Sixer’s Bolton Soapbox: Gardner and Brighton conspire to beat our Supersub’s blues

Still in it, says Jake
Still in it, says Jake

With Pete Sixsmith otherwise engaged on family matters, once again Supersub Robert Chapman steps up to the plate with his thoughts on the game at Bolton. It’s fair to say that he wouldn’t have been the only Sunderland fan in a good mood as kick off loomed, as the not unexpected news from Brighton got the afternoon off to a fine start. Certainly the BBC Newcastle team were in upbeat mood about the Black Cats’ cahances as the teams were announced but as Nick Barnes warned, potential banana skins await the overconfident.

And so it proved, as once again the Sunderland team put its supporters through the gamut of emotions with relief and renewed expectation of a 40th anniversary FA Cup run as the final whistle blew. Mind you had we known in advance the identity of our potential 4th round opponents there may have been a little less confidence. Still bogey teams are there to be beaten but first there’s still a tricky replay to negotiate.

It's Bob Chapman on this week's soapbox but Pete's smiling anyway
It’s Bob Chapman on this week’s soapbox but Pete’s smiling anyway

My first ever visit to Bolton was on the 27th December 1975.

A bullet ‘Charlie Hurley style’ header from a young Sam Allardyce was enough to win the game for them. It was a Division 2 fixture in front of a 40,000 Burnden Park crowd. The goal itself is one of those moments hardwired into my brain. What is certain though is that for the first 60 minutes of this F A Cup tie there will be no memories stored alongside that goal.

As usual I was in my ever optimistic mood prior to kick off. Although we have lots of injuries, the 11 we put out were all experienced Premiership players. On the other hand Bolton had Chris Eagles and Kevin Davies on the bench. Both of these have caused us problems in recent times.

For the first 10 minutes of the game Sunderland seemed in control of their own destiny. Without putting undue pressure on Bolton I felt we had another gear to go if we needed it. Then calamity struck. Mignolet passed the ball to Cuellar in the left back position close to the corner flag. Instead of clearing the ball up the line he decided to pass to Bramble in a central position, just outside the penalty area. The ball never reached Titus and Lee had the easy task of putting the ball in to an empty net. Schoolboy error springs to mind.

Within minutes of that disaster Mignolet and Bramble conspired to almost give another goal away. Bramble had to clear a loose ball which Mignolet should have dealt with. The two of them stood arguing with each other and I thought that only way this game could go was downhill. Half time couldn’t come soon enough, though the pace Bardsley walked off the pitch suggested a severe dressing down was definitely on the cards, but to be fair to him he was one of the better performers.

I spent the first part of half time trying to count the home supporters in the stand opposite. I got to 64. The upper tier of the North stand was closed altogether and I couldn’t believe how few Bolton fans had bothered to come. The fact we took 5000 in a crowd of 12000 suggests that relegation has had a disastrous effect on them. Bored with counting fans I then began drafting for Sixers Sevens. I came up with ‘Worst performance of the season so far’ and ‘Cuellar disaster leads to early Cup exit’.

We had lost Danny Rose so Colback had replaced him and just as I was thinking that things couldn’t get any worse, the second half kicked off. Well of course this being Sunderland anything could happen, and another piece of shoddy defending led to Sordell heading in their second and suddenly things had worsened.

I never leave a game early but I was sorely tempted with this dreadful performance. I could always go and pick up my winnings from the Bookies having predicted a 2-0 Brighton win and go and have a couple of pints before catching the train home.

But then Martin O’Neill decided to go on the offensive. Cue Connor Wickham and a change of formation. Slowly we began to get a grip. Vaughan and Gardner started to dominate and the wide men were getting good balls into the two strikers. Lonergan made two excellent saves from Fletcher before Wickham scored his first of the season.

How things can turn around! We were now well and truly on top and I just knew that we would go on to get another and so we did. Gardner got the equaliser when he picked his spot with a dipping shot from the edge of the box. We then pressed hard for the winner and came close when a glancing header from Wickham went just wide of the post. Now we were in the ascendancy and had there been another 10 minutes I am sure we would have gone on to win.

Connor Wickham definitely deserves a chance. He came on at both Norwich and Man Utd and made a difference. He and Fletcher are both good technical players and both would be quite capable of operating in a MON preferred 4-5-1 formation or as a two man strike force.

After that first half the result was certainly unexpected and I am sure the supporting 5000 certainly played their part. I am glad I didn’t leave early. It’s back to work on Monday. I shall go with a spring in my step, safe in the knowledge I will not be ridiculed as my team was not knocked out by a Championship side. I will also pick up my winnings from the Brighton match. That should do nicely to cover my costs for the replay.

Ha’way the Lads!

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20 thoughts on “Sixer’s Bolton Soapbox: Gardner and Brighton conspire to beat our Supersub’s blues”

  1. Jeremy,fair point regarding SupaKev. Mind you Graham was scoring more frequently before being ousted by Michu. That said I accept the odds will be long on him winning the Golden Boot. Not sure that the pulse is racing….palpitating perhaps…default setting for SAFC fans methinks.

