Monsieur Salut writes: in fact there were many more cheers for a decent 70-minute outing for Duncan. The crowd watching the Sunderland Under 23s against West Ham appreciated his running, his passion and the mere fact that he’s back. If Pete Sixsmith offers two cheers not three, it is because he also noticed a familiar Watmore failing: what to do at the end of one of his bursts of speed that leave opponents trailing behind. But it will be good to have his flair and his commitment back in the side.
I wrote recently about the death of a friend and former colleague Charlie Whebell, a West Ham supporter of the old school. He’d have enjoyed watching his young ‘uns remind everyone of the importance of taking chances (and been impressed by the willingness of the subs to chat to spectators) …
After the disappointment of the Cardiff game, I wondered whether a day in the house was preferable to watching the Under 23s at Hetton on Sunday. Had the weather been its usual unpleasant self I would have stayed at home but the arrival of a pale autumnal sun and a scintilla of warmth encouraged me to fire up the trusty Mazda and head for Hetton for my first glimpse of the Under 23s this season.
It was also an opportunity to report on how Duncan Watmore is progressing after his nine month layoff. He played for 45 minutes at Manchester City last week and won a penalty in a 2-2 draw, leaving some hoping that the introduction of his pace and direct running may give our one paced attack a boost in the next two games.
He played for 70 minutes and looked strong. His pace took him past the Hammers defenders a number of times, but his final execution was a little disappointing. Sometimes the ball ran away from him, sometimes he stumbled, sometimes his shot was either wayward or too close to the keeper. He went off to a good round of applause as we showed that we can clutch at straws better than most supporters.
It was a good game which the visitors won 2-1 thanks to two goals in quick succession in the first half. Both came from errors by Denver Hume, usually dependable at left back, and both showed the major difference between the two sides. We missed chances, the Hammers took theirs.
Toni Martinez made a name for himself last season while on loan at Oxford United by coming on in a Third Round FA Cup tie against Newcastle and scoring the final goal in a 3-0 win. He is a big, muscular player who led the line well. His goal was a well cushioned header across Michael Woud in the Sunderland goal and he set up Martin Samuelson for the second a few minutes later.
Luke Molyneux got us back into the game when he drove at the defence to beat the impressive Trott and from then on, we pressed for an equaliser that would not come. Watmore had two saved, Elliott Embleton had opportunities as did Molyneux, but the final shot was delayed or put over the bar or blocked by a resolute West Ham defence well marshalled by their very impressive skipper, Moses Makasi. He must be on the edge of the first team and may be a player we could take advantage of in January.
This was a young team with only Watmore having any first team experience at any level – if you discount Rees Greenwood’s cameo at Vicarage Road in what seems like eons ago. There were no Robsons , Michael Ledger is on loan at Hartlepool (and was missed yesterday) and none of the fringe players were given a run out which suggests that some of them will be lining up at Portman Road on Tuesday.
Simon Grayson (how much longer before “beleaguered” appears in front of his name) was there watching and he would have noted that Watmore offers something different, Embleton works hard but had an off day with regard to his shooting and that Rees Greenwood is not going to make it at Championship level.
The Hammers’ substitutes were a good set of lads and were willing to engage in conversation. They stayed “in a Marriott, near the sea” so I deduced they had been billeted at the Seaburn, so beloved by Madame Salut. They had strolled along the beach in the morning and were straight home in their coach, which was also used by the FA and the England team. Not a bad life for a young man. Incidentally, they had a Pike and Holland in their team. There was much discussion as to whether they were related to Geoff and Patsy. They weren’t.