Pete Sixsmith, much in demand, found time to catch Sunderland’s heartening return to the top of the Under 21s league. After recent self-imposed distractions, what a pleasure it is for Salut! Sunderland to get back to reporting on SAFC …
It is patently clear that the Under 21s prefer to play at the Stadium of Light rather than Eppleton.
The last two games at Eppleton have produced but a single goal (and that to the opposition) and two games that make the Mike and Bernie Winters Show featuring Schnorbitz The Dog look like a decent night out, while the last two games at The Stadium have produced 10 goals and a couple of cracking games – more of a Morecambe and Wise experience than a Mike and Bernie.
Last time it was Middlesbrough who succumbed, this time it was Everton. Our youngsters had three of Saturday’s subs involved – Pickford, Larsson and Toivonen plus the usual names that we see on the team sheet – Liam Agnew, various Robsons, George Brady, Thomas Beadling, Rees Greenwood, and George Honeyman.
The Toffees, who had partaken of a pre-match meal at the Seaburn Marriott, they had a young squad with only Brendan Galloway, who had played for most of the 6-2 rout at the Archibald Leitch Memorial Stadium in November, with any extensive first team experience.
Both sets of players would want to impress. Some will be released by their clubs in May – Liam Agnew has already had a trial with Bradford City – while others will be pushing for a new contract to give them every chance of becoming the next Charlie Hurley or Alex Young.
It was featured on BT Sport, meaning that I could cut down on my texting as many of those on my SAFC loop were watching. We in the West Stand could see how much taller David James is than Micky Gray and how much of a fidget Mark Clemmit is when off camera. I suppose it was a cheap option for filling the schedules on a quiet Monday night; it was either that or College basketball from Kalamazoo.
The game was open with both teams creating and spurning chances. Ola Toivonen opened the scoring when his header crashed back from the bar and he quickly followed it up and the lead was doubled two minutes later when another Toivonen header was poked over the line by Tom Beadling.
Both headers came from corners taken by 20-year-old Rees Greenwood who, on this and the
Middlesbrough showing, looks to have a really positive future ahead of him. His crossing was excellent (we’ll soon knock that out of him!!) and his rangy runs always threatened the Everton defence.
His direct run and excellent pass set up Toivonen for the third and ultimately decisive goal and if he can be a little more selective with his final pass, he could be the first outfield forward to break into the team since…. Ooh, er Martyn Waghorn? Craig Russell? Billy Hughes?
The third goal was a beauty, expertly finished by the Swede who had a good game and received a warm reception from the crowd who realise that he is a good player – although maybe not one cut out for the annual relegation battle. Everton had pulled one back when our static defence failed to clear a corner (sound familiar, guys) and Tom Robson managed to guide it over the line for an og.
Everton were the better side in the second half and pressed well but Beadling and Brady held the centre well and had a real tussle with the Blues No 9, Courtney Duffus. He is a big lad with bags of strength and running and he could be a name to watch out for.
However, Greenwood was the star of the show and the ball that he received from Pickford and gave to Toivonen showed why he was chosen as the Under 21 Player of the Month. He also got back to help out his full back, Tom Robson, who had a difficult evening and fell below the high standards we have come to expect from him.
Kieran Dowell made it a nervy final few minutes when his excellent free kick curled past the impressive Pickford, although few in the ground thought that it was a free kick. Since when did an attacking player running into a defender lead to a foul being given?
It was a pleasant way to spend an evening in the company of friends and fellow Sunderland fanatics and it is to be hoped that when the two clubs first teams eventually meet , it will produce a similar score line and maybe young Greenwood will rise off the bench and rattle in the winner.
As I write, the Brolley Man is still Head Coach at The Sports Direct. Keep him there Mike; you know it makes sense.
* Catch more coverage – and photos – at http://www.sunderlandecho.com/sport/sunderland-afc/latest-safc-news/safc-match-analysis/gallery-re-live-the-action-from-title-chasing-sunderland-s-win-over-everton-1-7782700