  2. Neil said “Was anyone excited when Kevin Phillips signed for us?”

    Actually Neil, I was. I saw him banging in goals for Watford and I couldn’t believe it when we got him. The comparison with Graham isn’t really an appropriate one as Phillips was at the time an unknown quantity in terms of the top flight. Graham isn’t and has done ok, but Kevin Phillips he isn’t. We had Welbeck, Gyan and Bent not so long ago. Now………… Danny Graham? Mmmm. Is your pulse racing?

  3. Agree Wickham needs to be brought on and musn’t rot on the bench. That said we need more goals. Can’t see Saha doing much. Graham could provide something. I accept it’s speculation but with Sess/Larsson not scoring we need more goals in the run-in. Wickham and Graham coud provide options in supporting Fletch

  4. By continuing his development do you mean not get a look in? Cos that’s probably what will happen if we bring Graham in.
    N’Diaye I’ve heard of, if never seen play, but he ‘sounds’ very promising indeed, and just what we are lacking.
    No custard or aubergines, just powerful strong midfield play.

  5. Was anyone excited when Kevin Phillips signed for us? For all we know Graham may be the jigsaw piece that’s missing with Wickham continuing his development

  6. What you say is fair enough Malcolm but that maxim applies to any club and not just us. Things seem to be moving along a bit but any deal can hit the buffers until the player signs. MON got Ji out the door before some of the “First Foots” had gone home, and the embers of the coal they brought were still buring bright when he pocketed the 1.5M from Hull for Meyler. It’s pretty obvious that neither of these players were in his plans, almost regardless of how thin we get stretched with injuries and suspensions. Given that situation it’s also very clear that his opinion of both is very low.

  7. I must say I’m dubious about Cole and the expectations that seem to be being heaped on him. If he was coming to the SoL, I’d be shaking my head. I’m not at all sure he’s the answer to West Ham’s problems.

  8. Surely it’s quality over quantity. Keane had a veritable merry go round of players arriving…only problem was they arrived in numbers but couldn’t be shifted on. Not sure that the players stopped playing for MON per se. Many clubs seem to suffer the end of season mid table mediocrity malaise. Fans hate seeing players slacking off so I understand some of the posts. Once we sort/ boost midfield the creative players will be able to play in more advanced positions where they can do damage. After a very tough Xmas schedule we now have a run where we can pick up points. That said like many others I’m concerned how our early season defensive solidity has evaporated. We never seem to be able to play a settled back four. If n’Diaye can rampage from midfield our whole dynamic will change. Catts can then provide more protection for the back four. One man….if it’s the right one….can make a difference….as we may see with Joe Cole and West Ham

  9. I too think MON should have bought more players.Most of the team last season had stopped playing for him at the end and as a result they have played much the same this season.I maintain that once a player slackens under your leadership its time to get replace them,as you have more or less condoned them not giving 100%.

    MON is a changed man from the one who ran Villa,and his brush in with the owner there has made him far more cautious,which is not a good thing.He needs that fire back in his belly…maybe not quite as confrontational but he needs to be ruthless with players if they are not giving 100% and not be afraid to get in new faces

  10. Agreed, Tony. It bothers me to read of other clubs jumping in quickly and making good signings while we seem to dawdle and dawdle and leave it all to the last minute. Surely MON should have presented his wish-list to Ellis Short as last year came to an end. There’s no percentage in waiting.

    • But it’s not as simple as turning up at the supermarket and buying a tin of custard and an aubergine.

      For a start there may be deals lined up but the selling club won’t release a player until they have a replacement sorted out. Then there’s the overall wage structure to be taken into consideration – players may have to be offloaded to accommodate new ones.

      Players who the manager may like to sign may decide to go elsewhere or stay where they are. I’m sure MON has let it be known which positions he would like strengthened as a priority and he and his back room staff have identified targets.

      I don’t disagree with either of you in that we seem to be unable to move quickly but I’m not sure the blame lies with the club. It’s not just supporters who know where the team needs to be improved and you can bet other clubs and players’ agents are all playing a game of chicken to get themselves the greatest reward whilst Ellis Short and MON don’t want to get ripped off.

  11. Is it just me or does anyone else think that we are being too slow in the transfer market? It’s obvious we need replacements sooner rather than later. Maybe come to an agreement with Wes Brown to terminate his contract? And getting 30 odd some years old players is not the answer

    • Looks like we’re going a little quicker now, perhaps cos O’Neill has realised it was a mistake to not do more in the last window. Heavily linked with Danny Graham as well as N’Diaye, though I’m not sure I understand that one as it looks like Connor Wickham may still become the player we all hoped he would be. And still only 19. Give him a bigger role Martin.

  12. Good report, very fair.though I really never thought we looked stretched,even at 2-0 down I always felt we could get into the game.The Bolton keeper after playing a blinder thinks we have “so much quality”…well maybe for the Championship yes.

    It is odd how others see a game though. The Sun gave Johnson MOM…what were they watching?He was no where near MOM from my seat maybe, in fact Id have took him off 2nd half, the Sun reporter’s seat must have been in the bar.

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