SUNDERLAND AFC 4 NEWCASTLE UNITED U21S 0 – EFL TROPHY
I switched on Radio Newcastle’s Total Sport as I set off for this Checkatrade Trophy game just in time to hear an interview with the young Dane, Elias Sorensen who yesterday signed a new contract with our friends up the road. Those of you old enough to remember Jan Molby will recall how perfect his Scouse English is. The Danes must have a good ear and an ability to reproduce the intonations they hear, as Sorensen spoke with an impeccable Geordie twang and littered his responses with the phrase “and stuff”.
Sorensen has scored 19 goals for the young Magpies this season, prompting calls for his inclusion in the first team from some supporters of the black and whites, much to the disdain of John Anderson who pointed out, that whenever he had asked those doing so how often they had seen him play, invariably received the response “never but he scores goals”.
One of the reasons I can rarely listen to more than 10 minutes of Total Sport before either shouting at the radio or switching off, is the number of “experts” who know exactly what the manager should do who never even go to games. As it was Sorensen was more or less invisible and was subbed after 56 minutes or so. Maybe Rafa wants him in the first team after all.
Our own “boy wonder” Duncan Watmore started and was made captain for the night but was on the pitch for even less time than Sorensen, not returning for the second half. Jack Ross said afterwards that he had a slight groin strain but although he had shown flashes of his pace and ability, he too had had a quiet half. With his absence from the starting 11 at Charlton and the squad at Blackpool, I wonder if he is finding the return to first team action after two bad injuries more of a psychological hurdle than a physical one. Jack Ross seems to be taking no chances with him, showing perhaps a more considered approach to the way he handles his players than some of our more recent managers.
In fact the whole of the first half was fairly low key with few chances. As you would expect from a side comprising regular first team players, playing a young, inexperienced team, our boys controlled the game without really looking threatening. Indeed the best chance of the half fell to the visitors when Callum Roberts drove the ball across the face of goal from the right hand side of the penalty area, but there was no-one in pale blue near enough to get the decisive touch.
We thought we’d scored when Bali Mumba (younger than all of the Mags of course) found the net but the assistant on the far side had raised his flag deeming that Chris Maguire had taken the ball out of play and signalled a goal kick. It was close.
The same official was also quick to raise his flag when he thought an attacker had come back from an offside position to collect the ball. It used to be that you could tell how well someone knew the game by their understanding of the offside law, but these days I don’t even think the officials can be sure. There was one occasion where Maguire, received a pass from Ruiter while in his own half but was flagged for offside with the linesman indicating that he had previously been ahead of the Newcastle defence, even though that had been some seconds before and there were at least four blue shirts between him and the goal when the ball eventually got to him.
It was a quiet first half on the pitch but less so in the stands. Before the game I had feared that there might be a few idiots there to see if they could cause a bit of bother but as it turned out I saw nothing untoward. There was a massive police presence for a crowd which numbered less than 17,000 and they were obvious both inside and outside of the ground. A couple of fireworks were set off in the North Stand Upper and the expected disparaging chants came from both sets of supporters. But in between the unsavoury references to paedophilia and sexual proclivities, there were some quite witty exchanges too. It was noisy but never intimidating.
Beforehand I was of the opinion that we would have to win at least 3-0 to come out of the game with any sense of achievement. I still thought, as the teams came out after the break, that was within our grasp but although Charlie Wyke and Tom Flanagan had chances Mumba’s disallowed goal had been the only time we had looked like scoring in the first forty five. Despite the persistent drizzle, the sprinklers were employed during the interval.
The second half kicked off with just the one change and it didn’t take long to break the deadlock. Sinclair had been playing in a much more right sided position than he has recently and hit the post almost immediately after the restart, the ball eventually going for a corner. Maguire took it from our side of the pitch and from where I was sitting it was difficult to be sure what happened next. It looked to me as if it had bounced off a defender’s leg and into the net. The bloke next to me thought Maguire had scored direct and though the scoreboard changed to show 1-0 the stadium announcer said nothing and no goalscorer’s name was flashed up. Turns out my eyes hadn’t deceived me and the goal was credited to Kelland Watts. Sighs of relief around the East Stand and what is now The Roker End.
Ruiter was called into action shortly afterwards as Roberts got a shot on target for the Magpies, but the Dutchman made himself big and got enough of a leg in the way to preserve the lead and soon after Charlie Wyke got a welcome second. Some neat, if somewhat over intricate build up play, saw Wyke set up Maguire when an earlier shot might have been a better option, and his shot was blocked. Maguire took the resulting corner and Wyke rose above the crowd to head home to double the lead with just over 50 minutes on the clock.
From then on the home team’s experience really denied the bairns from Tyneside any chance of getting back into the game.
I’ve said this before and last night confirmed my impression. Benji Kimpioka is ungainly but deceptively skilful in a Peter Crouch sort of way. He often appears to trip himself up yet somehow keeps control of the ball and he’s got pace and enthusiasm. Having replaced Watmore, he was creating confusion whenever he got the ball. I’m not sure the Mags’ defence knew what to make of him. I’m not sure Jack Ross knows either.
With 15 minutes left the gaffer obviously decided that two goals was a big enough cushion and 75 minutes was a good enough run out for Charlie Wyke as he was replaced by Bishop Auckland born Luke Molyneux who Sixer tells me is a polite, well mannered lad and Kevin Ball thinks needs to find a bit more aggression in his play. But then Bally would say that.
Another inspired substitution? Not really but a goal followed almost immediately when Chris Maguire collected the ball on the right and we could all see that he only had one thought. His well hit curling effort beat the keeper all ends up. Hopefully getting another crackerjack under his belt will reignite the man who some have dubbed king, as he seems to have gone off the boil a bit in recent games. I feel we’ll need his flair and commitment in the second half of the promotion push.
“We always win 3-0” was the song from the home fans now as Maguire cupped his hands to his ears in the direction of the North Stand Upper.
With ten minutes to go Kimpioka added a fourth with a scrappy header. The visitor’s goalkeeping coach might well be reviewing that with young Nathan Harper today, as he probably could have been more positive in his attempt to clear the ball. But credit young Benji for his desire and commitment. He enjoyed his moment – quite rightly.
And so 4-0 it finished. A result which means that even though we can expect any local Mags to remind us we were only playing their bairns, the margin of victory is such we can be smugly satisfied and Wembley is a step closer.
And as far as I’m aware, no police horses were harmed in the process.
Ha’way the Lads.