You have been warned. Pete Sixsmith has been in better moods. Sunderland-supporting readers of a sensitive disposition may wish to lock themselves into a small padded room and listen to the collected works of Jedward. If you’re built of stronger stuff, this is Pete’s verdict on a Sunday by the Thames made so dismal by Steve Bruce’s dunces that he wishes he’d stayed in the White Horse and ordered a £9 pint of Thomas Hardy ale. What on earth did Niall Quinn’s guest, Martina Navratilova, make of it? …
As I dragged myself from a warm bed this morning, still groggy after a long journey back from the latest away shambles, I heard the BBC newsreader say that the Government were worried about an increase in depression and anxiety.
One way to prevent this malaise among the red and white army, I snorted, would be to teach defenders to attack the ball when it is punted into the penalty box.
It was that basic error that led to the only goal of the game at Craven Cottage. Pantsil’s high ball was left by Bardsley, Turner and Fulop, allowing Zamora to head it into the net. Even Mike Dean looked surprised that Premier League defenders had given away such a sloppy and careless goal. Not as surprised or as shocked as we were, Mike!!
If you thought that Wigan was bad and decided not to make the trip to west London, you made a wise choice. The first half was as bad as anything produced last season and has sent alarm bells ringing as we look at a run of games where we have taken four points out of the last 18.
That is relegation form and as Portsmouth and Wolves pick up points and Fulham and Birmingham move above us, the optimism of late summer and early autumn is disappearing as quickly as steelworkers jobs’ on Teesside. Anxiety beckons.
Fulham are a decent side, well drilled and well organised. They do their homework and knew that if Reid was stopped, Sunderland’s creative juices ceased to flow. How right they were. Double cover on the Irishmen meant that we created precisely nothing from midfield until Zenden appeared late in the game. He did force a save out of the impressive Mark Schwarzer, which was more than Henderson, Cana, Malbranque and Reid managed. So far, our midfielders have contributed three league goals this season. Depressing.
The defending was poor throughout. Ferdinand was awful, Nosworthy no better when he came on. His first act was to grab the shirt of a passing Fulham player, nearly giving away a penalty before he had broken sweat. Turner was indecisive, Bardsley did OK, but is not a Premier League full back and Richardson was identified as the weak link and the ball was persistently played over his head. Stressful to watch.
The Brucester is still a long way from sorting out his back four, but he needs to make decisions and make them quickly and well. I get the feeling that he sees Mensah as a long term project, if he can get him fit. Ferdinand should be allowed to leave in January and I don’t imagine that McCartney is especially keen on staying much longer. On this performance, Nyron should stick to fashion shows. Brave yes, composed no. Worrying.
Not much better up front, but if the service is so poor, what can they do.? We have a centre forward in Jones who can, if given the right ball, open up defences. Two years ago, he made Hangeland look like a Norwegian novice as he took him apart. Yesterday, the Scandinavians mastered the Trinidadian, while our England hopeful looked for scraps elsewhere. None was forthcoming. Misery
Fulham is an enjoyable ground to visit, with a plethora of decent pubs, good transport links and the redolence of times past. A jolly hour on the Tube was followed up by some good craic in the White Horse at Parsons Green, where all the beers appeared to be strong enough to put you to sleep. Maybe Turner, Bardsley and Fulop had been partaking of the Robinson’s Old Tom pre match. Hopeless.
Portsmouth up next and this suddenly takes on a whole new meaning: lose this one and we are looking at the beginnings of a relegation scrap. That’s not what were promised back in August. Time for action, Steve and Eric; Give us something to look forward to, please or my therapist may well be working overtime.