Malcolm Dawson writes….the atmosphere on the journey home last night was decidely downbeat. Pete Sixsmith was fuming at what he saw as another inept performance whilst I adopted the taciturn approach which I always seem to do having witnessed yet another disappointing result at the Stadium of Light. At least I didn’t have to get up early next day to teach Year 9s about rubber production in 1950s Malaya or some such. Peter did which is why his version of the latest League Cup debacle is later than normal. Shildon at home to Whickham in the Northern League Cup this evening explains its brevity.
I didn’t think we played all that badly last night…up to a point and the point was about 25 minutes into the game. We had started brightly, taken the lead and then failed to put the game to bed. We let Stoke back into it and they made us pay. Some decent runs in behind their defence but an inability to find the net, misplaced passes and slack defending all allowed The Potters the opportunity to progress.
Here’s how Pete saw it.….
SAFC 1 Stoke City 2
So, no need to start saving for Wembley in March as we tamely exited the Football League Cup last night with a performance that was as insipid as those at Burnley and QPR. So far we have failed to beat four of the sides who we would expect to be in and around our zone in the Premier League. Not good.
Plenty of opportunities for players to make a relatively small name for themselves last night, but only Jones and Buckley stepped up to the metaphorical plate and showed that they may well be worthy of a place against Swansea on Saturday. The rest were disappointing. The Giant Pantilimon was beaten at the near post for both goals, debutant Coates lasted all of 45 minutes, Gomez was strangely ineffectual and Altidore deserves a paragraph all of his own.
So here it is. Marco Gabbiadini, a regular pundit on Total Sport on BBC Newcastle, has been saying all season that once Jozy scores that will be a huge boost for his confidence. Seeing as Marco was a successful goalscorer at all his clubs bar Crystal Palace, we accepted that and there was genuine support for the big American. Sixteen minutes into this game, he turned and fired home a good striker’s goal to put us one up and we sat back in our seats and think that more was coming. It wasn’t. He really is a poor player. For the rest of the evening, he failed to win headers – Shawcross will have few easier games, failed to move into the correct positions, failed to control the ball with his enormous chest and generally looked like someone who would struggle a long way down the pyramid. His failings have been clear to see for a long time now and if he is our fall back forward, we are in deep trouble.
We could have won this game – Butland made two very good saves, while Pantilimon was rarely called on – but Stoke had more pace then we had and kept a tight grip on midfield with good performances by Ireland and N’Zonzi. They won the ball and used it while Bridcutt and Gomez seemed to do very little with it when they had it.
The possession statistics showed that we had 60%; it didn’t show how when we did have it, there was little or no pace in the team and that the tempo was decidedly pedestrian. Buckley was the only man to take Stoke defenders on, Rodwell got himself involved in a feud with N’Zonzi and Bridcutt left me with my heart in my mouth nearly every time he came away with the ball.
Poyet says that N’Zonzi could have been red carded but so too could Rodwell for an unpleasant tackle which I suspect came about because the former Blackburn man was bossing our £10m man around.
Both goals were avoidable – Pantilimon should have saved the first one and players need to remember to play to the whistle for the second. Muniesa may have pushed Johnson, but why did we stop and appeal?
Ultimately a real disappointment against a team that are no better than we are. They are due back a week on Saturday and if the result is repeated then, we are in serious trouble. I fear the worst.
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