Malcolm Dawson writes……….Pete Sixsmith made the trip across the Pennines to Brunton Park last night and saw us win our way through to the next round of the competition which I still call the League Cup. We got through but was it a comfortable victory or a fortunate one? Here’s what Pete thinks.
Carlisle United (away) Caraboa Cup
Tomorrow is the day when the English Football League draws the next round of this competition that has been ticking over since the 1960-61 season.
Our first game in it was at Griffin Park, Brentford on the 26th October. We lost 4-3 after having been 3-1 up at half time thanks to goals from Ian Lawther, Willie McPheat and Amby Fogarty. Later that week, the draw for the next round was made at the Football League headquarters in Lytham St Annes, at the posh end of Blackpool and I presume that the Football League panjandrums who drew it included Alan Hardaker, the formidable secretary of the League and Barnsley Chairman Joe Richards who was the President of the League at the time.
Since then, the Football League has branded itself the English Football League, has moved from sedate Lytham St Annes to thrusting, trendy Preston and markets itself as the fourth best supported league in the world after the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga.
It also has a penchant for ridiculous publicity stunts and tomorrow’s draw will not be taking place in one of England’s architectural wonders (Preston Bus Station) but in Beijing, the capital of China.
No doubt, the bicycles will stop in Tiananmen Square as the good comrades of the People’s Republic wait desperately to see who Sunderland have got after their glorious victory over the running dogs of Cumbria aka Carlisle United. The red banners will fly in delight if we get Doncaster Rovers at home although the Little Red Books of the Sayings of Chairman Short may be a little limp if we have to go to the epitome of US Imperialist Capitalism, Manchester United.
That we are in the Chinese phase of the draw is down to a Dutchman, a citizen of the United States of America and a sturdy Irishmen, for it was Robbin Ruiter, Lynden Gooch and John O’Shea who guided us past tricky and obdurate opponents in Carlisle United.
After a couple of pre-season outings at Bradford City and Scunthorpe United, which impressed those in attendance, Ruiter made his competitive debut in this game and showed that it is a real toss-up between him and Jason Steele for the regular jersey (keepers always wear jerseys; outfield players always wear shirts). Steele has done well enough, but Ruiter looks the better of the two to this watcher’s eye. He made a number of excellent saves, not least the one just before half time when he thwarted the industrious Jamie Devitt.
He almost bailed out Papy Djilobodji after the centre half had given away a ludicrous penalty by pushing Richie Bennett in the back, right in front of the referee and right in the middle of the box.
Carlisle captain Danny Grainger stepped up to take it, placed it firmly but the big Dutchman got down to save it. Grainger reacted quicker than our defenders and poked home the rebound. Frustration all round.
This happened a quarter of an hour into the second half and was United’s equaliser. We had gone ahead through Donald Love, playing at wing back and a fine goal it was, engineered by Lynden Gooch. He wriggled along the by-line and pulled back a low pass for The Donald to open his senior account with a well-placed shot.
Gooch enjoyed a productive first half as he scampered about linking with Khazri and Asoro. Both missed good chances to extend the lead and a second goal would have taken the game away from the Cumbrians but it didn’t come until after they had levelled and after we had had to send Kone, Vaughan and McGeady on to tighten things up.
Gooch scored a splendid goal with 10 minutes to go. He moved quickly down the right, cut in and spotted a gap between keeper Bonham and the post and drilled the ball into the net to become the third Sunderland player to score their first senior goal this season. He will play an important part in Simon Grayson’s team this year.
Finally, when the chips are down John O’Shea delivers. As part of an unfamiliar back three with Papy and Adam Matthews joining him in the centre of defence, he was solid throughout in the face of Carlisle’s tactics. They moved the ball to the wings where Lambe and Devitt got the ball to centre forward Bennett and put us under pressure throughout. O’Shea’s composure compared favourably with Matthews’s uncertainty at the start and Papy’s tendency to do a good thing followed immediately by a bad one. O’Shea is also a calming influence when some of our players get involved in needless spats with opponents and referees.
Grayson made 10 changes with only Didier Ndong retaining his place. He is the heartbeat of the team at the minute and continues to look good. Lose him in this window and our effectiveness is cut by 50 per cent.
Khazri remains an enigma and could have been sent off for a spiteful challenge on a Carlisle player. He must be one of the players that Grayson would be least worried about if he were to depart. Oviedo took a while to settle but got forward well as did Love. Both need playing time and may well get it. Asoro should have scored in the first half when Gooch set him away but he allowed Bonham to smother his shot. Maybe a well-placed loan would aid his development.
It was a decent game to watch and both sets of supporters got behind their teams. The game started with a well merited minute’s applause for Bill Green, a centre half of the old school who spent five years at Brunton Park after his move from Hartlepool. He scored Carlisle’s first ever goal in the top flight when he opened the scoring for United at Stamford Bridge in August 1975. He was a hard man (that’s a euphemism) and went on to play for West Ham in the top league. Oh, and Olga the Fox was there and was left on the pitch until just before kick off. Good to see her but what happened to the man dressed up as John Peel (the huntsman not the broadcaster) who used to look after her?
It was also a change to head north before heading west along the A69 although it took longer to get from Durham to Swalwell than it did to get from Swalwell to Carlisle, proving the old adage that if you build an extra motorway lane, they will come and fill the bloody thing.
Barnsley looming and then a week off which will be nice.
A win at Oakwell will push us up that league and may prove to be more attractive to potential signings. We shall see.