Sixer’s Soapbox: Peterborough make their point against Sunderland

John McCormick is editing this in Liverpool, where one of the clubs could win the Champions League, not to mention the Premier League, and the other’s just put four past Manchester United. When he has finished he’ll be seeing daughter Helen and her Spurs supporting boyfriend Will off to Lime Street Station, from where they’ll get to Euston in time for Will to travel up the Northern line to a brand new state of the art stadium and a team that’s hoping to qualify for Europe without having to win the Champions League, which they could also do. Such is life outside County Durham, where a different form of reality is emerging from the ashes of a long hard season.

Pete Sixsmith – to be found on BBC Radio Newcastle’s Total Sport between 6pm and 7pm on Wednesday, ie tomorrow – picks up the story:

I suspect that this puts an end to our automatic promotion prospects. The play offs beckon and we await them with considerable enthusiasm, confident that over three games we can manage three wins and join Luton Town and Barnsley back in the Championship.
Or not……

This was another opportunity lost, another two points lost and another gut wrenching journey home working out the possible combinations – except that, with less than two weeks of the regular season left, the combinations are not great. Here was a game that appeared to be won in the 87th minute and then that vital victory was snatched from us in the third minute of added time. As at Oxford, Scunthorpe and Luton, we failed to close the game out and allowed the home team to come back and take a point.

Peterborough deserve some credit. They have an outside chance of meeting us again in a couple of weeks and I would rate them higher than the anodyne Doncaster team that pitched up on Wearside on Friday. They will fancy their chances if we do have to make the trip to London Road again. But I think that they, like us, have too much to do and it is out of their hands.

Enough of the home side. What about us? Were we “s****,” the word that has followed us about all season or were we unfortunate? Will we prevail in the play offs or is it another year of trudging round Division One? Will the support stay with us or will it dissolve into the ether?

To answer in order:

We were more careless than unfortunate. We played a disciplined and largely thoughtful game for the majority of the 97 minutes. We should have been ahead at half time but an awful miss by Charlie Wyke and a couple of fine saves by Aaron Chapman meant that we weren’t.

The team looked well balanced. The manager picked the same squad that won comfortably on Friday. We defended solidly, worked hard in midfield and used the centre forward well. But for a variety of reasons, it just didn’t come off.

There are those who will berate the manager. They were at it last night on the message boards. How can he legislate for his centre forward missing a straightforward chance as Wyke did? How can he legislate for the defence losing a moment’s concentration and letting Gooden in for the equaliser?

He can’t. He has to rely on players doing what they are expected to do. And, as we all know, footballers often can’t do that. If everything were done perfectly, it would be a dull old game. The higher you get, the more chance there is of getting most things right. We are in the third tier with a number of third tier players. We are what we are.

The game was an entertaining one with both sides having a go. The referee had a good game and allowed the game to flow. He correctly booked Oviedo in the second minute for a crashing foul on Marcus Maddison, revenge for the former Mag getting him sent off in September.

After that, it was competitive with an element of fierceness and sparky with an element of desperation. Both sides needed to win. We were the better side for much of the game but failed to take advantage of our superior possession. That’s why we failed to win.

We weren’t “s****.” The manager isn’t “s****” and the players aren’t “s****.” They do their best. They cannot be faulted on the score of effort, as Argus used to say about Bobby Kerr. If they are not quite good enough that is not their fault. It is indicative of the position that we find ourselves in. Max Power had a tremendous game yesterday, reminiscent of his form when he joined us in August, scored a fine goal, so he’s not a bad player. None of them are, but we lack that little bit of push that the top two have.

Will we go through in the play offs? While my heart says “Yes, of course,” my head is preparing itself for yet another massive disappointment be it at The Valley, The Keepmoat or Wembley. We are fated in these, as Gillingham, Swindon Town, Charlton Athletic and Crystal Bloody Palace have shown over the years.  A promotion place is not impossible but I don’t see Barnsley slipping up against Blackpool or Bristol Rovers. So play offs it is and it becomes a whole season condensed into three games.

As supporters, we embraced League One for what it was, hoping it would only be for one season. It still may be but another year of Wycombe, Coventry (if still in business) and Rochdale will not go down well. But that discussion can wait.

