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Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 2nd Leg

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ITHICS Fanzine: So very Sunderland

Neil Chandler of ITHICS Fanzine reflects on being back in the ground for the first time in 14 months, and a day that was just... so VERY Sunderland.

Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

So Very Sunderland.

I got my ham and pease pudding sarnie (large) from Hendersons, and used it to soak up a couple of pre-match pints before walking up to the ground with a couple of lads. Norm said “you know, if we lose and we have another season in the league, it’ll be fine. We need to rebuild anyway. We’d be awful in the Championship!” We all walked into the ground and weren’t too positive. Being 2-0 down after the shambolic first leg was just awful. But here we were, back in the ground, ready to sing our hearts out for the lads.

It was fantastic being back at the footy. The atmosphere is as much of a reason to go as watching the game. We knew that all 10,000 of us in there were going to be relentlessly positive. And how well it started. A lovely rendition of “Wise Men Say” and we were off.

Unbelievably, we’d managed to borrow 11 players from some other team because the first-half performance was like nothing I’ve seen for months. Probably the best 45 all season. We scored two, should have been four but for the awful open goal miss by Wyke and the stick-on penalty we did not get. Lincoln didn’t have much of a sniff of anything.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 2nd Leg Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Stewart opened the scoring and Wyke scored his 31st of the season. How, and I mean, HOW did that fourth-rate striker manage to get 31 goals this season? [ed. McGeady’s crosses and fourth-rate defences] After Wyke’s went in, we belted out “by FAR the greatest team the world has ever seen” and the bloke next to me could not sing as he was welling up… We were all square.

Half time came to applause and cheers, and huge queues for the toilets to empty the pre-match booze with no opportunity to refill. All the talk in the line was about the stunning first half. A young lad behind me started talking of Wembley, and his dad quickly stopped him with “this is Sunderland, son, and the job’s not done yet.”

And it wasn’t. I’m not sure just what the Lincoln players were threatened with, but it worked. Perhaps we just ran ourselves out in the first 45. Perhaps the lads thought it was job done, like the kid in the queue for the toilet. But we lost a goal, should have been two, we hit the woodwork yet again and sadly capitulated.

It felt bad seeing Leadbitter applauding us all, at what will probably be his final game before coaching. Worse still looking at O’Nien, who is somehow out of contract. Who the hell let that happen? My player of the season and a role model of professionalism, I hope we can somehow manage to retain him but fear we will lose him to a higher division.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Play-off Semi Final 2nd Leg
The end for Grant?
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

There are a lot of players out of contract, and I don’t expect us to retain too many of them. Perhaps if we can build a proper defence, instead of a makeshift one full of midfielders, we can stop conceding so many from set-pieces.

There’s no way we’ll be able to get Sanderson, and the rotten run-in was cemented when he got injured. That was pivotal, alongside being unable to drop a 31-goal-a-season striker who misses sitters. Perhaps if we can get someone in the centre of midfield who can pass the ball forward and move with pace, we’ll score a few more too.

Here’s to next season, back in the ground, watching the lads, with a proper home advantage. Let’s shithouse our way out of this bloody awful league with its bloody awful refs. Fourth time lucky. HAWAY!

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