Despite the entertainment value of a five-goal match involving Kevin Ball’s young squad, talk turned inevitably to Matters at the Top. Read on for Pete Sixsmith‘s match report – and a tongue-in-cheek look at runners and riders for the nead coach job …
No rebellions at Hetton as the development squad turned out for Kevin Ball and probably had mayonnaise on their chips at lunchtime, now that the sauce salesman has been allowed to call again.
There are frightening stories coming out of the club about the former head coach, with players having had enough of him and his provocative and aggressive management style. The consensus amongst the Hetton Irregulars (swelled with an interloper from Chester, up to watch his team at Gateshead tomorrow night) was that, all things considered, it was a wise move to relieve him of his duties and that it was all an awful nightmare and we would wake up and Martin O’Neill would still be in charge.
The Under 21s played a Middlesbrough side which had half a dozen players with first team experience, while we had none – apart from 20 minutes at Spurs for Mandron and Mitchell. John Egan was on the bench after 10 months out with a very bad leg break sustained while on loan at Bradford City, so we were hoping for a glimpse of the talented Irishman.
As it was, the game was competitive and just a little bit feisty, so Egan remained on the bench next to the acting first team coach. He said a temporary goodbye to his young charges and was rewarded with a 3-2 win over opponents who played well despite going down to 10 men midway through the first half.
In fact, it was Boro who took the lead when the energetic Luke Williams slotted home a good goal from 20 yards, wide of the despairing dive of Joel Dixons. Mikael Mandron levelled from the spot after a needless handball by a Boro defender and then full back Jonathan Burn was given his marching orders after a wild challenge on Adam Mitchell.
We made the advantage count when Liam Agnew slammed home an absolute belter from 20 yards but failed to hold the lead as a defender handled in the box and Williams got his second of the night, from the spot.
There was a fair amount of profligacy in the second half as shots went over the wall, round the post and into the hands of Jayson Leutwiler, but Agnew’s second goal, a carefully placed shot from 20 yards, won the game, although the visitors came back strongly in the last 10 minutes.
It was a competitive game and was what fans want to see from the Under 21s, rather than the anodyne tippy-tappy that we see so often at these games. There was a good crowd in excess of 550 on a warm and pleasant night, which brought the jeunesse Dorée of Hetton out in goodly numbers.
There was much debate about who the new head coach would be. Here are some admittedly unscientific observations;
* Steve McClaren – “if he comes, the season ticket goes back”
* Alex McCleish – “if he comes, I’m going to take up crocheting”
* Tony Pulis – “might steady the ship, but I’ll have a crick in my neck looking for the ball”
* Eddie Howe – “could be an interesting one. I’ll keep an eye on him at the bookies”
* Joe Kinnear – “the perfect choice” (I did detect an element of sarcasm in this one.
It’s Bally at the moment, and although I don’t anticipate a similar scoreline to the last time Peterborough visited Sunderland for a cup tie (7-1 in 1967 – Martin 3, Kerr 2, O’Hare and Baxter pen) or a similar gate (43,998) a repeat of the 2-0 victory at London Road in 2012 would be more than satisfactory. I don’t think Bally will be “giving anyone a run out” and I think the players will be desperate to show the crowd that they are not spoiled prima donnas.
* Guess the Score, and maybe win a Salut! Sunderland mug, in SAFC v Peterborough United at https://safc.blog/2013/09/safc-v-peterborough-united-a-non-revolutionary-post-pdc-guess-the-score/