Pete Sixsmith has a big night ahead. He’ll be at Roker Park tomorrow for the FA Cup fifth round replay against Manchester City. That, at any rate, is the dream, one that goes back to 1973. Come back to see his report of one of the best games seen at the old ground. For now, he reports on a promising debut by Kader Mangane in a game that was nearly good enough to allow the crowd to forget the glacial conditions …
Three hundred and sixty hardy souls can now lay claim to the fact the we have seen Kader Mangane play. He turned out for the development squad in what turned into an entertaining clash with Everton at Eppleton last night. As usual, we came unstuck against the Toffees, losing a two goal lead to end up with a point.
On this showing it is well nigh impossible to assess the new recruit. He looked comfortable on the ball, appeared to read the game well and was hardly troubled by the smaller Everton forwards. He even carried the ball forward a la Gary Bennett as we pushed for a late and probably deserved winner.
It was a chilly night at Hetton, keeping the gilded youth in with their homework, mobile phones and onesies. I had actually forgotten about this game (an easy thing to do with the desperate state of Under 21 football) and was heading to Spennymoor Town’s County cup semi final with Shildon – until it was called off.
I then contemplated an evening with Round The Horne and University Challenge before checking my calendar and discovering that this game was on. A quick look at safc.com told me that Mangane was playing, so it was on with the strides to cover the lallies and off to fantabuloso Hetton for what I knew would be a good evening’s chat if nothing else with some good ekes.
The Under 21 League does allow up to three overage players. Mangane was ours, and I suspect Craig Lynch and Ryan Noble may well have been the others. Both of their careers have stalled and both were offered loan deals to SPL clubs and turned them down.
Noble is a shadow of the bouncy, enthusiastic youngster who came to prominence a couple of years ago with a hat trick against Newcastle at the Stadium. Since then, he has had a number of unsuccessful loan spells and has clearly not impressed Martin O’Neill. He drifted in and out of this game, showing flashes of the pace and enthusiasm that had many of us pushing him for a first team place, and forced the Everton skipper Tyias Browning to put the ball into his own net for our second goal.
The opener had come a few minutes earlier from the French striker Mikael Mandron who blasted an absolute beauty in from 20 yards after a sophisticated side step had fooled the Everton defenders. He hit it with such pace that the ball was wedged under the stanchion at the back of the goal.
Mandron has filled out this year and he looks a prospect. He is quick for a big man, shields the ball well and has a good first touch – similar to Fletcher then. He has improved his scoring record for the Under 19s and the Under 21s and, at 18, he has plenty of time to work on his game.
He joined us from Boulogne after a trial in 2011 and is qualified to play for England, Scotland and France – although I know not how. Hopefully he will train on and become a major player in our 2017 Champions League winning team.
At two up, we were comfortable until the defence allowed Connor McAleny (I think he may be Irish) to wriggle through and pull one back.
The equaliser was a thunderous shot from Francisco Junior, a nippy Portugese winger, who had played well throughout. It was a goal that deserved a bigger and better stage than a cold Monday at Hetton.
There was still time for both sides to waste opportunities to win it, but it was a decent game and I did get to see our Senegalese centre half.
Whether he is quick enough for the Premier League is another question, but I imagine he will put the ball into Row Z rather than drop it short to his goalkeeper.