Continuing the theme of comprehensive disagreement about Sunday’s game, Pete Sixmsith praises, then lambasts Lee Mason (see http://www.espnfc.com/club/sunderland/366/blog/post/2138077/opportunities-missedbut-sunderland-will-be-pleased-with-a-point for another view) and acclaims one or two players others have criticised. But first let him regale you with his tale of a nine-goal Scottish thriller …
Great weekend thanks. Good of you to ask. What was so good about it? Well, I’ll tell you…….
For an old goat like me, a weekend that involves football, rail travel, good beer and good company is hard to beat. I managed all four this weekend.
The rail travel was from Durham to Linlithgow and then, courtesy of John Penman, oft of these pages, to the small town of Bo’Ness, sandwiched between Grangemouth and its oil refinery and chemical works and Rosyth and its naval dockyard.
Bo’ness United, of the Scottish Junior Football Association’s East Region Super League, were hosting Elgin City in a Scottish FA Cup replay after a fiercely contested 4-4 draw in the Highlands the previous week. It promised goals galore and that is what we got. The Junior club beat the Seniors by the odd goal in nine and Elgin had a penalty saved by the United keeper.
It was a rollicking, rip-roaring, rambunctious game which kept a good crowd of 1,280 on its toes throughout and ended with the home team being cheered to the rafters.
Or at least they would have been had there been any rafters at Newtown Park. It is a wonderfully antique of a ground – no floodlights, no grandstand (although there is a covered enclosure) terracing on three sides and a grassy bank (complete with its own crush barriers) at the end which on this day, was populated by a youthful group of Elgin fans.
Dean Gribbins grabbed two of the goals but the outstanding player was a sharp, pacy winger called Nicky Walker who sealed it with a brilliant fifth goal 13 minutes from the end. Marvin Andrews, a team mate of Carlos, Kenwyne, Dwight and Stern in the Trinidadian national team, pulled one back to set up a nervy finale, but the minnows held out and the giants were slain.
Beer was taken in Bo’ness, Linlithgow, Edinburgh (where I was grudgingly given a full pint in the Guildford Arms; off my list after that) and Durham in the excellent Elm Tree, before I actually watched Match of the Day on Saturday night – first time for a month.
And I am glad that I did, because I saw an excellent piece of refereeing from Mike Dean (words that do not often go together) in the QPR v Manchester City game that, had Lee Mason understood the game as well as Mike Dean, may well have led to a Sunderland win against Everton.
The game on Sunday was in direct contrast to the one the previous day. Whereas Saturday was all up and at ‘em, Sunday was a calmer, more considered and considerably more skilful game between two sides who worked hard but who just lacked that little bit of oomph that the bonny boys of Bo’ness had.
I thought we eliminated the errors that cost us so dearly at Southampton and at home to Arsenal. Once again, John O’Shea was outstanding, marshalling his defence, talking to players and officials and leading by example, while his erstwhile colleague Wes Brown did not give the ball away, did not put the ball past his own keeper and did not look like a man preparing for a career on daytime TV.
In fact, defensively we looked solid. The Giant Pantilimon caught all that was knocked into the box and his long body foiled Lukaku after the only mistake by Liam Bridcutt allowed the misfiring Belgian a clear run at goal.
Many were quietly impressed with Anthony Reveillere, a player with a pedigree that would go down well at Crufts. Five league titles in France with Lyon, a decent stint at Napoli and 20 caps for Les Bleus, could make him the most influential French player at the club since Eric Roy. He looks a wee bit better than Lilian Laslandes, David Bellion and Anthony Le Tallec all rolled into one even at this early stage.
Bridcutt did very well in the holding role, playing a little further forward than Cattermole and competing for everything. I like his habit of jumping for every ball and even though he has no chance of getting it, it certainly distracts the opposition.
Seb Larsson was the pick of the midfield. His free kick took us back to that heady day in December four years ago when a similar effort started Martin O’Neill’s team on a good run. He was industrious and thorough throughout and even some of the habitual moaners in the crowd had to agree that he did all right.
Every player made a contribution. Johnson grafted, Wickham made Coleman look uncomfortable in the first half, Gomez slipped some lovely balls through, Fletcher looks rejuvenated but we just lack a player who can explode into the box and do something special.
The Toffees had E’too who almost managed it but was thwarted by good defending. We have Giaccherini and wouldn’t it be good to see him come on tap before the difficult December that lies ahead.
Lee Mason got the penalty right and all credit to him for that. He could have sent Wickham off and ditto to him. Not sure about his response to Tim Howard though.
The bewhiskered custodian lay on top of the ball like a bearded behemoth protecting baby behemoths from an even bigger behemoth. Had it been Jagielka doing similar on the touchline, Mr Mason may well have given obstruction and a free kick to us. Because he was a keeper, Howard was spared. Roberto Martinez was not impressed and did a fandango on the touchline to show his annoyance.
There’s my weekend. Good friends at both games, with John Penman at Newtown Park and Gary Brand, a non-league man from north London paying his first visit to the Stadium of Light. His last visit to a Premier League game was a few weeks ago when he took his dad to White Hart Lane for his 90th birthday. Spurs duly lost to Newcastle.
Gary assured me that both sides on show yesterday were miles better than the ones he had seen four weeks ago. Which is nice to know – I think.
Another week off now and a chance for Alvarez, Coates, Giaccherini and Jones to get themselves fit for a difficult pre Christmas programme. The sides at the bottom are stirring themselves. We want to be away from them by Boxing Day.
** See how Sixer, and occasional subs, captured last season at
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