When there’s proper football to be had in the flesh, Pete Sixsmith isn’t likely to stay in to watch Man Utd vs Arsenal on the box, with United fans incensed at Michael Oliver’s application of relatively simple laws of the game. He took himself off to Hetton to see Sunderland’s Under 21s in winning action. The opposition, West Ham, are also the first team’s opponents for the next away game. Could it be an occasion for trying out one or two of the brighter sparks among the young ‘uns, if only because the seniors have repeatedly let us down? Maybe not, but who knows what a hungry Mandron or Watmore might do …
This was the penultimate game at the Hetton Centre with a visit from Everton bringing down the curtain on this tidy and convenient ground for the season. That is in the merry, merry month of May, with Chelsea visiting the Stadium the week after.
This was a real Under 21 affair, with no players on either side having had any worthwhile first team experience. The Hammers are bottom of the league and we were in the traditional Sunderland position of one place above the drop zone, so the 3-0 victory was much more welcome for Robbie Stockdale than it was for his East End counterpart, Stevie Potts.
The line up had the familiar faces in it: Dixon, Agnew, Watmore, Mandron with only George Honeyman missing. Extensive research (asking one of the subs warming up in front of us) came up with the fact that he was injured and was not in line for a place in Saturday’s first team line up.
Duncan Watmore might be. He was on the bench at Old Trafford and he played with a fair bit of verve and swing last night. He ran at the West Ham defenders and caused them problems all game. He was brought down in the box in the first half for a penalty which the accomplished Thomas Beadling converted and was then put away by the busy and industrious Mikael Mandron for the second. He finished it with some aplomb.
Mandron led the line well. He was a real handful, never allowing the defenders to settle. He has filled out and looks as if he could become a good player. But, like too many others over the years, he finds his progress log-jammed by senior players who seem to bring little to the first team. His back heel flick, which set up Rhys Greenwood for his goal was a gem.
The general consensus was that this was a well-drilled and well-organised team. They work hard for one another and although some may well move on in the summer it has been enjoyable watching them develop. Robbie Stockdale has built his team well and works them hard – which is exactly as it should be.
How the Hammers saw it:
51: West Ham are piling on the pressure yet Sunderland go closest to scoring as Mikael Mandron's effort hits the post.
— West Ham United FC (@whufc_official) March 9, 2015
The first team’s date with destiny is looming now and there was not a great deal of optimism amongst the sparse attendance last night. The jeunesse dorée of Hetton have stopped coming, which for those of us who have had enough of teenagers is most pleasing, while some of the Eppleton Irregulars have dropped off. I am sure that the “lure” of Manchester United v Arsenal kept a few in. Fools.
My journey home was spoiled by Alan Green commentating on the above mentioned game. That’s two days running I have had to put up with his egocentric contributions; at least last night he had Phil Neville with him and Neville does not stroke the Ulsterman’s prejudices as some others do.
Oh for the days of Peter Jones, Bryan Butler and dear old Bill Bothwell – although John Murray and Conor McNamara press all the right buttons for me.
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