It was a hot day. The coach was a beauty, we stopped in Stamford and arrived in Peterborough in time for a pint in The Coal Heavers Arms.

Pity the day was spoiled in the 93rd minute……


9 thoughts on “Sixer’s Soapbox: Peterborough make their point against Sunderland”

  1. Last summer my main objective for this season was to stop the rot. Get into mid-table, stop losing every week and win a few games. We’re miles ahead of schedule on that front. We haven’t romped away with the league but why would anyone ever imagine that we would ? It’s not 1987 and we were never going to have players of the quality of Gabbiadini, Gates and Benno.

    We had to throw a squad together just before the season began and, inevitably, that squad was going to be made up, by and large, of lower league journeymen. Two of the best examples of this are Flanagan and Baldwin. They’ve never played in the Premier League and never will. They were guaranteed to make some basic mistakes as the season went on. They’d be playing at a higher standard if they were any better. But the two of them along with the whole squad, and the management and coaching staff, have given their all, week in, week out. They’ve given us some great memories along the way.

    We may well still go up and I desperately hope we do. Despite the memories, the new grounds, the genuine football fans, I have no desire at all for another season in this crappy division with it’s time-wasting teams and abysmal referees. But, wherever we end up, hopefully Ross will have a proper summer to genuinely build his own squad. He thoroughly deserves it. Whatever happens, we remain in a miles better place than we were 12 months ago.

  2. I’ve just read about Chris Maguire giving a signed shirt to a young fan after his shot during the warm up hit the lad. It’s gestures like this that have gone a long way towards getting the fans back onside. I saw a similar display of concern at Blackpool after an elderly lady was hit during the warm up.

    Defoe, O’Shea, Don Vito and a few others over the past few seasons have shown a connection with the support but there were plenty who didn’t. Every member of the squad has done so this year, whether in the team or not.

  3. After Malcolm’s kind words elsewhere that I MIGHT have helped improve the atmosphere at the Stadium of Light, it is disappointing to report that some of our amazing away support did not, in my opinion, reach their normal giddy heights. I refer only to post the final whistle. I was gutted, the players were gutted but they did deserve better than the reaction of the many who filed away without applauding them from the pitch. One such (aged about sixty) who I asked “Aren’t you going to clap?” replied “Nay chance”. If we are to get through these last three – or maybe six – games with a positive outcome, every single one of us needs to give at least as good as the players on the pitch.

  4. Malcolm said it all for me – and more eloquently. So I won’t say anymore. Except that after any game, it is Sixer’s Report I await most eagerly.

  5. My prediction was the play offs at the beginning of the season, and that was more in hope than expectation.

    I don’t think we are the best team in the league, and I think we are where we are because we have a good manager and a committed group of players.

    there I still a faint chance of automatic promotion, and if not, a decent chance that we might scrape though the play offs.

    I’ll settle for that.

  6. If we win our three remaining games and either Blackpool or Bristol Rovers can hold Barnsley to a draw we will still go up automatically.

    Of course the odds are against us and failure to beat Portsmouth will scupper those chances as the automatic spots are Luton’s and Barnsley’s to lose and if we don’t beat Pompey they will be almost impossible to catch too.

    But whatever happens over the next 12 days or so this team have given their all this season and I am still enjoying it more than any other for ages.

    Not going up will be a disappointment but in my opinion, turning up to watch a side where a high proportion of players have given up and show no affinity to the club or the fans is even more disappointing.

  7. Thanks, Pete. It is what it is, which is far better than I, and others with perhaps shorter memories, feared last May, when continued descent into League 2 seemed an optimistic prospect with oblivion a likely alternative. We are fourth from top, not fourth from bottom, and the rot has been well and truly stopped. I’ll take the play-offs with thanks – and even another season in League 1 if need be!

  8. A fine and level-headed account of a disappointing day.

    “The higher you get, the more chance there is of getting most things right. We are in the third tier with a number of third tier players. We are what we are.”

    Too true, but this is often forgotten.

    I don’t read message boards and don’t use Facebook, Twitter etc., so I don’t suffer the loudmouths.

  9. A voice of sanity in an increasingly Trumpian world of loudmouths. Another first class report and like pete ,heart says win the play-offs, head says no chance. Que sera.

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