Sixer at Goodison: a poppy-free account of nearly beating Everton

Jake has been happier

As if watching another defeat was not bad enough Pete Sixsmith then had his finely written account of an otherwise pleasant weekend assaulted by technical gremlins (Monsieur Salut to blame). So here, again, is Pete’s description – without so much as a word on James McClean and poppygate – of an away trip that promised a pub crawl, entertaining craic with knowledgeable fans and being present at a Sunderland victory. As Malcolm Dawson put it, citing Michael Lee Aday’s philosophical response to partial failure: ‘two out of three ain’t bad.’ Still, Sixer did see the green shoots of optimism peeping out from behind the Everton induced blues …

One of the pleasures I have always taken from football is that it gives me the opportunity to travel through parts of this country that I rarely see and to talk to people I would not ordinarily meet.

Everton away fulfilled those criteria most satisfactorily. I shared pints of excellent Cains Bitter with John McCormick and his brother in law, had a chinwag with a couple of Evertonians of my vintage who enjoyed hearing about the treatment meted out to Jimmy Hill at Fulham a couple of years ago and who were also astounded by the vehemence of our dislike of Coventry City FC.

I travelled home on Sunday on the slow route, which took me past Ribblehead Viaduct, a structure of such staggering beauty and power that if it were a footballer it would be Marco Gabbiadini on a good day, then through Hawes, over Buttertubs to Reeth, before returning to the bank free zone known as Shildon. There are few finer runs in England than that one.

But the most rewarding conversation came as I queued for the Soccer Bus that was to take me back to Sandhills Station and the Southport train. Two Everton fans categorically stated that we did not deserve to lose that game and that we had played well and looked far better than a number of other sides who had previously appeared at The Hulking Relic (aka Goodison Park ).

That confirmed my view that we had actually turned in a strong performance, albeit one that was not rewarded by a point or even a win.

As the clock approached the 73rd minute and Phil Neville was replaced by Apostolos Velios we were starting to believe that we could hold out and that the various homeward journeys to Wearside, Aigburth and Birkdale, would be joyous indeed.

The Greek striker’s contribution was immense, not because of anything that he actually did, – in fact, he had very little contact with the ball- but due to the fact that his introduction allowed the always impressive Marouane Fellaini to drop back from his advanced position into his more accustomed role, just behind the front two.

Six minutes later, the big haired Belgian had scored one, set up Jelavic for another and the game had been wrested from our grip.

Prior to that tactical switch, Cuellar and O’Shea had held Fellaini very well. Everton had concentrated on getting the ball up to him and we concentrated on stopping him from winning it and then picking up the second ball. It had worked.

Our midfield was sharper and more involved than it has been recently. We won tackles and when we broke, we broke well. We could have been two up by 3.10pm with Sess missing a good chance and Fletcher pulling a shot wide when he might have pulled it back to the onrushing McClean.

What we did was set a tempo from the beginning. The Blues were put on the back foot and although they got back into the game, we played with confidence and zip – so unlike the last four games.

Without Cattermole, Colback looked a different player and tackled sharply and passed quickly. Larsson put in a tremendous shift with some excellent tackles and a number of telling interceptions and it looked a well balanced central pairing.

That we showed pace and panache at times was due to a collective discovery of form by both Sess and Adam Johnson.

See what else Salut! Sunderland has been up to – James McClean and the poppy he wouldn’t wear (a well-worn topic mercifully absent from Pete’s report), Martin O’Neill‘s verdict on a less miserable defeat, Lars Knutsen on the need for revival soon. Just go to and navigate

Both have had difficult starts to the season and both have had us shaking our heads and wondering what has gone wrong. MON must have been as perplexed as the fans as they failed to provide us with the flair that our essentially workmanlike team needs.

Johnson had a much better game on Saturday. He sought the ball, revelled in the space given to him by the Everton defenders and won the tussle with Leighton Baines. That the one time Roy Keane target rarely had time to get forward was testimony to the impact that Johnson had.

