Malcolm Dawson writes….I was busy last night with what laughingly passes for the only work I do since retirement. Laughingly, because for 12 or so weeks of the year I get paid for what I might well be doing for nothing during the other 40. However, because I am getting paid and on a kind of contract, that has to take priority, so not only was I unable to attend last night’s fixture, I found it difficult to even follow the game on the interweb. When first I looked it was 0-0 with 42 minutes on the clock. Next glimpse showed us to be losing 1-0, then it was 2-2 and by the time I knew that we hadn’t needed to look for a bonus point via a penalty shoot out, Sixer’s Sevens was already posted and I expect that Pete himself had got past Houghton Cut.
I should make the next home tie, but Pete Sixsmith was there last night on another day of upheaval at the Stadium and Academy of Light. Let’s find out what he made of yesterday’s events.
ON THE ROAD TO WEMBLEY – WITHOUT A DRIVER.
The mood inside the Stadium was a sombre one.
The 6,953 supporters who came out on a chilly October night for a qualifying game in the EFL’s least loved competition, were proper Sunderland supporters. They were predominantly middle aged, with a smattering of youngsters taking advantage of the £1 ticket fee to have a night out, either as a reward for good behaviour or a punishment for being naughty.
The loud-mouthed blow hards who know everything and understand very little were absent. There were no overweight males, tanked up to the eyeballs on the products dispensed in the bars owned by Tim Martin. The word that rhymes with white was hardly used, (have had to resort to this to get past the Newsnow censors MD) in direct contrast to the number of times I hear it at away games, used to describe the tea, the sausage rolls, the manager, the owners, the players and those supporters who have unwillingly accepted that we are what we are – a third level club who have to rebuild after five ruinous years almost brought us to the brink of a total and utter financial collapse.
It must have been difficult for the players, many of whom had either been brought to the club or given their chances by Jack Ross. James Fowler was in charge, conducted the warm-up with the professionalism that one has come to associate with the Ross regime and supervised a victory before he went home to see if and when Pickfords were available to move his possessions back to a country where the political and footballing debate is not conducted in such a febrile atmosphere – although Craig Levein and Paul Heckingbottom may disagree with that.
There were starts for Bali Mumba at full back, Brandon Taylor alongside Joel Lynch and Duncan Watmore wide on the right and sometimes the left. Dobson and Leadbitter formed a midfield partnership and Grigg and McNulty played up front in an attempt to strike up a partnership that we hope would become as much loved as Morecambe and Wise, Quinn and Phillips and Stan and Ollie. But not Ant and Dec. Or Trump and Johnson.
Grimsby, who had a hardy bunch of travelling fans situated in the South Stand, lined up with former Sunderland player Jordan Cook pulling the strings in midfield. He was a permanent fixture for the Reserves a few years ago, making three substitute appearances in the Premier League and one in a pre-season game at Hoffenheim, where he showed some nice touches without actually producing much.
The first half was awful. Neither side seemed all that concerned. We moved the ball around, backwards, sideways and sometimes forwards while Grimsby played as so many teams do in the nether regions, in that they swarmed around, blocked balls and generally worked far harder than we did, simply because they had to.
The two large central defenders (there must be a factory that turns out bulky 6ft centre halves – I wish we could find out where it is) were not particularly troubled by our two forwards and our midfield, although having loads of possession, were unable to break down obdurate defenders. Duncan Watmore had a couple of promising runs but they came to naught and at half time, I commented that the prospects of a goal looked bleak.
So, what do I know?
Inspired by a James Fowler team talk (“Give him the job, Stewart”) we attacked and almost took the lead on a couple of occasions through Watmore and McNulty. However, in the 58th minute Matt Green, a player with more clubs than you could shake a stick at (including Darlington) was on the end of an incisive move to put the Mariners ahead. Alas, the 60 or so Mariners fans failed to wave their blow up Harry the Haddocks. (“Sack him Donald.”)
The lead lasted 10 minutes. Keeper and skipper James McKeown spilled a shot from McNulty and Watmore slammed the ball into his net. Ten minutes after that, a cross from the excellent O’Nien was thumped in by McNulty albeit with the aid of a deflection from a defender. (Give him the job back, Stewart”)
The support sat back and waited for more goals to arrive. They did but at the wrong end. Mattie Pollock, son of Jamie, a man who now looks as if he has swallowed an inflated beach ball, got down the left side and crossed for Elliott Whitehead to convert. (“Fowler’s ‘rhymes with white’ – see above. He doesn’t know what he’s doing”). Good for him; he missed all of last season after doing his anterior cruciate ligament. He and Duncan must have had some interesting conversations.
We assumed that penalties were on the cards, meaning a late night, unwelcome for newspaper delivery operatives. But Denver Hume, who had not had a great game, put over an absolute gem of a cross and Will Grigg planted a fine header to win the game. (“Great manager, Stewart. Give him a 10-year contract”)
The Jack Ross era ended with a win. He picked this team and it kind of summed him up in that the defending left much to be desired and there was insufficient pace in the team. But the quality of the likes of O’Nien (we will do well to keep hold of him as Championship clubs will already be considering a bid), Watmore, Leadbitter, McNulty and Grigg saw us home and put us in a good position in the group. Leicester City Babes in Arms next on Bonfire Night so we’ll be looking for a few sparklers…..
And now we await the next chapter in the long running and rather tired soap opera that is Sunderland AFC. New ownership is looking less likely but I may be way off on that. A new manager is needed asap and I have no preferences as to who I do want. I do, however, have a list of who I don’t want. Here goes;
Sam Allardyce, Roy Keane, Tony Pulis, Chris Hughton, Wee Willie Harris, Michael Gove, Nigel Pearson, Joey Barton, Katy Hopkins, Phil Parkinson nor his dad Michael.
At time of writing, Gareth Ainsworth is favourite followed by Paul Cook.
We shall see.