Malcolm Dawson writes…..Peter Sixsmith made a night of it. Having not only the chance of a cheap ticket but also a lift to the Valleys from a repentant brother, father of our recent Arsenal WAY contributor, he jumped at the chance to head off to South Wales. At half time, those of us stuck at home were resigned to another opportunity squandered. Benno was more laid back than usual when the first goal went in. He was a little more animated as Adam Johnson missed a glorious opportunity to put us two up after only five minutes and openly frustrated that despite seeing a Swansea player red carded, when the whistle went at the end of the first forty five, we were going in two-one behind. Peter’s text was of a similar vein. Then a second half where it all went crazy. My first view of the action was on MOTD which was disappointingly brief and while I was watching in came another of Sixer’s texts extolling the quality of the Shropshire Gold. Talking points aplenty but I would have been disappointed if Defoe’s goals hadn’t stood had I been in the ground. Even on TV it seemed to me that he timed his runs perfectly and was level as the balls were played to him. But then I’m biased. It’s a long way off and there are plenty of points to play for but at the end of the season if the Swans are a point short of safety I expect we’ll hear more about this match. But for now let’s hear what Sixer has to say, not so prompt as usual. It’s a long way back from Wales in the snow, when you are full of laverbread, black pudding, bacon, fried bread and Glamorgan sausage soaking up the indulgences of the night before.
SWANSEA CITY (A) 2016
The last time we won in Wales’s second city, JFK had just been assassinated, Sir Alec Douglas-Home was Prime Minister and Harry Worth (ask your da) was on television. Goals from Charlie Hurley and Nicky Sharkey at the Vetch Field took us to the top of the league and although Leeds United regained the lead the following week, we were never out of a promotion place for the rest of that season. M. Salut and I were not at that game but there would have been a good following. I am sure that the likes of Billy Reilly, Kenny Snowdon and George Thompson used their British Railways passes to make the trip – and I imagine it was two long overnight trips with copious changes on the way.
Since then, we have hardly played each other, although we have drawn at both The Vetch and the Liberty Stadium and there have been some punishing defeats. Gus Poyet’s first game was there and ended up in a 4-0 crushing and I remember losing 3-1 in the late 70’s after Alan Brown had scored in the first minute.
So it was very pleasant to win 4-2 on Wednesday night. In fact it was more than pleasant. It was one of those nights where you knew exactly WHY you are a Sunderland supporter and what it means to you. It was, as they say in these parts, “absolutely f****** mint.”
Of course, we were helped by a refereeing performance that would have been deemed below par in the Brandon and Byshottles Sunday League Extra Reserve Competition. Graham Scott had an absolute stinker and it is hardly likely that there will be a welcome in the hillsides for him should he ever return to the Land of Song. He got two major decisions wrong, one against us and one against them and was aided by a pair of assistants who looked as if they were conducting an experiment in how Blind Pew would have fared as a linesman.
The Brown penalty was forgiveable. I thought it was a penalty and Brown seemed to accept it, but a viewing on TV tonight made it perfectly clear that Ayew accidentally tripped himself. The referee had a split second to react and although he got it wrong, he can be excused.
Not so on the sending off. Here, he bit far too quickly and dashed towards Naughton while trying to get his red card out. M’Vila didn’t help the situation by rolling around a tad theatrically and Mr Scott took note of that before despatching the full back for the early use of the shower gel and moisturiser.
And then Sunderland played like most Sunderland sides I have watched for the last 50+ years – ineptly. The defending for Ayew’s goal was hopeless, with Cattermole being taken apart by the Swansea player. The finish was excellent and it allowed the crowd, who, up until the penalty had banged drums and serenaded us with a selection of Max Boyce’s Greatest Hit, to give full throat to their feelings to their team (positive) and to Mr Scott (not quite so).
We defended as if we were walking through jelly. The ball was hoofed away and was sent back to us. The midfield exerted as much influence over the game as an ageing supply teacher does over a class of recalcitrant 14 year olds. Not to put too fine a point on it we were, in the words of the great Terry-Thomas, “an absolute bally shower.”
And yet, early on, we threatened to have had the game buried by half time. Their former Arsenal goalkeeper set the tone by making two splendid contributions to the first goal. Jermain may well have been lurking in an offside position, but he was lurking and a good lurk will often bring a goal. Four minutes later, Adam Johnson contrived to miss an open goal, one which Long John Silver could have put in with his less useful leg.
We went in a goal down at half time and the general consensus was that we were struggling. Jarvis the Cocker Spaniel was there and had already exposed his canine genitalia to the crowd but not to the South Wales Police (or Heddlu as they are known in these parts) who continued to train a video camera on the Sunderland support throughout the game.
The second half was a completely different kettle of fish as Swansea went for the third goal instead of trying to slow the game down. Add to that tactical ineptitude from their manager the fact that ours, a man of 450 games experience, had clearly told our full backs to get at them and use the pace that we had. It worked as Van Aanholt, who had had a good first half against a tricky winger, rattled in an equaliser with his right foot. And then Defoe, lurking like a champion, broke their offside trap and put us ahead. Was he offside? I neither know nor care.
The game should have been put to bed by the impressive Jeremaine Lens but the ball struck Fabianski’s foot – although Mr Scott thought it had hit the post and awarded a goal kick. Swansea had a goal disallowed as Mannone almost won the title of “Worst Former Arsenal Keeper on the Pitch” when he dropped a speculative shot, allowing the wonderfully named Angel Rangel (we should have a right back called Billy Pilley) to put it in the net – but he was yards offside; even the assistant saw that.
Jermaine wrapped it up with a few minutes to go when Van Aanholt set him up beautifully, prompting the ground to empty as quickly as a theatre when the compere said “And here they are…. it’s Mike and Bernie Winters.”
Three points won, three goals for Defoe and three pints of splendid beer (Shropshire Gold, Wye Valley Bitter and Young’s Winter Warmer) were quaffed in The No Name Wine Bar and I sat in the chair that Dylan Thomas reputedly sat in and wrote a couple of poems. Another three pints were taken in the Wetherspoons next door until it closed at midnight. There were Red and Whites of my vintage in there, all full of hope and ale and hoping that Spurs was not as they feared it might be. And this was after the brother’s chum (who thoroughly enjoyed himself and is now a Sunderland supporter) had got me, him and Paul “Sobs” Dobson back to the city centre in a Toyota Aygo – no mean feat.
It was a very important win and it lifts us above Newcastle but there were still problems. The keeper was patchy and the defending ropey at times. We need pace in the middle of that back four. Neither Cattermole nor M’Vila were up to their usual standard and both must be looking forward to the FA Cup weekend when they may well be sloping around Dubai rather than facing Burnley in t’cup.
Lens played well again and may have realised that the best thing to do is to show how good a player he is. He worked hard and pushed forward well, as did Borini who needs a run in that wide spot. And Defoe was Defoe – a predator who will always score goals if you give him the chances. Swansea were reported to be setting up an exchange deal between him and the inconsequential Gomis. That would have been the greatest steal since a simple child (aren’t they all) exchanged a cow for a handful of beans.
This morning, as we took the lift from the seventh floor of The Dragon Hotel to the breakfast room, the lady who lives in the lift responded to our pressing of the button by saying “Going down.” It is to be hoped that that applies to Swansea, Newcastle and Villa rather than us. We have every chance to make that dream come true.