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Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Ewood Park

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Matchday Musings: Persistence pays off as Sunderland go into the hat for the next round!

It doesn’t matter how deep teams defend against us, we never give up and go right ‘til the death - and it was fitting that a man who encapsulates the best of the attitude of this squad got the winning goal.

Photo by Isaac Parkin/PA Images via Getty Images

Team Selection: About as good as expected!

With no league game until next weekend, Tony Mowbray limited the amount of changes he could make and picked a fairly strong side - one that was evidently missing a lot of first team regulars, but one that was still very strong on paper.

Alex Bass came in for Patto in goal, who joined fellow goalkeeper Jacob Carney on the bench, whilst Luke O’Nien shifted across to left back and Abdoullah Ba started in midfield with Dan Neil and Edouard Michut.

Up top was the trio of Patrick Roberts, Amad Diallo and Jewison Bennette - we had no recognised striker, but all three men are capable of creating and scoring goals.

The bench was very interesting, with no fewer than five members of our academy group named amongst the substitutes. Also there was Lynden Gooch, making a return after a few weeks out with injury.

First Half: Robbed of a penna!

Shrewsbury were bright in the first minute and got forward quickly, with a decent cross finding a man at the far post who could only drag his shot wide.

We were terrible in the opening exchanges and Shrewsbury looked really up for it - the bar saving us in the fifth minute when Leahy’s shot went over Alex Bass’s head and off the woodwork.

But after that shaky opening spell, we grew into the game. We were better and after dominating the ball, Patrick Roberts was handed a yellow card from the referee for diving - replays showed he was fouled, and that we should have had a penalty.

Shitty League One standard refs, man - I thought we were done with them.

We continued to pile on the pressure, and dominated the ball - as you’d expect with us really, given this is the way we’ve become accustomed to seeing Sunderland play.

Michut was the latest player to see a penalty appeal waved off by a referee, and whilst there was a bit of contact, I think it was a little bit soft and the ref got it right.

Despite seeing all of the ball, we didn’t create anything meaningful in the remainder of the half and we went in at the break 0-0 - unfortunately you’d have to say, as the clear foul on Roberts that wasn’t given could and should have been a Sunderland penalty.

It was nice to see the lads moving the ball around, and Bennette, Michut and Ba were all very good and looked a class above at times.

Jewi’s ability in 1v1 situations is really good to watch and it won’t be long before we see some end product from his crosses out wide - I feel like we might have scored a goal or two if he’d had Ross Stewart to hit in those opening 45 minutes.

Sunderland v Burnley - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Second Half: Rewarded for our effort!

We continued the start of the second half in the way we’d played in most of the first - on top, seeing lots of the ball, but lacking a bit of end product.

We huffed and puffed until just before the hour mark when Jack Clarke and Ross Stewart came on for Abdoullah Ba and Jewison Bennette, hoping to get us the goals that we needed to ensure we either didn’t go out or didn’t go to a replay.

We had much of the ball, we worked the goalkeeper, but didn’t do quite enough to make them pay - and then came the sucker punch, a header from a corner ten minutes from time by Pennington that bounced into the back of the net.

If we’re being honest, Alex Bass has to do better - poor goalkeeping.

Soon after came a moment of history - 15 year old Chris Rigg coming on for his Sunderland debut, making him our youngest ever outfield player. Hopefully this is the first of many appearances for him in a Sunderland shirt, with the club once again showing that there’s a proper pathway for our best young academy players into the first team.

Credit goes to our players though, who never gave up - and were finally rewarded with two late goals.

First of all we scored - FROM A CORNER! - when Ross Stewart nodded in a delightful cross from Jack Clarke to get us level.

Nobody in a Sunderland shirt wanted a replay and, as such, they fought to the death. Amad laid the ball across the edge of the 18 yard box and into the path of Luke O’Nien, who twatted it first time into the bottom corner to win the game.

Nobody can argue that it wasn’t a fair result, regardless of how late our goals came - we were dominant throughout and deserve to be in the hat for the next round.

Whoever comes next, bring it on - I just want a really big tie against someone tasty, and not a game against another club like Shrewsbury. Sorry Salop fans, but you just aren’t sexy enough.

Shrewsbury Town v Sunderland: Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

Man of the Match: It’s got to be Luke O’Nien. He was outstanding throughout and the goal was a touch of class - he’s got so much more ability than most people will ever give him credit for.


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