Malcolm Dawson writes…..it’s good to know some things in life are safe bets. One is that Pete Sixsmith can find a game of footy to watch whenever the mood takes him – which is frequently. Fresh from Shildon’s victory at Dunston on Tuesday and Bishop Auckland’s loss to Consett in the F.A. Cup on Wednesday he made it to the land of black pudding and the birthplace of the man who invented the modern police force for last night’s game, before he takes in another two matches on his way to Carrow Road. What did he make of last night’s win. Let’s find out……..
One banana skin avoided and another one to come.
After dispatching Second Division Bury, we drew Carlisle United at Brunton Park in Round Two of the English Football League Cup. Two decent draws and hopefully some progress in a competition which could lead to us devouring huge quantities of “cheesy chips on Wembley Way” – as the old song has it.
This was a competent performance in a season where competence is going to be the norm. We are getting an idea of what a Simon Grayson side looks like. Pressing, high energy, a solid back four and quick breaks – the exact opposite of the ponderous and painful football we played last season.
Granted the opposition will not be blessed with world class opponents like Sanchez, Coutinho and Ibrahimovic, but it is refreshing to see Sunderland players putting in a real shift and still looking reasonably fresh at the end.
Grayson turned a strong team out at Gigg Lane. Matthews came in for Jones (not much difference there), O’Shea for Kone (ditto), Gibson for Cattermole (different style) and Khazri for Vaughan (of which more later). The rest had played in the mildly encouraging draw with Derby on the Friday night and the temptation to chop and change wholesale was given up in favour of promoting a more cohesive team effort.
By and large it worked. O’Shea for Kone saw no great diminution in the middle of the back four. As always the Irishman went about his job in an effective way, reading the game well and talking young Browning and Galloway through a couple of sticky periods. I have a lot of time for O’Shea and will watch his coaching and managerial career with interest.
Darron Gibson has been on the back pages for all the wrong reasons but last night it was for the right ones. He controlled the midfield and cruised around the areas 40 yards either side of the half way line. His presence allowed the quietly efficient Didier Ndong to do what he is good at, as he won the ball and used it well. When Cattermole plays alongside Ndong, there is a feeling that both are doing the same job. Gibson has a different role. In this (now) 49-game marathon, the combination of two from three will be a valuable asset.
Khazri’s presence did not add a great deal I’m afraid. He could have been sent off for a petulant challenge on a Shakers player but the referee Robert Jones erred on the side of leniency. Add to that, a spectacular fall when he was clean through and it wasn’t a great night for the Tunisian and he was rightly withdrawn with 15 minutes left.
By that time the excellent George Honeyman had put us ahead with a delightful chip over Bury Keeper Joe Murphy. Honeyman had moved to the left after the withdrawal of the ineffective Aidan McGeady and looked far more comfortable there than he did on the right. He worked a good break with Joel Asoro and didn’t panic or fall down when he got into the box. It was a good way for him to open his account at first team level and he will clearly have an important part to play as the season grinds on.
So it was a competent rather than spectacular team performance and goodness, how we craved for those last season. By the end of this month we will know who is going to form the backbone of this team and games like this give us a clear indication of the manager’s thinking. No Djilobodji on the bench and younger players like Embleton and Greenwood left at home to play for the Under 23s against Tottenham tonight.
I shall miss that one as I am making a weekend of the trip to dear old Norwich. A couple of nights in Kings Lynn allows me to take in games at Fakenham Town (nicknamed The Ghosts for some unfathomable reason) and Boston Town (The Poachers for more fathomable ones).
The journey there and back cannot be as difficult as yesterday’s. A road traffic incident on the M1 had closed the road at Garforth so we had to go through Leeds to pick up the M62. On the way back our beloved Highways Agency had closed the 62 east and west between Saddleworth and Huddersfield for resurfacing, so we had a scenic tour of East Lancashire and West Yorkshire. I love places like Rawtenstall, Skipton and Ripon – but not at 11 o’clock at night. A two-hour trip took three. Bah!!
A first league win on Sunday would set me up for the long slog across the A47 and A17.
Ha’way the Lads………