It sounded a creditable effort, ahead twice – right up to full time and again right up the end of extra time. Then the phrase Sunderland fans have come to dread: the penalty shoot-out. Pete Sixsmith witnessed the inevitable outcome …
Brrr, it’s a cold Wednesday night and there is an interesting Carling Cup semi on terrestrial TV, a bottle of Tullamore Dew on the go, a decent book to read and a warm fire. So bugger all that, let’s go to the Stadium of Light and watch the Under 18s play Preston in the FA Youth Cup.
The 18s are having another good season with Ryan Noble scoring goals for fun. Bally was on the web site saying that this could be a very good game, so I abandoned the comforts of home (and a vomiting cat; now the snow has gone he’s been out eating small creatures) and took a padded seat in the West Stand along with the other diehards – and experienced a night of total frustration.
We got off to a good start with Noble taking a good goal after six minutes and for the first half we looked the better side, without ever really dominating the game. Bally was in his technical are barking instructions at his young charges and at half time, a Sunderland victory and a home tie against Brighton or Everton looked likely rather than inevitable.
Preston approached the second half in a much more positive light and had chances. But, with the game approaching the 89th minute, it looked as if we had held on and I sat in my comfy seat contemplating a drive home, a bit of shopping at the Co-op and a glass or two of the splendid Tullamore.
Bang!! Preston scored, taking the game into extra time and leaving a number of people thinking that this inability to close a game out was becoming endemic. Bally was not pleased and nor was I as a longer evening than anticipated materialised.
Within three minutes of the re-start, Craig Lynch scored with an impressive shot to put us 2-1 up and again, the clock ran down to the 120th.minute. A just about deserved win, the old greybeards sat around me said and I nodded in agreement.
Bang!!! Preston equalised again with the last kick of normal extra time and could have won in extra extra time. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth (enamel and plastic) as we saw another opportunity to progress snatched from us.
Penalties it was and we managed to miss our first three with the North End keeper making one good save, one decent save and one save that an arthritic ant with a heavy bag of shopping could have made. They failed to reciprocate, hitting the target with their first three efforts. Out we went.
Players who caught the eye were the aforementioned Lynch, who looked a prospect and is a big lad and left back Blair Adams, who, according to an impeccable source (Sobs of ALS fame), is highly rated by Bruce and the coaching staff. James Armstrong, son of be permed legend Gordon did well and the captain, Liam Bagnall worked hard – and kicked a couple of Preston players a la Bally.
I was cold and miserable when I left but was cheered up by the news of Bolton’s defeat and then chuckled away as Fat Sam blamed the referee for Blackburn losing a game that I could have stayed in and watched at Sixsmith Towers. Serves him right …