Unbuckle your harness, collect your valuables and walk past the screens showing photos of you gurning and looking sick – because ladies and gentlemen you’ve been on a rollercoaster ride.
As the, sadly now customary, rendition of ‘Our House’ rang out at Adams Park after 99 gruelling minutes of League One football Sunderland would do well not to dwell on two points lost rather than one gained.
This was a game in which Sunderland were in the lead twice and scored three times courtesy of a Ross Stewart hat-trick (officially 2 and a David Stockdale own goal but let’s ignore that) and it still wasn’t quite enough.
Much of the pre-match talk surrounded the latest Covid-19 outbreak at the club, with Sunderland displaying more positives than an average Jimmy Reay sentence. To avoid postponing the game Anthony Patterson, Jack Diamond and Josh Hawkes were all hauled back from their fledgling loan spells and one could forgive Stephen Wearne for putting his foot to the floor on the M5 and speeding towards Torquay to avoid a similar fate. But would the pre-amble gamble pay off?
As it turned out, only Patterson went into the starting XI which otherwise looked fairly strong, with Hoffmann, Burge, Wright and Dajaku the notable first-team absentees.
Just before kick-off, those of us watching on Sky Sports were treated to a lovely shot of the now famous sold-out car park, looming on the horizon like a concrete sunrise. Of course, pre-match rumours swirled like the Wycombe wind that cut-priced tickets had gone to schoolchildren to get the car park numbers up.
Then Sunderland made the perfect start when a delicious ball in from Dennis Cirkin was met by the towering head of Stewart who, with the help of bar and goalkeeper, powered in the opener. Minutes later Patterson made a great save which hopefully, we thought, might calm any pre-match nerves.
But it was Wycombe who then took a grip of things, scoring first a daisy-cutter from range and then a contentious second to take the lead, with Patterson unable to fight his way through a crowded 6-yard box leaving Sam Vokes to nod in.
Former hero of mine and co-commentator Don Goodman seems to divide opinion, which is another way of saying people don’t like him, and felt Patterson should’ve been stronger in defending his area. Personally, I don’t think it’s a foul, but I understand why many others do. Plus, we’ve seen both Burge and Hoffmann do similar, so I don’t think it would’ve necessarily made a difference had either started instead.
There was time for one more twist before half-time as another great ball in from the left, this time from Embleton, was deftly converted by Stewart to make it 2-2 at the break.
Into the second half, and Sunderland had much the better of it with several chances in the opening stages, with Alex Pritchard showing that, when fit, his quality is really a level above League One. Gareth Ainsworth, who seems to be taking his old-rocker schtick even more seriously these days, continued to prowl the touchline having never looked more like a post-gig Alice Cooper who’s just wiped his make-up off.
Meanwhile, Embleton fired a rocket off the bar, Joe Jacobson executed one of the best goal-line clearances I’ve ever seen and then a collision between Patterson and Corry Evans led to the latter being stretchered off after receiving treatment for several minutes. At the time of writing it looks as though Evans is okay, and hopefully he has a speedy recovery.
The footballing gods weren’t finished with this one however, and Sunderland thought they’d nicked it in the 93rd minute when the brilliant Stewart scored again having been played through by Gooch. It would’ve been the perfect way to win the game, with the ‘Bogside Flats Bierhoff’ celebrating with arms outstretched as he slid towards the away fans, ball still yet to cross the line.
But Jacobson, perhaps still on a high after his Barry Venison impression, had the last laugh slotting in from close range in the 98th minute after Sunderland had, once again, failed to defend a ball into the box.
Much like a rollercoaster ride, it was a sickening way to end things. It will be interesting to see in the context of the season whether this is mentioned as a missed opportunity or a good point against tricky opponents in trying circumstances
But one thing is for sure… I never want to hear ‘Our House’ again.