The defeat of Exeter City, with a quirky scoreline, had Salut! Sunderland delving into murky territory. The introduction to Sixer’s Sevens wondered whether Pete Sixsmith ‘enjoyed a nine-goal thriller, in a sadomasochistic sort of way’ and his e-mail this morning talked of the ‘pain and pleasure’ of the occasion. Let Sixer, aka Mr Whiplash, explain …
EXETER CITY (H)
It’s been a long time since Sunderland scored six goals in a home game. A cursory look at the stats shows a 7-0 crushing of Oxford United in 1998 and a glorious 6-0 romp over Mick McCarthy’s Millwall in December 1995, with Craig Russell grabbing four of them [happy memories: M Salut saw them both]. There are few better feelings than ramming the goals in, whoever the opposition are.
So you would expect this to be an upbeat piece of reporting and observation in which Jermain Defoe’s hat trick vies with the continued progress of Duncan Watmore as the pinnacle of the plethora of positives that emerged from last night’s game.
And they are: Defoe took his goals as well as he would expect his version of the Admirable Crichton to squeeze his toothpaste, choose his suits and feed his cat. Watmore has a real buzz about him and although he sometimes runs around like a particularly giddy Labrador puppy, he has the makings of a very good player, hence his call up to the national Under 21 squad yesterday.
There were other positives to take from this. Yann M’Vila again looked a comfortable player who could be very influential for us as the season rolls/drags on. Jack Rodwell took his two goals well and there was a neat cameo performance from young American Lyndon Gooch which reinforced much of the positive views that the Hetton Irregulars have about him.
But the verdicts on the game will be more about the three goals that were conceded than the six that were scored. This is what will probably be dominating Dick’s thoughts as he prepares for the trip to Villa Park on Saturday. He will be wondering how experienced international footballers can defend as if they were playing for the Brandon and Byshottles B team in the Browney Valley Sunday League Reserve Division.
The three goals that were given away were frightening. Rodwell and Defoe had put us into a comfortable two goal lead and the Grecians were looking at a defeat as grim as the one they suffered at Roker Park in 1989.
They pulled one back when Coates was caught flat-footed and allowed Oyeleke to score and then John O’Shea failed to get off the ground to stop Wheeler having an easy header to level the score. There was much shaking of heads in the East Stand but it looked like normal service was resumed when Defoe picked up a Cattermole pass and restored the lead.
It wasn’t. Wheeler won yet another header against O’Shea and Tom McCready rifled it in. The muttering grew as the players trooped off at half time. Much of it revolved around the fact that three of our first choice back four had managed to concede three goals to a League 2 side that had left out their most potent forward in Tom Nichols. In three-and-a-half games, we had conceded 11 goals and we had not played any of the top sides in the Premier League. Worrying? Oh yes, Bishop, I should say so!!!
Fletcher came on for Graham (too slow by half – he is not a Premier League player) and departed within 10 minutes after taking a blow in the face. I can’t imagine any of the Leeds or Hull KR players I shall be watching on Saturday going off for such a thing, but that is the nature of modern day football.
To describe Fletcher as robust would be akin to describing Katie Hopkins as the voice of calm and reasoned liberalism. But his departure and that of the disappointing Adam Matthews a few minutes later, allowed us to see two potential graduates from the highly rated Under 21s.
Duncan Watmore is seen by some as the new Billy Hughes. He has pace and the ability to run at defenders but without that lovely guile and balance that the Scot could thrill us with. But nowadays, the pace is important and in a squad that is bereft of it, Watmore gives us an option, which is why the wily Dutchman is not playing him from the start.
Gooch is also quick but with a much lower centre of gravity. He reads a game well and was nurtured by Larsson who had dropped in at right back. This was a good call by Dick as most of us expected either Brown or Robson to come on when Matthews limped off.
By this time, Exeter were puffing and blowing and two fresh, young and keen players were prepared to have a real go at them, something which their elders, worn down by four years of constant struggle, seemed reluctant to do.
Rodwell’s header settled things down and then Watmore beat the keeper in a race for the ball to tie up the result. Defoe’s third from a Larsson cross was the proverbial icing on the cake as Jermain became the first player to score a hat-trick since Darren Bent against Bolton Wanderers five years ago.
So we march on, although the next round is quite a difficult one. I suggest that we play the following team against City: Stryjek; Robson (J), Roberge, Beadling Robson (T); Mavrias, Agnew, Smith, Gooch; Watmore, Mandron.
They couldn’t possibly defend any worse than last night and we might discover a couple of potential stars – maybe.