He took his goal well and then cleared one off the line in the second half, to make this scribe feel much happier about his contribution to Sunderland AFC. Maybe we (I) have been expecting a little too much.

Click here for the Martin O’Neill ‘Team of all Talents’ mug: £9.50, post-free for UK buyers, from the Salut! Sunderland Shop

Paul Fraser, writing in Saturday’s Northern Echo made the point that at City, Johnson was in the second level of players and that this gave him a little more room to work in, as the opposition concentrated on Tevez, Aguero and co.

At Sunderland he is seen as the potential match winner in the midst of a more prosaic collection of players and he will be heavily marked, particularly in home games. He has to work out how to win these battles – and he certainly did so on Saturday.

However, we failed to take a point, and that was due to not picking up Fellaini when he went deeper. It was almost as if we breathed a sigh of relief and dropped our guard when we saw him pick up the ball on the edge of his own box.

What we did not do was mark him when he came forward. Look at the goal he scored. Larsson was struggling to get close to him and he was allowed time to shoot. It went through several pairs of legs and could, on another day, have been deflected for a corner. Or not.

The winner was an audacious flick, which just eluded O’Shea and played Jelavic in. He doesn’t miss those. Much misery in the 1960s style Bullens Road Lower, a stand replete with wooden floors, cramped toilets and pillars that block your view. I half expected to see Alex Young and Roy Vernon tussling with Martin Harvey and Cec Irwin.

So, yet another miserable result against Merseyside’s Decent Club, but one which gave a little hope for the future and was discussed over pints of Thwaites’s Wainwright Ale in the excellent Guest House in Southport, a pub that, unlike me, seems to get better with age.

And so, on to Fulham next week. They concede a few so maybe, just maybe, we can make them suffer. Unfortunately, they too have a player as clever as Fellaini in Dimitar Berbatov. Here’s hoping he puts on his “can’t be bothered” head on Sunday morning.

The trip down was spoiled by Brian Matthew spinning Max Bygraves’s record of When You Come to the End of a Lollipop. As a piece of music making it was as inept as the performance put in by referee Lee Mason. Bygraves’s chorus of “Gilly O golly, how I love my lolly” was matched for banality by Mr Mason’s staggering decision to book Danny Rose for being knocked over by two Everton defenders (do you suppose Danny may have had a word or two about it to get him into the book – ed?). Sometimes with refs, fings ain’t what they used to be!!!

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14 thoughts on “Sixer at Goodison: a poppy-free account of nearly beating Everton”

  1. Good,well written report and very fair. The difference between Everton this season and recent years is that I knew we would win this- especially when the cart horse that is Cap’n Pip went off. Previously it would have been a draw at best.
    Whilst I’m not a fan of MoN I’d like to see Sunderland do well. Proper club with proper fans, like us. Lots of good memories of SAFC fans, not least being in a working mens club in Sunderland on Boxing day (maybe 1983/84) with strippers performing- an eye opener for my 14yo kid brother! And, sorry, but we of course won later at Roker Park.
    I also remember the game at Goodison that developed your non-love of Jimmy Hill and CCFC. I was amazed at how many fans you had everywhere in the ground, including Gwladys St. Disgraceful cheating by the Big Chin.
    Good luck for the rest of the season and if any of Tony,John and Vince, all massive Sunderland fans who were living in Nat West Cartwright Gardens,London in the early 1980’s want to give me a shout feel free. And yes, it IS my real name.

  2. I thought Sunderland were absolutely fantastic, especially at the back, it’s no surprise that they have one of the best defensive records in the Prem. Also going forward the movement and immediate understanding between Sessegnon (forgive the spelling!) and Fletcher, especially in the first half showed that if you can keep those two fit you are in for a very good season. I actually was so shocked to hear that Sess hasn’t scored for 29 games? I’m sure a player with his quality will come good again. In other areas the left hand side always looked dangerous and in the centre Larsson and Gardner did a great job of not only breaking up play but picking up the second ball, also tended to keep their composure in possession. I always feel when watching Sunderland that they seem a far more solid and less eratic side without Cattermole, but I don’t see them often enough to form a conclusive judgement on him in particular.

