Sixsmith’s Soapbox: Sunderland 2 Real Betis 0 at Bishop

Pete Sixsmith: Real Betis, real close to home, real football
Pete Sixsmith: Real Betis, real close to home, real football

John McCormick writes: I don’t know if Pete sent one of his sevens as there’s no SIM in my phone. I suspect he hasn’t because he has taken the time to write this account of tonight’s game. In his e-mail he said “just a quickie”. Maybe, but it’s still a fine analytical account of a match.

And now the serious stuff begins. No youngsters on the bench, just 18 players who would be expected to be in or about the first team next season. No warming into the season and trying things out, more a test to see if they can do what the Head Coach wants them to. No wholesale changes, no holiday atmosphere just an evening’s work out as the West Brom game looms ever closer.

Santiago Vergini dropped by to play at right back. He has signed a 12 month loan deal which is, I suspect, more of a comment on the complicated player ownership arrangements in Argentina as it is on the clubs failure to make a permanent signing or the player’s unwillingness to come to Sunderland.

It was also our first look at Jack Rodwell and I was surprised at how big he was. In fact, we look a much bigger and stronger team all round. Wickham is big, O’Shea is big, Mannone is big. They look much bigger standing next to the fence at Heritage Park than they do from Row 30 in the East Stand.

Rodwell played for the first half and showed some good touches and also gave us an idea of how Poyet wants us to play this season. The whole object of the first half was to see how quickly Rodwell could get to the edge of the oppositions box and then, how effectively the ball could be placed in front of him.

Adam Johnson did this very well. He could have taken a shot on goal but instructions were to feed Rodwell and it was last second interceptions by Betis defenders that prevented the Southport lad (wonder if he drinks in The Guest House) from scoring. He is clearly going to be an important player.

Tonight, he had Bridcutt behind him and he was solid and he had Giaccherini in front of him and he was busy until he strained his groin just before half time and shuffled off. The other new face for those who had not sweltered in the Algarve heat was Patrick van Aanholt. He created a positive impression, looked bright and lively and showed intelligence and flair in a position that has caused us problems in the past.

Much of the football was tippy tappy, although the arrival of Lee Cattermole for the second half ratcheted up the foul count. Betis took exception to one of his challenges and there was an awkward moment but it soon subsided I can only assume that Jordi Gomez had upset Betis when he was in Spain as they clobbered him on at least three occasions.

They tired towards the end as they had played at Stoke last night at The Britannia Stadium, losing 2-0. The score was the same tonight as first of all Steven Fletcher and then Connor Wickham crashed home two thumping goals to give us a win and the first goals scored by senior players against serious opposition.

Poyet and the coaching staff would have been satisfied that the basics were right and that the style of play they want is being picked up by the players. They have another chance to fine tune against Udinese at Bishop Auckland on Saturday. I shall be at St. James’s Park – watching Exeter City play Portsmouth.

Team;

Mannone;

Vergini (Mavrias 46) Roberge, O’Shea (Brown 46) van Aanholt;

Johnson (Fletcher 67), Bridcutt, Rodwell (Cattermole 46) Larsson,

Giaccherini (Gomez 38); Wickham

Subs not used; Pantilimon,

Matt's cartoon as adapted by Jake
Matt’s cartoon as adapted by Jake

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