John McCormick writes: The gods of football are conspiring against me at the moment and I’m finding it hard to even plan for a game. Not so Pete Sixsmith, who has managed to fit in home, away, friendly, non-league, rugby league, cricket league and probably Sunday league into a season that’s hardly started.
That’s not enough, however, so last night he made the trip to Birmingham for the League Cup and saw us negotiate what could have been a tricky encounter:
BIRMINGHAM CITY (a) Football League Cup
Manchester United, Aston Villa, West Ham United, Queens Park Rangers, eat your hearts out. You failed to beat teams from lower leagues in Round Two of the Football League Cup. We didn’t. Mind you, we could have joined that illustrious quartet in the League Cup Hall of Shame. The 3-0 win at St Andrews looks comfortable and ultimately it was, but there was a lot of huffing and puffing before we eventually cantered over the line.
Once Jordi Gomez produced a crisp shot across City keeper Colin Doyle, the result was never in doubt. Had that goal come in the tenth or twentieth minute, I suspect we would have cruised home and looked like a good Premier League team. Instead, we waited until 12 minutes from the end having looked anything like a good Premier League side before the goal.
Before we start to panic too much, let’s give Birmingham City some credit. They have had a torrid time over the last couple of years. The owner is in jail in Hong Kong, they were 30 seconds away from being consigned to Division One at the end of last season and the likes of Obafemi Martens have been replaced by the distinctly journeyman Clayton Donaldson. Their manager is not liked by Sunderland fans for the T-shirt he wore at one of Newcastle United’s losing FA Cup finals. As a player, he did an excellent job for us and could have gone on to become a genuine Sunderland hero, but he succumbed to the childish stupidity that we have come to expect from our local rivals. Peter Reid shipped him out straightaway and he ended up at Fulham.
Last night he produced a team that passed well, tackled crisply and looked half decent until it got anywhere near Brown and O’Shea who were absolute rocks in the middle of the back four. Donaldson and Wes Thomas could find no way through although they did hit the post in the first half. Not enough though – you have to take your chances, even against a Premier League team playing in such a stuttering manner.
But they didn’t and we did and that just about sums up a pretty uneventful night in Small Heath. The goals were well taken. Gomez got the first with a fine shot across the keeper from 20 yards after a tiring Blues defence backed off a little too far. He had made a reasonable debut and looks a player who will challenge for one of those three central mid field spots.
Seb Larsson was given a warm welcome back by the 10,000 Bluenoses which I thought was gracious of them and on a par with the generous applause given to Danny Welbeck when he came on against us on Sunday. Our resident Swede had a busy game but he missed the presence of Lee Cattermole as his replacement, Liam Bridcutt, had a poor game in the “space in front of the back four” role. He was caught in possession, misplaced far too many passes and went on an unpleasant revenge mission against Wes Thomas. Sounds like the Cattermole of three years ago.
Bridcutt needs to think more carefully about his game; I felt that he was trying too hard last night. He clearly wants to prove that he can cut the mustard in the Premier League but perhaps needs to relax.
Billy Jones made his debut at left back and looked out of place. The return of Vergini means that Jones will have to wait to play regularly, so plenty of time for visits to the barbers for him. The Giant Pantilimon made a couple of smart saves but was never really troubled but he needs to work on his kicking. We seem to be intent on playing it out to Wickham on the left for him to flick on, rather than thumping it down the middle. It’s a laudable aim in that it is an attempt to set an attack away, but it’s all too easy to put the ball out for a throw in as TGP did on a number of occasions.
Wickham took his goal well after a splendid pass from the returning Giaccherini as did Johnson and the latter worked hard throughout the 90 minutes. The arrival of Buckley appears to have focussed his mind and this was one of his better performances.
As it was for Jozy, who, as usual, worked hard throughout and would have crowned his performance with a rare goal had Doyle not made an excellent save. Fortunately, Johnson was on hand to pick up the rebound and Jozy had a huge smile on his face as the game was signed, sealed and delivered. He is now officially a cult figure in the tradition of Nyron Nosworthy, John Kay and Chris Makin in that all were players with limitations but all gave you 100% at all times – and rarely, if ever, scored.
I suspect that the management team were quietly content on a number of fronts. A potential humiliation had been avoided, there were no injuries and Emmanuelle Giaccherini looked sharp when he came on. He may be able to inject some pace in a team that still lacks it and will need it to negotiate some tricky fixtures coming up.
QPR on Saturday is a game we do not want to lose and then Spurs, who spend millions, and Burnley, who spend buttons, will offer a real contrast between the haves and the have nots. We are somewhere in the middle at the moment.
50 Years A Season Ticket Holder and that was my first win at St Andrews. It could be a while before we are back there for league action.
Fancy leaving a comment? Not sure what you have to say fits this post? Go to the made-for-purpose feature – https://safc.blog/2013/07/salut-sunderland-the-way-it-is/ – and say it there.