So, having missed the first game of the season owing to being away in Ibiza on holiday, this came around and both myself and Finley were super excited. We hadn’t seen a Sunderland game since the unfortunate defeat against Charlton @ Wembley in the League One playoff final.
The plan was to go with my Dad, but unfortunately he couldn’t make it as he wasn’t well, so it was just me and Finley who were travelling to Portman Road for our first Sunderland game of the season.
Ipswich isn’t a long journey for us down south, it’s about 50 minutes on a good run. We still set off early, to get to the Station Hotel, the away fans pub, to have a drink and take in the atmosphere. By have a drink I mean have a Coke, and Finley sat and played FUT Draft on my phone. I met my friend, Marcus, who’s an Ipswich fan and it was good to catch up. It’s one of the great things about football is that it brings people together, and generally it’s a friendly atmosphere.
Our predictions were 2–1 (Finley and myself), and I think Marcus had a draw… Which taking into account our history of drawing games recently, wasn’t a bad shout at all.
We headed to the ground, and Finley was amazed that Marcus had designed the Ipswich front page for the programme. We parted ways and as we left Marcus said he hopes we win 😂 I think Finley was taken aback by this as he didn’t quite understand why an opposing supporter would hope the other team wins. But with everything Ipswich have been through, I think there was a general feeling of apathy after quite a few seasons of relatively boring football.
We got into the ground early, I think this is because my Dad always had us there early, and Finley enjoys watching the players warm up and asking questions (you can tell he’s the son of a Tester!) I also enjoy watching the warm ups and seeing the drills they do, and try to pick up things I can take to Finleys football team as a coach.
There had been a lot of talk about whether Jack Ross was the right man to take us forward this season, and I believe I was in the minority in believing that he is. He definitely talks a good game.
That confidence was completely misplaced based on the first half performance. You’ll see from my previous post on Sunderland that I was at the Bristol City game, where we were 3–0 down at half time it would be easy to think that that was the worst 45 minutes I’ve seen from a Sunderland team, but think again. After this week’s performance against Ipswich Town, the first 45 minutes in that game were the worst I have seen.
It was windy, fair enough, but we struggled to string some simple 10 yard passes together. There was one moment that completely epitomised the half for me, we had a free kick in our area, and taking it quickly McGeouch passed it out to Connor McLaughlin. Now I love a quick free kick, but before taking a quick free kick, it’s absolutely critical to look at who you are passing to… McLaughlin on his part should have been looking for the ball, but (and I’m guessing you can tell where this is going now) he wasn’t. He subsequently tripped over the ball, an Ipswich player tackled him and almost scored from it. It was absolutely embarrassing.
I could forgive this, if we were playing, or at least attempting to play attacking football, but we struggled to get a shot on target, and I think we had to wait until 38 minutes to even register a shot.
When Jack Ross joined, I remember reading from a St Mirren fan, that he loves attacking football, and we may be on the wrong end of some hidings, but the football will be entertaining. I also remember reading that he doesn’t mind players making mistakes in the final third, it’s the intent behind the action that is important.
Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any of that from this team over the past 8 months or so. So I do wonder if the problem lies in that we struggle to break teams down, whereas a team like St Mirren will have teams less likely to set up shop against them.
Anyway, the fans booed the team off the pitch at half time. The half time proved to be more entertaining than the first half, as a Newcastle fan was spotted in the home end. Now quite why a Newcastle fan would come to watch a Sunderland game is beyond me. This caused a number of “6 in a row” and “When I was young, I had no sense…” chants.
A number of fans got quite animated about this, and it did aggravate a lot of them, so much so that the Newcastle fan had to be either:
a) moved to a different seat where Sunderland fans couldn’t see him… Or
b) kicked out of the ground…
I’m fairly certain it was a, but whatever it was it was greeted with a chorus of “Cheerios” as he was escorted out by Police.
Roll on the second half, I actually think the half time antics helped take the spotlight away from the team somewhat from a fans perspective, and I was hoping that Jack Ross would put something right. He brought on Chris Maguire for Denver Hume, and Maguire has it in him to completely change games, and this was one of those games.
He was involved in the equaliser, and so much more. It was a bit of a hopeful punt up the field, but McNulty ran on to it and harrassed Chambers who subsequently made the mistake, and McNulty had the awareness around him to pass it to Gooch who could fire it home from 12 yards. It wasn’t a pretty goal, but McNulty done well to chase down what might have been seen as a lost cause, and then the awareness to square it to someone who was in a better position.
I lost count of the number of times the Ipswich players fouled Maguire, they just couldn’t get the ball off him. It was refreshing seeing us keep hold of the ball compared to the performance in the first half!
I saw on Twitter later that Gooch had to defend his celebration to a Sunderland “fan”, again I have no idea what some fans are on, but Gooch was happy he’d scored, and thanked McNulty, so I really do wonder about some fans of some football clubs.
Anyway, the second half was a much improved performance. Grigg came on as well and looked lively, so hopefully that is a sign of things to come. We even had some crosses where Grigg almost got on the end of…. I know that sounds desperate, and it perhaps is, but that’s a sign of the times currently for a Sunderland fan! 😂
The referee blew his whistle for full time, and it was greeted with cheers. A 1–1 draw away at an early season promotion favourite isn’t anything to be sniffed at, but in the context of Sunderland AFC and the number of 1–1 draws we have had over last season and now this, it is definitely alarming, and we absolutely need to start turning these draws into wins.
I was happy with the 1–1… Finley is going to be mascot next week against Portsmouth, and I think things could have turned negative had we lost and with the performance that went with it as well. Jack Ross changed the system at least 3 times, now you can look at this 2 ways:
1 — He hasn’t got a clue what he is doing…
2 — He knows what he’s doing, and identifying when things aren’t working and isn’t afraid to change things.
I know a lot of people are in the first camp, but I’m still holding out hope that he’s in the second camp.
From days of Steve Bruce who struggled to change game plans, I’m hoping that Jack Ross can turn it around, but unfortunately for him, time is running out. I’m still behind him 100%.
Sunderland need to come out firing against Portsmouth on Saturday, and hopefully Finley as mascot can help them achieve that. The atmosphere should be electric after our history against them last season! I for one can’t wait. I don’t know who is more excited, me or Finley!