Local pride was at stake as much as anything when Sunderland’s young ‘uns took on Newcastle United. Pete Sixsmith assesses the quality of youth on display, finds plenty to enjoy and delivers a headmasterly rebuke to the apprentice mischief-makers …
A decent game at the Stadium as the Under 21s took a point off the Mags on Monday night in front of a crowd of 1,800, which included this very tired Salut! Sunderland correspondent.
Sunday was a long day and it was 1.30 before I climbed into bed. A 3-1 win at Fulham does cheer you up, but it was a short sleep as the Forecast for Inshore Waters woke me at 5.25.
I love the rhythm of the early morning shipping forecast, particularly as it goes round the coastline; Cape Wrath to Rattray Head, Berwick-upon-Tweed to Whitby and my favourite, Mull of Kintyre to Ardnamurchan Point. Sheer poetry and guaranteed to wake me up as I feel for the storm tossed mariners as a Force 9 batters Great Orme Head.
Both sides featured players who are reasonably well known. David Vaughan and Connor Wickham are relatively famous for the positive things they do on the football field. Newcastle’s Nile Ranger is better known for appearances in front of the Newcastle city beaks. This was the first time he had appeared in a black and white shirt since March.
He gave the Mags an early lead with a well taken goal, and they looked the better side for the fist 30 minutes. They were bigger, stronger and far more cosmopolitan than ours, featuring players from France, Australia and Congo as well as Londoners Ranger and JJ Hooper.
However, once the impressive Roarie Deacon (another Londoner) had wriggled along the by-line and set up Wickham for the equaliser, the game was much more even.
The longer it went on, the more we came to the fore even though Bradden (John) Inman restored their lead.
Adam Reed could have levelled but his penalty hit the post and bounced out when it could so easily have bounced in and it looked as if Newcastle were going to take all the points, when Craig Lynch placed a lovely shot wide of Jak Alnwick to make it 2-2.
Lynch had started off slowly, but by the second half was a very influential figure. He is much more than a striker, being able to influence play from a deeper position.
Unfortunately, it left Wickham on his own up front. The England Under 21 player worked hard and brought his team mates into the game, but he does need support. Roarie Deacon did well until he tired towards the end; he is another one who knows how important this season is for him. A first team breakthrough or non-league obscurity are the options facing him.
We were rather shaky at the back and the second goal came because we failed to clear our lines on three occasions allowing Hooper to stab the ball home. Jordan Pickford pulled off a couple of very good saves to keep us in it, but the longer the game went on, the better we played and Lynch’s goal was well deserved.
As always, the young folk of Sunderland turned out to ignore the football, bait the Mags (some of whom reciprocated) and generally annoy the stewards. A handful from both sides were escorted out of the ground. Presumably the Mags were picked off by a special group of Grandsons of Fulwell Axeman who were lurking in dark corners, waiting to feast on their bones.
Predictable chants from both sides involving Steven Taylor, Jimmy Saville, Alan Shearer and Ryan Taylor almost spoiled the evening but not quite as this was another game to add to the list and an enjoyable one too. It will be interesting to see whether Deacon and Lynch continue to make progress. Wickham will, of that I have no doubt.
See Monsieur Salut’s contributions to the ESPN Soccernet pages: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/sunderland/id/610?cc=5739