County Durham 1 – Merseyside 1, with the Wembley arch in tantalising reach

Sixer by Jake (the Soapbox is hidden)

Pete Sixsmith, in a never ending search for his latest footy fix, witnesses two clashes between the emerging (and fading) talents of Liverpool and Durham, before a quiet night of cocoa and pikelets in preparation for his early start to Goodison tomorrow …

Over this weekend, there are four games between teams from County Durham and teams from Merseyside. Two legs were played last night, one is being played on Saturday (you may just be aware of it) and the final game is on Sunday.

In the opener, Durham County Under 18s took on their Merseyside equivalents at New Meadow Park , the home of Ryhope CA and won by two goals to nil – a good start for us against them.

The second game took place at Eppleton C.W. where the reserve sides of Sunderland and Everton served up a rather tepid opener to the FA Cup Sixth Round clash, due to be played at Everton’s unique Sixties Retro Stadium on Saturday lunchtime.

This was the last game of the season at Eppleton as the two remaining home games are being played at the Academy, with no spectators allowed. Unfortunately, we managed to lose our final public game to a slightly more experienced team of Toffeemen, thereby depriving us of a top of the table position, bragging rights for Saturday and a portentous omen.

The only players we had out with first team experience were Ryan Noble and Jordan Cook – and neither had started a game or played more than a few minutes. For Cook, it may be the last time we see him in a Sunderland shirt. He is now no longer a “young prospect”, more the footballing equivalent of a bed blocker, taking up a place that could be filled by someone else. He did little in this game to attract the attention of any passing scouts.

Noble started well, but, like the team, faded away in the second half. His speed and determination crafted out a couple of chances and he caused David Weir some problems, but the supply line was limited and he became a peripheral figure as the game went on. Next season is a big one for him.

Oumare Tounkara also started well and appears to have lost some of the bulk he was carrying on his return from Oldham , where he had clearly been feasting on tripe, pigs trotters and cow heel jelly. He strikes me as the kind of player that Martin O’Neill likes in that he is big and strong, with a decent turn of pace and he could be a player who gets into the first team before the end of the season.

Of the rest, Bagnall and Marrs were as good as ever and Alex Gorrin, a young man who swapped Tenerife for Town End Farm, showed some nice touches although there was a tendency to over elaborate. What you would expect from a Spanish player.

As for Everton, Jose Baxter (who took the winning goal well), Ross Barkley and Apostolos Vellios, a lumbering Greek signed from Aris Salonika, have all had first team experience, but that paled into insignificance when compared to the 41-year-old David Weir.

He is helping Alan Stubbs (not a player I welcome back to Sunderland with open arms – he was one of the worst signings we ever made) with some coaching and must have turned out due to lack of players. He struggled against Noble and Tounkara at first, but soon found his feet and looked the class player he is/was for the remaining three-quarters of the match. Hopefully, he will be required to put on his boots for Saturday.

The gilded youth were out promenading the ground, but the older ones were in short supply, so there may well be mock exams on at Hetton School. The 10-14 year olds were less noisy than usual and the chilly night even forced some of them to wear a coat. Getting soft in Hetton …

So, on to Saturday. I read some disparaging comments about Moyes and the team he selected for their derby game in midweek, and many Evertonians are not happy. Of course, should they beat us, that mood may well change, but we have an opportunity to get at them and, hopefully, turn the wrath of the crowd on their manager, who is not as loved by the Goodison faithful as we would have thought. Everton fans are renowned for their loyalty, but it appears to be stretching as far as it can go. If we beat them, and that is a realistic proposition, they may be howling for his head as we did for Bruce’s.

The fourth leg of the CD v M saga is at Billingham Synthonia on Sunday, where Hetton Lyons CC take on Liverpool Martyrs in the FA Sunday Cup semi- final. Martyrs lost the quarter final to FC Tripimeni, a team formed by Greek Cypriots, but suspected that they might have played a “wrong ‘un”. They had – in fact three and they had breached the rules all the way through the tournament, so they were slung out and barred from the competition until Sir Dave Richards dries out.

I would be delighted to see a 3-1 overall win for Durham and would be happy to settle for a 2-2 as long as it is Oyster Martyrs who are progressing to the final. A big weekend looms.

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