Hull were comfortably beaten at home by Arsenal, making it four out of six results from the weekend games, our own included, to go our way. That’s five out of six if Newcastle, their flimsy challenge tossed aside at Leicester, are sucked deeper into the danger zone. Pete Sixsmith decided the Under 21s game last night offered a good way of testing the water ahead of our most vital game since, well, the last most vital game …
Was it an omen? Did the Oracle at Delphi speak? Is Nostradamus on our side?
As we head into a season-defining clash at The Old Lady (a Merseyside euphemism for a crumbling wreck of a stadium – although it brings back waves of nostalgia for me), the two clubs development squads met at Hetton for our penultimate game of the 2014-15 season.
It was a pleasant evening with a good sprinkling of the Hetton Irregulars lined up on the grassy bank, underneath the trees. Some had been to the Ernest Armstrong Cup Final at Thornaby (a 2-1 triumph for Norton and Stockton Ancients over local rivals Billingham Town), some had been to a Durham Alliance game at Coundon and Leeholme, some had been visiting the sick in hospital and one poor sod trudges in after a hard day on the shop floor at Poundland.
Both line ups were made up of Under 21s with a single exception – Wes Brown played the first half for Sunderland and seemed to come through quite well. Up against an enthusiastic young centre forward, he showed a full repertoire of the tricks he has picked up in his 15 years at the top – lots of little pushes, nudges and kicks as he cruised through the opening 45 minutes.
His partner in the middle of the back four, Thomas Beadling, did well and carried the ball forward effectively. He shows promise and has been part of a first team squad this season and may well be next year if, as we all fear, the worst comes to the worst.
It was a decent game with lots of huffing and puffing and some neat and accurate football being played by both sides. The general consensus amongst the irregulars was”
* Everton were much bigger than us. Do they breed and feed them better on Merseyside?
* Duncan Watmore could be a good player, isn’t ready for first team football yet but may be next season if we slip into the Championship
* Mikael Mandron has not really trained on and fulfilled his early promise. For a big man, he is too easily pushed about by central defenders
* George Honeyman works hard and has some very good touches and could be the next player from that never ending conveyor belt of talent to make it into the first team
* Liam Agnew is having some problems with injuries at the moment. He limped off after 10 minutes
* American Lyndon Gooch looks a better player than our last US forward; not difficult, I know
* Jordan Pickford is a good ’un
Watmore scored the winning goal in the 60th minute, picking up a knockdown from Mandron, cutting inside and putting a slightly mishit shot across the Everton keeper and into the net. Hopefully, we will be writing that about Danny Graham at the weekend.
There are some decent players in the 21s and Robbie Stockdale has done a good job with them, instilling a defensive discipline in them that has not always been evident.
After being given instructions to play it the Poyet way, there has been a much more expansive style with less fiddling around at the back and it makes for a more pleasing style. We are English and we like our football played with a bit of pace and tempo rather than faffing around at the back.
Hull’s defeat was expected and makes us realise the importance of the next two games as I don’t think that any sane person sees us picking up much at Ashburton Grove or Stamford Bridge.
Goodison here we come; a win might put us above Hull and the Mags if Burnley and the Baggies do their stuff and give us hope … but, as always, it’s the hope I can’t stand.
The weekend games have lifted Sunderland spirits a little, as seen by the improved Yes and Maybe votes in the ‘will we survive?’ poll …
In this expansion of the poll we invite views on which clubs Salut! Sunderland readers (who, don’t forget, may well again include supporters of the other six clubs) reckon will go down.