Peter Sixsmith stuck in the wilds of snowy Shildon, delves into his bumper book of footballing phrases to sum up Sunday’s game in the flatlands of East Anglia. Whilst this one didn’t have Delia ranting and raving like some inebriated old harpy on the pitch at the break, she was seen in close up on Match of the Day towards the end of the game, biting her nails and mouthing the word bun, as the boys in red and white laid siege in the home side’s goalmouth. But then again she may just have been feeling a bit peckish and thinking of refreshments laid on in the board room. The outcome of the match hardly leaves Sixer over the moon. Let him explain……
A GAME OF TWO HALVES
What a pleasure to be able to use such a well loved footballing cliché, for this was clearly a game of two halves. The first half started at 4.00pm and finished at 4.48 and the second started at 5.05 and was over by 5.55. By the time Phil Dowd blew his final whistle, the Canaries were singing while the Black Cats were most certainly not purring.
There was plenty of time to consider this one on the long journey home. Five hours on the coach with only The Clitheroe Kid on Radio 4 Extra to cheer this correspondent up, concentrates the mind wonderfully and had me thinking of what happened in the away dressing room at Carrow Road between 4.45 and 5.00.
Whatever was said, Connor Wickham didn’t hear much of it as he was out on the pitch warming up and receiving abuse from the Barclay End because he had once played for Ipswich Town. How childish! Imagine us roundly abusing a visiting player because he had once played for the Mags. Far better to congratulate him on leaving loathed local rivals.
Wickham replaced an injured Steven Fletcher and pepped up our forward line by using his not inconsiderable physical presence. This combined with a much more aggressive and forward thinking midfield, allowed us to get into a game which we had looked like losing by three or four goals after a first half show that was as bad as the dross we served up on Tuesday night.
Gardner’s well struck goal in the 44th minute also acted as a catalyst for a performance which gave some short term encouragement to the travelling support, who backed the team as only Sunderland fans can when they believe that things can be turned around and who on the whole, still believe Martin O’Neill is the man to do it.
Not all. There were vociferous and well considered counter arguments from some on the coach, who thought that it was a real gamble to allow O’Neill to bring in new players in the January window – but no names mentioned as realistic successors to the beleaguered Ulsterman.
The first half gave more ammunition to those who are in favour of a change at the top. The two goals scored by a good Norwich side were totally avoidable and smacked of a team lacking in confidence and also lacking a strong voice at the back to organise the line when balls are knocked into the box.
Bassong’s goal was a huge disappointment as he was allowed to bundle the ball over the line, with goalkeeper and central defenders leaving the ball to each other. Pilkington’s was well taken and showed the benefits of a winger playing with confidence, but he was allowed to run into the box and across it without any kind of challenge.
At no stage in that opening half did we have any grip on the midfield. The defence looked shaky and the attacking wingers theory was as believable as that proposed by members of the Flat Earth Society.
Much sullen discontent as half time approached and then Craig Gardner rattled one in. That gave us hope and as Sunderland fans know better than anyone else, hope is often all we have.
In the second instalment of the game of two halves, we actually grabbed hold of the game and dominated it. Gardner pushed us forward while Johnson and the ever improving Rose pushed down the left. Wickham held the ball up well for Sessegnon and there was a genuine feeling that if we equalised we would go onto win the game.
We did neither, Gardner hit the post and Kilgallon put the rebound over the bar. The Norwich keeper, Mr Bunn the Baker’s Son, made a very good save from Sess and Wickham had a goal chalked off for offside. As he was one of four in this position, we could not complain.
But at the end of the day (good cliché, that one), we lost. We are seventeenth in the league, a point above Southampton and looking like a side that could well go into 2013 in a relegation place.
We are starting to give easy goals away – all 4 against Albion and both goals yesterday – and we are still not scoring enough. A good team would have used that second half dominance to go on and win the game. We didn’t.
A year on from Martin O’Neill taking over, we are in even more serious trouble than we were then. At least in 2011 we knew that Bruce had to be replaced and we had a name lined up to come in. Should O’Neill be dismissed or leave of his own accord, Lord only knows where we go this time. Poyet? Hughes? Robinson from Franchise F.C.?
The short term target has to be to run up two successive home wins against sides who clearly have trouble defending. Unfortunately, we would struggle to score goals against a team full of pensioners, so poor is our work in the opposition box.
