apart from some of the younger travellers upsetting Stan and a South Yorkshire Police Officer. They may have to look for alternative travel if they upset him again. No serious road closures on the way home and back for 1-00 a.m. if not exactly basking in glory, at least feeling a little more satisfied than I have for quite a while. I’m beginning to remember what it is like to smile during August – and it’s good.