By Jon Harries
Sunderland Part 2 was a very enjoyable and an entertaining League 1 game. The Dons came out with vigour and gusto but yet again the first attack by the opposition resulted in a goal. Aiden McGeady with the ball down the side for Charlie Wyke to slot calmly past Fisher for his 17th goal of the season.
The response by the hosts was immediate, a ball into the box was headed by Jerome who had three attempts to beat Burge who in fairness made three great saves for the rebound to find Joe Mason who made no mistake. Then the turnaround was complete, Matt O’Riley with the shot after working space just outside the box and Jerome diverted the ball from an onside position to the delight of the coaching staff. Mason had another chance to extend the lead before the break but wasted it.
The second half in truth was all Sunderland with Grant Leadbitter pulling the strings in midfield. It was his corner ten minutes into the second half that was played short to McGeady, he was allowed to cut in on his right and the shot was deflected into the path of Luke O’Nien who smashed in from close range.
Both teams were trying to win a very end to end game, but Sunderland can particularly feel frustrated as right at the death McGeady was denied by a fantastic Fisher double save to keep parity.
Four points off Sunderland is no mean feat and for me shows the progression and the process is moving forward. Lewington and Darling were immense again, hard to believe that the latter is only 21 and has a very bright future ahead.
Rochdale meanwhile faced a visit from an inconsistent Charlton side looking to cement a play-off place. Athletic flew out of the blocks after seven minutes, with Chuks Aneke finishing. Oshilaja then doubled the lead for the Addicks. Rochdale huffed and puffed but in truth Charlton displayed another professional performance away from home. Rochdale have now lost 3 out of their last 5, albeit to Doncaster, in form Oxford United and Charlton. Scoring goals and conceding goals is no issue for Rochdale scoring 10 and conceding 14 in their last 5.
Brian Barry-Murphy is a young up and coming manager who’s philosophy seems to be attack before defence. It’s a very brave style and does have success but ultimately their defence is simply not capable of keeping many clean sheets.
Gavin Bazunu and Jay Lynch are the two keepers in contention but have conceded 50 goals between them in the league alone, currently 18 year old Bazunu seems to be the one in favour.
Paul McShane, Jimmy Keohane and Jimmy McNulty provide invaluable experience in such a young squad, but In midfield youth springs eternal and the talent is scary with Aaron Morley, Oliver Rathbone, and Conor Grant pulling the strings and you can easily see they are definitely going to be playing at a higher level once they get that experience under their belts.
Kwadwo Baah is attracting interest from Manchester City and could follow in the Premiership footsteps of Luke Matheson who completed a move to Wolves last summer. The youth academy is much like ours and is an invaluable source of income for the Greater Manchester club. Matt Done and Stephen Humphrys, a reported target for the Dons in both transfer windows supply the goal threat in a very talented side that will only get better the longer they can keep them all together, but as we know that’s easier said than done especially in these bleak financial times where every penny counts and is needed.
The man in focus is Alex Newby. Signed from National League North side Chorley, his preferred position is to play just off the striker although he can play up front if required. With 6 goals already he has adapted from the 3 league jump superbly. Two assists is possibly low considering his passing accuracy in both halves is very respectable, you could say he is their version of Scott Fraser. Everything positive goes through Newby so whoever occupies the DM role will have to be aware of the threat.
Predicted Line Up
Sorinola – O’Hora – Darling – Lewington – Harvie
Surman – O’Riley – Fraser
Jerome – Mason
Ethan Laird although great going forward, is defensively naïve which is understandable considering his age, but it is concerning that teams seem to be targeting him in games since his debut, so for me Sorinola may be best as defensively he is more switched on in my opinion. Surman will likely replace the injured Thompson, and potentially Kasumu will return to. the squad either tonight or next Saturday. The main headline will be the return to the squad of Will Grigg. The Deadline Day loanee has had a full week of training due to the terms of his loan from Sunderland and will be looking to reignite the spark for the rest of the season. Whether he starts is difficult to know as lack of first team football may persuade Martin to bench him from the start in favour of Mason, but I expect to see Grigg given at least 30 minutes in the second half.
I predict a 3-1 win for the Dons. Rochdale on a Tuesday night is quite a common trip and after a great point on Saturday if we can back that up with win against a team around us in the table (with two games in hand) then it would be a great few days.
Just don’t take Rochdale lightly……. They have undoubted talent.
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