Debate? What debate? Pete Sixsmith watches Sunderland score five without quite performing as if about to storm into the top four. But one thing that did please him (apart from reaching a points tally that leave us just 28 short of safety) was goal number three. It prompted Pete to give short shrift to doubts about Kenwyne Jones …
The great Kenwyne Jones debate was surely shelved at 5.35 when he moved across the front of the goal, left two defenders for dead and whipped a 20 yard shot past the Wolves keeper. It put us 3-2 up, and as Mick McCarthy’s men s legs were beginning to wobble, set up what looks, on paper, like a comfortable 5-2 win.
It was anything but. In the first half, a brand new back four had struggled against the pace and movement of Doyle and Keogh. In midfield, Cattermole was out of sorts and departed with a bang on the leg, while Malbranque was having one of those games where you want to put him in a bag and shake him up. The two front men were always dangerous and Mancienne and Berra were hanging on to them by the skin of their teeth, but the supply was poor for much of the game.
Yet we won 5-2. It’s the first time since March 1977 that we have scored more than four goals in a home game in the top flight. West Ham were our opponents then and like Sunday, it was a pleasant day with sun shine and a little bit of warmth. Bob Lee, Mel Holden, Gary Rowell and Bobby Kerr scored as we banged in six for the second home game in succession, in a season which was to turn out to be one of the greatest disappointments ever for a Sunderland supporter. Hopefully, this one won’t turn out the same.
It would be wrong to say that we played well and it would be equally wrong to say that we played badly. Like the curate’s egg, we were good in parts – which means we were, like the Bishop’s smelly breakfast offering, bad in others.
Defensively, we made some great blocks and won some important headers (particularly Kenwyne), but we were also hesitant and made some shocking errors. Their equaliser was a case in point; Richardson’s back pass was dreadful but we should have cleared the free kick after we had blocked it. Mensah and Da Silva need time to find out the pace of the game, which is certainly quicker and more combative than what they have been used to in France and Mexico.
In midfield, we moved the ball around well at times and Reid was always available, but for the first half at least, Wolves closed us down, boxed us in and stopped us from opening the game up. They were quick and aware of what they had to do, without quite having the ability to play that killer ball into their two forwards.
Up front, Jones had a good game, winning his tussle with Mancienne and always looking dangerous. Bent worked well with him and this looks a promising partnership, but it will only flourish if we get the ball to them in the right areas. The Wolves defence always looked wobbly every time these two ran at them.
It was a game with many talking points. Was the first one a penalty? Matt Forrest texted his dad to say that it was – just, which is a bit like saying that something is fairly unique. It looked like one to me. Matt was more convinced by Turner’s push against Doyle. Yes, he said. Well, we got away with that one. Turner looked leg weary again. I suppose moving clubs and moving house and then having a cat fight with Anton over an iPod takes it out of you.
The second one was as stupid as the one Mr iPod gave away last week, but there was real surprise when Kenwyne took it. The Brucester was not pleased and I had my reservations. He scored and it looked like we were up and away until we defended like idiots to let them back in.
Richardson is not a left back and he will be even more cruelly exposed by the better teams. To his credit, he did not let his head go down after the back pass fiasco and he stuck at his job, putting the highly rated, but disappointing Kightly, out of the game. I think McCartney will be back at Old Trafford.
What about Wolves? Worked hard, well organised for 70 minutes but ran out of steam and allowed our big beasts in Jones and Bent to take the game away from them. Will they be safe? Long way to go yet but they will be in the nether regions of the league all season.. They lack a classy player who can change games. Mick likes workers and doesn’t seem to trust those who won’t “put in a good shift”. I like the man and want him to do well, but I fear they will be sucked into a relegation scrap with Hull, Birmingham, Bolton and Pompey.
So, another three points and our sequence of WLWLWLW continues. It would be nice to think it will change next week, but the bookies have them at1/5 and us at 12/1 – and you never see a bookie riding a bike, do you?