It felt great, didn’t it? A failed corner routine resulting in Bryan Oviedo standing a ball up at the far post for the human cannonball, Lynden Gooch, to power a header past Charlton’s keeper Dillon Phillips and send the post-match profits of Sunderland’s drinking establishments soaring.
I’m not sure if you can remember but this is what winning does to you. The team wins and everyone in the city wins. The ripple effect after Sunderland get three points spreads far and wide. It’s wonderful.
That’s not to say we should be booking the open top bus. Far from it, but it was nice to be stopped on Chester Road on Saturday night by someone to chat about the game and not launch into a froth-inducing tirade.
What we saw in the first half was probably to be expected with mostly a mix of new faces and inexperience in the starting XI.
Charlton, it has to be said, were impressive though. Down to the bare bones and a looming takeover bringing instability, if I hadn’t been born in Grangetown I’d have had some sympathy for Lee Bowyer and his side. That said, if they can perform like that with a their better players fit and bring in a couple of new faces including some experience in goal, I can see them being a threat at the top of the table.
They had bags of pace going forward and I especially liked Joe Aribo playing the No 10 role for them.
Up against Bali Mumba, he was just too quick, too strong and direct for him and I feared that if this was going to be the case for the full 90 that it would have left its mark.
As it was, Bali didn’t seem worried one bit so there was no reason for me to be. The composure and confidence he showed in possession of the ball belied a boy of his age and I suspect the confidence shown in him by Jack Ross will continue.
Not once did you see him panic or look edgy, which considering most of us in the stand were – and we weren’t even playing – just shows that not only does he have the ability but the right mentality too. And if want any more proof that he is going to be a huge success at Sunderland, he’s called Bali, for God’s sake. I’m sure Kevin is touched Bali’s parents named their son after him.
Relegation is rarely positive thing but would Bali have been afforded Saturday’s opportunity were it not for our demotion to the third tier? Probably not. Would George Honeyman be skipper? Not a chance. Would Lynden Gooch be on the verge of signing a new line of Nike training shoes called “Lynden Air”? Definitely not.
But closing the gap between the Academy of Light products and the first team is more likely to bear fruit now.
It’s early days, of course, but there are good signs. Yes, the team play in the first half wasn’t great but even though it was badly executed you could see the theory behind the movements and the build-up. That will improve once the players are more familiar with them.
I thought Oviedo’s introductionave the team much needed quality and balance and of all the big hitters still on the payroll, he’d be the one that could have the greatest influence and worth biting the bullet over for one season at least.
The quality from set plays has to be better. It was one of the major negatives for me and a part of the game that can make the difference when we do have those inevitable off days.
The lack of pace at the back was worrying too. Glenn Loovens looked so much more comfortable as the middle man of a three and in changing the shape, Ross may just have stumbled on a formation that could provide the team with the ability to cope with any side.
They may not come up against a side with as much potency and pace as Charlton every week but with insurance at the back, numbers in the centre of midfield, width from the full-backs and allowing you to play two up top, it may just prove to be a masterstroke so early in the season.
It could have been easy just to replace Ozturk or Loovens with a speedier option but the boldness of his change showed both bravery and a willingness to match-up with opponents who were clearly on top in that first half. More importantly, it worked.
I have to say I was impressed with Gooch and Josh Maja, particularly Maja. He links up the play so well. His movement and ability to hold up the ball was a real feature of the game for me and that’s why I think it’s important to get someone up alongside him like Jerome Sinclair to disrupt opposition back lines.
Jon McLaughlin put in a solid performance that suggests last season’s debacle in the six-yard box is at an end but there will be sterner tests for him this season. I’m looking forward to watching him more.
There’s been another change in that department as Jimmy Walker takes over from Adrian Tucker as goalkeeper coach. Jimmy did a brilliant job with the keepers at Lincoln City over the past three seasons so I just want to wish him good luck at Sunderland.
I’m sure everyone at the club is looking after him but I think this is as far north he’s ever been for more than a day so I hope they make sure he’s wrapped up nice and warm while he’s here.