Surely we couldn’t mess this one up – or could we? Would it be a repeat of Northwich Victoria in 2006 – or a reprise of that sad day in Somerset 61 years ago when The Bank of England Club were rolled over by Yeovil. Pete Sixsmith had an awful premonition at 2.20 ……. but it was not to be.
As we entered a cold and rather empty Stadium of Light on Saturday, I noticed the bucket collection was for the Samaritans. Dropping my pound coin into it, I wondered if I would be calling them on Saturday evening.
No need to worry, as we completed a routine, if rather uninspiring win over the plucky part-timers from the Furness Peninsula. Playing at a level way above their normal one, the collection of plasterers, bus drivers, nuclear physicists and opera singers thrilled their magnificent fans and caused the Premier League big boys an afternoon of potential banana skins.
Right, that’s all the patronising drivel out of the way, so let’s deal with the game, which was an entertaining and enjoyable one, for a change.
Of course, we were far better than Barrow. Our players think quicker and move quicker and all three goals showed that. Campbell’s flick and Malbranque’s finish, the two headers from Campbell and the speed and pace of Noble all showed up the difference between good players and very good players.
Any win is a good win and seeing as this was the first for a while, it will if we are lucky act as a confidence boost for the likes of Malbranque and Campbell. I liked the way that Campbell refused to go overboard about his goals, recognition of the fact that he should have scored earlier. He seems a determined character and his first league goal may well take an even bigger weight off his shoulders, just as it did when Marcus Stewart and David Connelly notched their first ones.
Young Noble looked sharp when he came on as Barrow tired and he continues to look like a real prospect, rather than another Stephen Brodie. David Meyler continued where he had left off at Blackburn and looked good alongside Jordan Henderson. When Michael Liddle came on, we had a grand mixture of local lads, Paraguayans, Albanians, Mancs, Londoners, Irish, Hungarians and Franco/Belgians on the field. When I started watching the Lads, Johnnie Crossan was exotic because he had played in Belgium and Holland. How times change.
Barrow can be pleased with their afternoon’s work. Once Hulbert had been booked and realised it wasn’t a great idea to run into every Sunderland player he saw, they settled down and played some tidy football. They look a bit lightweight and a bit slow in places and, with the team they have, promotion from the Conference looks a long way off. The money they made from this game may well finance a promotion campaign next year and I would be pleased to see them get back à la Accrington Stanley. Barrow is a sporting town; the Rugby League club has been successful recently and maybe Holker Street can welcome the likes of Crewe, Bury and Bradford City once again.
They brought a good following and they seemed to enjoy it, although there have been some comments on the harshness of the stewarding. It will be interesting to see how many of them turn up to watch them play Histon on the 16th.
I thought our turn out was disappointing. I would have expected 30,000 and it’s disappointing that crowds have slipped. They are acceptable and far, far better than the dreadful turnouts at ‘Boro and Wigan, but Messrs Short and Quinn must be a little worried that we are not maintaining a 44,000 average. It will be interesting to see how many appear on Saturday for another very important league game against a possibly rejuvenated Bolton.