    All in all I thought that although Everton had more possession we did not create enough chances and in the end I think Sunderland deserved at least a point. Good luck to King Louis, Jimmy Mac and Sunderland for the rest of the season, an Everton season ticket holder.

  3. refreshing to read an intelligent, open minded report from a fellow fan. You’re right about Goodison, but without money (or any possibility of getting it) it’ll have to do. Sharing with the unpleasant neighbours will never happen, despite how much sense it would make. (I’ll be shot for even suggesting it)
    good luck to Sunderland.

  4. I think this time, MON told his midfielders to be more adventurous and make forward runs. Its the right thing to do , but may result in some tiredness later on.
    Some Aston Villa fans commented that their team, in the last third of the season, under-performs. And this is probably due to MONs way of playing because it can stretch the midfield. He asks his players to track back and get behind the ball. Thats where a large squad comes in handy.

    I think we’ll do OK this season now that we seem to realise that getting men forward in and around the box is actually a good idea.

  5. Evertonian living in Newcastle, with a Mackem bird. A draw was the right result, Sunderland will rise, Everton need to learn how to defend for fs, pleased with the 3points off the NEast’s top club. Good luck for the rest of the season lads….proper club, proper fans.

  6. Replying as an Evertonian this is a fair report. Sunderland defenced well and broke confidently, especially Sessegnon. However, your defence failed to re-adjust their game plan when Fellaini dropped back a little, and paid a heavy price.

    Can’t argue with your comments about Goodison, although personally I love it, it is full of the spirits of past players and supporters, Dean, Lawton, Ball, Pele, Eusebio, my grandad and dad.

    Your drive home is one of the best in Britain.

    Good luck for the rest of the season to a proper club

    • Sorry no offense meant, its not the supporters fault re the state of the ground.Goodison reminded me of Roker Park which has the same special memories to those older fans.But we all knew its time had come when we left.

      Everton is a cracking football club with a very good manager……one whom I admire and would love to have had here.But we will make the most of what we have,MON needs time like Moyes has had.

  7. Yes, different year same result at Goodison,how can these bogey games keep cropping up?Mind you we have rather a lot of those….any trip to London usually does…oh and we just happen to have one next.

    Goodison was way past its best when I last visted about 6 years ago,must be falling apart at the edges by now.Hope they got the leaky pipe fixed that poured water(at least I hope it was water)over us for the entire game.

    Ok, it was a better performance,so we will have to make do with that.Though listening to MON on Radio Newcastle prior to kick off, he stated that it may well get worse before it gets better….he’s not wrong there.Let’s hope he gets the second bit right.

  8. Well observed report – you and Ken Buckley on Toffeeweb make far better reading than the nomal journo’s.

    After the game I spoke to a young lady wearing a Sunderland shirt (to commiserate on you not really deserving the end result) only to be told she was an Everton fan from Sunderland who had been sitting in the away part of the decrepid Bullens Road – she had an Everton shirt on underneath.

    BTW thanks for returning the Upper Bullens tickets – I had a great view from what would have been your seats. Good luck for the rest of the season.

  9. Spot on analysis as per usual.On the way to the game I don’t think I’ve ever felt as unenthusiastic about watching Sunderland,but a most heartening display made the journey back (on the Harrogate Everton Supporters coach) a fairly enjoyable one despite our traditional defeat.The Toffees fans were very complimentary and all felt that we deserved at least a point.The whole team put in a great shift and at last there were signs of flair and imagination.Lee Mason was very disappointing giving a number of bizarre if not ultimately significant decisions.The booking of Danny Rose was unbelievably bad and as far as I understand it Danny will be unable to appeal.By the way there is a fine picture of the incident in the Observer.Overall then a much-improved SAFC and let’s hope this proves to be a turning point.

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