If Pete Sixsmith – now seen on Sharethematch.com too – sounds a lot jauntier than he did at half-time, it is fair to add that he was a very happy bunny by the end, full of praise for Sunderland’s discipline as well as the classy goals as we saw off the threat from a much-praised, confident and often elegant Swansea side …
There have been mumblings about Saturday’s win and not just from the depths of South Wales. Some of our fans seem to believe that because Swansea had much more of the ball, they were the better side and deserving of at least a point.
If that is your viewpoint, I am afraid you cannot have a real understanding of this great game of ours. The object of it is to threaten the opposition defence, force the goalkeeper to make saves and, ultimately, stick the ball into the net.
We did all of these things, while Swansea did two of them, but failed dismally on the third in that they could have played until St David’s Day and still would not have scored.
That we did is down to the difference in quality between an established Premier League side and one that is finding its feet and hoping to claim a second season at that level. Sessegnon, O’Shea, Cattermole were far more effective than Sinclair, Williams and Britton; they showed themselves to be experienced players with a touch of class. Swansea, for all the pretty passing, did not have the experience or, yet, quite the class.
Sessegnon celebrated his first year on Wearside with a performance of such quality that we should be offering our first born to Steve Bruce and Eric Black for finding him – and our second born to Martin O’Neill and Steve Walford for finally working out how to properly utilise him.
His goal was a touch of genius. The initial ball to McClean was good and the return was very good, but the finish was exquisite – steered so accurately past the most impressive goalkeeper in the Premier League this season. The ball was caressed across him and into the net and set the team very well for the rest of the game.
Sess was always a problem for the Swans, who were never quite sure where he was going to turn up. He ran at them and often had three players near him as he wriggled through. His back heel to almost set up Wickham was sublime.
John O’Shea was massive and ran the back four. He had three willing comrades in his former Old Trafford colleagues Brown, Bardsley and Richardson. The latter stuck really well to the dangerous Dyer and even elicited praise from Pete Horan, who usually sees Kieran as Elton John sees Madonna.
Lee Cattermole was the dominant figure in midfield. He broke up Swansea’s attacks, pushed forward whenever he had the chance (even managing a shot or two) and behaved like a captain in that he was always encouraging his colleagues. No silly tackles, no bookings and he is rapidly earning the respect of the support. He must be looking forward to the visit of Boro next Sunday.
Credit should be given to all 14 who turned out. Vaughan and Larsson worked hard with a capital H. McClean, although looking a bit leggy, was always involved and Connor Wickham sought to be so, too. Bendtner took an awful bang in the face and was missed; I think the intention was that he would pull the Swansea defence out of position and allow Sess and the midfield to break through.
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Once again, Gardner showed his value to the team by coming off the bench for a tiring Vaughan and by stroking in a wonderful goal, reminiscent of the one scored by Kevin Phillips against Chelsea all those years ago.
But the real star of the game was Martin O’Neill. He, and his coaches, had clearly done their homework and told the players to stick to their positions, not to jump in with tackles and make it difficult for them to play the kind of killer passes that did for Arsenal last week.
The difference between MON and the Brucester is that the roles were very clearly defined and the players involved knew exactly what to do – and they are probably more respectful of the Northern Irishman than the Wallsend lad. He is a manager who has been there, seen it and done it, while his predecessor is a nearly man.
Swansea wove pretty patterns and looked good – until they got into the final third, where their lack of quality showed. Danny Graham (who I remember playing for Darlington), ran and ran, desperately looking for a gap he could get into, but Brown and O’Shea made sure there was no space for him. Joe Allan looks a good player as does Sigurdsson, but, on this showing, they lacked the nous to break down a well organised and well drilled Premier League side.
And could we have said that two months ago???