It was the black & white of Tyneside versus the red & white of Wearside as the Stan welcomed Sunderland West End to Grounsell Park. The game was made even more important by the fact that it saw the league leaders hosting the 2nd place team & the Stan Army were in positive mood after the fantastic win at Barnoldswick in the Vase on Saturday. There were 3 changes with Bailey, McBryde & Burns, making his 1st start for the club since his return, replacing Burn, Campbell & Stephenson.
The match kicked off watched by the Stan’s biggest crowd of the season. They should have been ahead early on as they put the pressure on although the visitors were not sitting back. Burns, who worked hard & fast throughout, had a shot go across goal & just wide in the 1st minute. In the 5thminute, the Stan got the ball into the box & it looked like McBryde’s shot was over going over the line but the keeper saved it just in time. The Stan kept attacking & Holmes put the ball over the bar in 9 minutes before McBryde collided with theadvancing keeper. A minute later Hopper slid into the 6 yard box but the keeper got to the ball 1st & soon after Burns shot just wide. It continued with lots of action as both sides tried to attack but it was the Stan who came close in 14 minutes when Carr hit the side netting. He then got up to head a high ball into the box but the keeper got there 1st. The Stan then broke but again the keeper got there 1st. In 16 minutes, West End countered but the Stan eventually cleared. The Stan countered & Hornsby sent a ball into the box which the keeper had to clear. The Stan pressure continued & in the 19th minute a ball from a corner was headed in by McBryde for 1-0. Unlike on Saturday, the celebratory pitch invasion was only undertaken by a cat which was brave of it given the amount of Stan Army dogs present. There was a rare Sunderland attack in 22 minutes before Hornsby advanced into the box only to shoot at the stranded keeper rather than try to chip him. Regan then had to get down to save & another attack by the visitors was then cleared. An injured Hornsby had to be replaced in 30 minutes by McAndrew with Stoddart switching to the left. In 32 minutes, Regan was out to clear although after being quiet for a while there was a Stan attack involving Burns who was on fire. The advancing Hopper then supplied Burns who was blocked in the box. Theykept attacking & in 38 minutes Holmes, McBryde &Burns all combined to supply Hopper who was blocked from close range in the box. The Stan pressure continued & in 41 minutes a ball from Hopper went across the box & out to Burns who blasted over. The Stan defence dealt easily with a rare Sunderland attack in 42 minutes & after a quieter last few minutes a West long shot went over.
Both teams tried to attack & the visitors had definitely started the 2nd half more lively. The Stan though got their crucial 2nd goal in 53 minutes when a Carr free kick on the left from near half way was sent into the box with McBryde getting up to win the ball at the far post & he headed it down for Bailey who got down low, to head the ball over the line. Both teams then tried to attack but it was the Stan who were looking more likely to score with Hopper shooting wide in 58 minutes. Regan was looking comfortable & marshalling his defence when the visitors did get forward. In 65 minutes, West End did have a rare shot that was deflected for a corner from which the ball was headed clear by McBryde. The Stan sowed the match up in 65minutes when a counter attack saw a great ball from Proctor to Holmes who confidently shot past the keeper from the left with the ball going in off the right post for 3-0. The Stan didn’t stop & kept attacking with a Bailey long range shot going just wide in 71 minutes. In 75 minutes, a Carr shot was blocked by the keeper & a McBryde rebound shot hit the side netting. The Stan then attacked again with a great Stoddart shot headed clear for a corner. The Stan were looking deadly & it was mainly one way traffic until the end of the match although Regan had to make a rare & great save in 83 minutes. Although there were lots of Stan attacks, a 4th goal did not come.
It was a comprehensive & confident win & a great team performance by the Stan which now sees them 7 points clear at the top of the league table. The Stan are unbeaten in 13 matches & still unbeaten at home this season in competitive matches. They took care of 2nd placed in the league & now travel on Saturday to Norton to take on the new 2nd placed team Billingham Synthonia.