A great day out, says Pete Sixsmith, but – like the curate’s egg – only in parts …
Burnley shimmered in the summer sunshine as the crowd filed in to Turf Moor, clad in shorts and t-shirts rather than the waterproofs and overcoats that one associates with this wet and windy part of North East Lancs.
Behind the ground, Burnley III were playing Ramsbottom III in front of a decent crowd of cricket and football fans, who were no doubt appreciative of the fact that the England pace bowler James Anderson learned his trade here.
Queens Park looked lovely with its flower displays and there was a general air of relaxation about the whole day. I had stopped off in Skipton, strolled around the splendid market and had a superb lunch in The Woolly Sheep, washed down by Timothy Taylor’s Landlord at its brightest and best.
Everything was in place for a fine day’s football, with both sides throwing caution to the wind and entertaining a reasonable crowd with vibrant attacking moves and thrills galore.
You can probably guess what is coming next. Burnley, minus Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears, were clearly trying out their options for next week’s opener at home to Watford, while we were continuing our fitness work and still seeing which combinations worked and which didn’t. The result was a game that meandered through the afternoon and ended up in disappointment for us, giving some cause for concern.
That we lost is irrelevant. It was a penalty, given for a clumsy tackle by Bramble after Brown had been pushed in the back as the Burnley move progressed. The referee, Graeme Sailsbury, apologised to Brown and Bramble for missing the push – but not to the extent that he rescinded the penner. Rodriguez despatched it calmly; in fact, his whole performance suggested that he might well be the next one to leave this cloistered town for more open pastures.
He got more on target than we did, in what was a poor Sunderland team performance. The defence looked less than solid, with Bramble short of pace and Richardson being pulled infield far too easily. Burnley played the diagonal ball across our back four with relative ease and better teams than them will take advantage of our lack of a recognised left back.
In the first half, the midfield had precious little creativity, with Gardner and Cattermole looking far too similar. It perked up a little bit in the second when Larsson and Vaughan played the ball forward instead of sideways, but there was no player who could run at a defence and cause panic amongst them. It’s a bit like a Victor Sylvester dancing lesson at the moment; slow, slow, quick, quick, slow.
Gyan and Wickham made little impression in the first half, although the arrival of Ji Dong-Won and Sessegnon gave us more in the second. The young Korean looked useful with some nice touches and a willingness to get involved. He could be an interesting option as the season progresses.
There are two weeks to go until the season starts and four weeks until the transfer window closes. A midfield player who offers us a bit more than “lots of running” would be a welcome addition before the trip to Anfield. Adam Johnson perhaps?