John McCormick writes: I almost didn’t go. Will was coming up and I was waiting to hear if he wanted to come with me before I tried to get tickets. By the time I realised he didn’t the few tickets left all had obstructed views. Stub hub had 36 tickets available and I was tempted to press the button but Monsieur Salut suggested I try Pete Sixsmith, who came up with the goods. Even transport worked out. No trains, no soccer specials but my son-in-law dropped me off on his way to Blackburn and an Evertonian friend gave me a lift home. “Days like this” Sobs said after Man City, and he was right.
Pete’s now on his way to Cardiff. How he got the time to write this I don’t know but double well done that man:
I have been going to Goodison since 1966 and it has never been a happy place to come away from. A relegation in the 70s, a couple of real whoppings under Reid and Keane and a feeling that, although it looks and smells like Roker (particularly in the Bullens Road, Lower), there are no fond memories of Charlie Hurley, Billy Hughes et al to keep you going.
I was there in 1996 when Craig Russell and Michael Bridges scored the three goals that gave us a welcome win and lifted us to 12th place in the league. Everton fans were gracious that day and commended us on the quality of our play and the performance of Lionel Perez, who made a stunning penalty save from Duncan Ferguson, a save that changed the whole game.
I have to say that penalties and wins were not much on my mind pre game in The Leigh Arms. Two thirds of the Salut! Sunderland editorial staff were there discussing the difficulties of putting the site together and probably wondering why on earth they had left their nearest and dearest at home in order to witness what was likely to be another nail banged in our relegation coffin.
Well, weren’t we oldies wrong? Because what we got was a good game of football between two football playing sides and a rivalry that has a much better chance of being renewed next season than looked possible at kick off time. We played some good football, particularly in the first half and made it very difficult for Everton to play the way that they wanted. After some initial nerves, the two Francophone centre halves settled well and negated the threat of Lukaku, while the midfield controlled the game, nicking the ball from their players and setting up a couple of decent chances before the Big Decision came.
Howard’s way of clearing the ball was to give a pointless short pass to Osman, who then dawdled on it and allowed Ki to nip in and take it round the desperate keeper. He brought Ki down, leaving Lee Probert (who had an excellent game and looked a very good referee on this showing) with no choice but to award a penalty and send Howard packing to the dressing room. The American’s reaction was understandable but thoughtless. Had he let Ki score, they would have been a goal down but still with 11 men; were I Roberto Martinez, I would be furious with him, not for the poor pass out, but for his reaction to it.
Osman was booked as well and the replacement keeper was well beaten by Ki’s excellent spot kick – and that probably hammered another one of those metaphorical nails into Craig Gardner’s metaphorical coffin.
For the rest of the first half we controlled the game and could have scored again. Celustka had a shot fumbled by Robles but he did well to stop Larsson’s follow up and there were times when we retained possession well but just could not get that final ball or shot in.
They did come at us, but by this time Roberge and Diakite were beginning to show the qualities Roberto Di Fanti and Valentino Angeloni saw in them and, along with increased tenacity in midfield – Colback showing that his selection was a good one by Poyet – we looked relatively comfortable as we tried to tire them out.
We looked forward to pressing home our advantage in the second period.
That we didn’t was due to a very good performance from Everton. That we prevented them from equalising was due to an excellent performance by Mannone and some very solid defending from the men in front of him.
Ross Barkley replaced Kevin Mirallas (who had nipped off for a poo before the end of the first half) and he pushed Everton forward. They did not lay siege to our box, because we kept holding them in midfield, with Cattermole, Larsson and Colback outstanding here and with Ki picking up a lot of ball and using it wisely.
Up front, Borini was lively and Fletcher worked hard and with a bit more quality than Altidore – although he did miss a good chance when Giaccherini played him in with the best pass of the match.
But it was defensively where we excelled and I was very impressed with Valentin Roberge, who looked a really cool customer as the ball was knocked in from the flanks by an increasingly urgent Everton side. His heading, under pressure from Lukaku, was excellent and, like Brown, he tried to use the ball rather than hoof it away.
His colleague Diakite was also strong in the air but a little more inclined to clear his lines with a solid boot. He also missed a good chance to put the game to bed at the start of the second half.
But the star of the game was undoubtedly Vito Mannone, who made a number of very good saves and one outstanding one from a Barkley free kick. He saw the ball late but got his huge frame across to push the ball round the post, reminiscent of M Salut on Shildon Rec against The King Willy Lads circa 1962.
The walk back to the coach was a pleasant one, slightly tempered by the fact that others around us had also won away from home – although both Villa and Norwich look to me like sides that will be dragged in to the relegation scrap before much longer. Villa in particular look like a managerial change waiting to happen.
Catch Monsieur Salut on tour to Goodison and at ESPN: http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/2596?cc=5739
When Everton’s final corner was beaten out and men in red-and-white stripes raced forward with Robles only just ahead of them, having gone forward to boost chances of a last-ditch equaliser, the response to Lee Probert’s final whistle was as if Sunderland supporters’ ironic earlier chant — “We’re going to win the league” — had just come true.
And so, off we go to Cardiff, a club that has sold its soul to a Malaysian devil and are now reaping the less positive rewards of foreign ownership. I suspect that MacKay will be gone by Saturday (correct – ed), which should lead to an interesting atmosphere inside the City of Cardiff Stadium should we emulate Southampton.
No Salut reunions at this one and no Durham Branch coach, so the report may be a little later than usual. I think that the readership can live with that.
There is hope – isn’t there always as a Sunderland supporter?
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