Sixer Says: SAFC off to a winning pre-season start vs Darlington

Pete Sixsmith: 'it's back and so am I'
Pete Sixsmith: ‘it’s back and so am I’

It seems a little too early for football but it’s back all the same and Pete Sixsmith was at Bishop Auckland to catch a 4-2 win for the Lads …

A pleasant evening in DL4 as the season opened at Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park ground, where Darlington are tenants – and, if rumours are to be believed, tenants for a fair while as it looks like their ground share with Darlington RFC is very much on the back burner.

None of which worried Sunderland who have a fancy for playing some Under 21 or WSL games at Heritage Park in the near future. We like the set up and although the pitch has its problems, there is plenty of good shopping nearby.

We turned out a reasonably strong side with Jordan Pickford and Thomas Beadling of the Development Squad claiming places as The Giant Pantilimon recovered from injury and John O’Shea recovered from being shouted at by Roy Keane. The usual suspects were back – Cattermole, Bridcutt, Johnson, Graham and Giaccherini were all on from the start.

It was Cattermole’s error that gave Darlington their opener. He lost the ball and Stephen Thompson, a prodigiously talented player with an unfortunate tendency to “carry a bit of weight” thundered home an excellent goal from the edge of the box.

When the entire defence was caught napping a few minutes later and allowed Adam Mitchell to lob his former team mate Pickford, it looked like there could be a shock on the cards. The Quakers were playing well and played a hustling game that stopped most of our players from dwelling on the ball.

Chances were created and missed – Graham a particular culprit as he needed three touches when a simple one should have set him up for our opener – but it eventually came from Giaccherini, who side footed the ball home from close range.

There were changes at half time. Off went Pickford, Van Aanholt, Brown, Cattermole and Defoe and on came Mannone, Matthews, Brady, Buckley and Wickham. Three of them were quickly involved in the action.

A ball into the box from Adam Matthews found Danny Graham who, once again, needed too many touches, but he managed to knock it in past the despairing lunges of two Darlington defenders to level the scores.

Then George Brady, a former Chelsea youth player, brought down David Dowson (another former red and white) and Thompson stepped up to hit a decent penalty, but not good enough to beat Vito Mannone, who brought back memories of Old Trafford in 2014.

That knocked the “home” team back, and a good goal from Wickham put us ahead before Giaccherini wrapped it up with a curling shot that had the 1,200 Sunderland supporters wondering how important he could be if he can keep fit.

There were opportunities to add to that as Johnson and Wickham performed tricks in the box (Wickham sawed a woman in half, while Johnson produced a rabbit out of a hat) and both sets of fans left relatively happy.

Giaccherini was the real plus – he looked quality and he seems to be determined to make something of his time in England. Wickham looked sharp and also slimmer than he was last year. He needs to start well in August; this is a very important year for him.

No Coates, Larsson or Fletcher and interestingly no Honeyman, Agnew or Watmore, three of the Development Squad who are expected to make progress this year. Are they going to Sacramento or Tow Law? All will be revealed. Watch this space……..

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