Like little Jimmy Clitheroe, we get punished if we do things wrong. Unlike Jimmy, we don’t come back and start again as if nothing has happened the previous week. Chelsea and Reading will have noticed the lack of cohesion shown in the first half and also noted that once we go a goal down, we lose.
Like Jimmy, who usually ends up getting a slippering from his Granddad (child abuse was alive and kicking in 1960s radio sitcoms), that could well be us – and then as the small Lancashire lad always finds out, the game is well and truly up.
And Monsieur Salut has become very gloomy: read his latest contribution on the ESPN blog http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/710?cc=5739
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11 thoughts on “Sixer’s Soapbox: Sunderland tilting at windmills in Norwich defeat”
Going to disagree with a couple of points. Firstly I don’t think we ever looked like losing by 4 goals, they were as bad as us in the first half and an off-side goal gave them confidence and knocked ours, yet it still looked like 2 poor teams together.
Secondly, while the score may not have turned around, the performance most certainly did and on such things can future results hinge (Everton to Fulham).
Hopefully this time we will actually build on a result (beating Chelsea) followed by hammering Reading.
One can dream.
They say teams make their own luck and teams at the bottom do not get any.We certainly did not get any luck second half against a strangely nervy looking Norwich, who are in blinding current form(second only to Man City).An inch to the left and Gardner’s free kick goes in,any other player than Kilgallon steaming in to net the rebound would have helped,alas not.
On such slender events are matches decided.This season does thus remind me of the 15 point season,we seem to be constantly bemoaning our luck.The omens are not good.
That said I do have hope that this will improve,we have the players we have the manager and we have the support……luck will have to relent eventually and give way.
I thought that first half well outstripped anything we saw against QPR. For a start we didn’t concede against Harry’s new lot and we were 2-0 down at Carrow Road.
It was as bad a 45 minutes as I’ve seen since the days of Buxton and the 15 point season. It was truly, truly awful. I’m not buying into the notion of turning it round in the second half either. We didn’t. It was 2-1 at half time and 2-1 after 90 minutes.
Come in number 31 your time is up!
Sixer-we are playing a team full of Pensioners this Saturday! I fear, however, that they may be too quick for us in speed, thought and finishing. The none-too-popular Rafa Benitez has not won a game as Chesea gaffer. I wonder who he might break his duck against? Aye, that team in the red and white stripes who are usually beneficial to opposing sides who have not won in ages or strikers who haven’t scored in the last fourteen years! Ain’t cynicism great…
It’s got a Torres hatrick written all ower it!!!!
I thought I’d point out that strictly speaking it wasn’t a game of two halves as the first period was 48 minutes and the second 50 therefore it should have been a game of 24/29ths and 25/29ths. But then I came to my senses and realised that even for someone such as myself with a highly developed sense of pedantry, that was going a bit far.
However, can I suggest that the club hires Paul McKenna who can hypnotise the manager and the players before kick off into thinking they have already played the first 45 minutes. We might then see a team come charging out of the blocks and take the lead for once.
If Reading can put a scare into ManU…
I threw this stat up on twitter yesterday, and it doesn’t make pretty reading:
In the premier league, away from home, we have conceded the first goal 134 times. In these games, our record stands:
W5, D14, L115
And you have to go back a decade for most of those wins.
It’s made no difference who the manager is, so the reason has to be pretty deep-rooted. It can’t just be confidence, surely.
Regarding this particular game, the first half was horrendous. It’s like we had 11 players who’d only just met before kick-off. But the 2nd half was very encouraging, save for our inability to find the back of the net.
I’m sure that on Saturday, we’ll raise our game against Chelsea, and now is probably the best time to play them. We’ve got to get something out of it.
A good stat but it could be used to suggest keeping things tight at the back at the start of the game in the hope that we can hold on and then break the opposition down. That has been MON’s tactic which hasn’t been fruitful since March. Personally I feel we need to be much more attacking from the first whistle and try to score first.
Do you have any stats that show what happens when we take the lead – home or away?
I do, and I’ll add them when I get home this evening. Save to say, however you look at them, conceding first isn’t pretty. But scoring first is much more positive.
Home: W69, D20, L16
Away: W33, D19, L15
Home: W7, D23, L62 (Villa, 09, Ipswich 01, West Ham 08, Boro 08, Blackburn 09 & 11, WIgan 11)
Away: W5, D14, L115 (Newcastle, 99 & 2000), Watford 99, Chelsea 01, Blackburn 08)
In a nutshell, if we score first, we’ve a pretty good record, but if we concede first, we’re f*cked – and that’s something we really need to try to turn around.
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