John McCormick writes: listening to Gary Bennett on Radio Newcastle’s stream couldn’t give me the full picture of an eventful night at Hull. The pre and post- goal screams of
“Fill that hole! Fill that hole! Oh no, if we could see it up here how could they not see it down there?”
did not inspire confidence. But we muddled through.
Or did we? Here’s the man of the moment, Pete Sixsmith, and his verdict.
Let’s be Polyanna and look for the best in things.
Let’s be Eric Idle and always look on the bright side of life.
Let’s be Bing Crosby and accentuate the positive.
We got a point from a serious relegation rival. We stopped our losing sequence with Hull City. I bought a pint of good beer for £1.05.
That’s it, folks. Not much else to be cheerful about. I suppose Palace and West Brom lost to keep them very much on the fringe of the relegation zone and I have a feeling that it will get worse for Everton before it gets better. But there was not a great deal to take from this lop sided, largely abysmal and tactically inept show that we put on in front of 23,000 cold and ultimately disgruntled spectators at the quaintly named KC Communications Stadium.
There was a sharp intake of breath when I saw the team. No width, no wingers, no attacking full backs, just a flat back four, a bank of four central midfield players and two up front. A straightforward, good old English 4-4-2 – this was presumably going to rely on the kind of players “you would want to be in a trench with.”
Some of us are not over fond of trench warfare. My maternal grandfather was gassed in a trench. And few winning attacks came from absorbing enemy pressure and then going over the top. As it was at Arras, so it was along the Anlaby Road.
The first half was an embarrassment which almost led to me going out for a walk along the aforementioned thoroughfare. A team that turned back at every opportunity and could not create one decent opening, a support that bellowed its support of a player currently on police bail and suspended by the club and a manager who, for whatever reason, got himself involved in an unseemly scuffle with an elderly lady, cunningly disguised as another Premier League football manager. No wonder the Northern League and rugby league seem a better option.
A goal was conceded from a free kick, which may or may not have been. The players crowding the box were hardly alert and Dame N’ Doye took advantage of it with a clever back heel. One down with a midfield that was going nowhere, the pressure was clearly on Poyet.
When Rodwell, who made a quietly impressive return to first team duty, was booked for what the manager thought was a poor decision by Mike Dean, he reacted by kicking over a bucket. This prompted Mr Dean to “send him to the stands” but not before Bruce said something and Poyet reacted. An unseemly scuffle ensued in which it was thought that a Uruguayan hand had been placed across a Geordie cheek and it was a glum if not mutinous mood in the Ideal Boilers East Stand as the smokers made for the toilets.
The second half was little better – no width, no pace and Hull keeper Mc Gregor a virtual spectator. Jermaine Defoe got little service as Larsson, Cattermole, Bridcutt and Rodwell ran around to little avail. It was the former Brighton man who was the target for most of the anger from the travelling support. A constant stream of misplaced passes and poor tackles led to demands that he be replaced. He probably would have been had not Cattermole committed one of those fouls that makes it difficult to like him. Meyler was ahead of him and was heading for the Sunderland half and our one time captain clipped his heel as the Irishman got away from him. A yellow card ensued and Taricco took him off within minutes, sending Alvarez on.
Straight away, the congestion in midfield cleared and, instead of getting in each other’s way, the three drones began to take up individual roles. Bridcutt sat in front of the back four, Rodwell picked the ball up and Larsson scuttled about as always – but there was a wide outlet in Alvarez.
Another one appeared a few minutes later when van Aanholt replaced a hesitant Vergini. He stormed down the wing, put a decent centre in which McGregor missed and there was Rodwell to nod it home.
Pace, width and a desire for a midfielder to get into the box. Perfect. But why did it take 70 minutes of rubbish before we did this?
There was still time for Pantilimon to make an outstanding save from the busy N’Doye but we also had chances. The introduction of Wickham for the industrious but limited Graham also helped and by the end of the game I would guess that both sides were satisfied with their point.
But there are questions that need to be answered about the stumbling team selections that the Head Coach is making and there are long term questions to be asked about his future and whether he is the man to take charge of the club in whatever league we are in next season.
In the meantime, let’s try to be like The Old Groaner ( an apt description of many Sunderland fans at this game who looked at the white shorts and thought wistfully of Johnnie Crossan, Martin Harvey and George Mulhall) and try to “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.” And we need some positive ones starting against Villa.
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