Sixer’s Accrington Stanley Soapbox:Wham! Bam! Thank you Stan!

Malcolm Dawson writes……what a contrast between yesterday and my previous visit to The Wham Stadium. Less than twelve months ago I got absolutely drenched as we watched the Lads playing for 70 odd minutes in a mud bath before the game was eventually called off. What’s more my car had collected a slow puncture which meant that I had to stop twice on the way home to try and get some air in my tyres in Accrington town centre then somewhere near Skipton and I drove home in the pitch dark, through driving rain, with the air vents struggling to keep my windscreen clear of the steam rising from my soaking thighs.

Yesterday I sat in glorious sunshine in a tee shirt regretting the fact I hadn’t decided to put my shorts on nor brought along any factor 20 Ambre Solaire (other sun protection creams are available). They’ve done a bit of work to the ground too and I was disappointed to find the double decker bus that sold cheap beer had been replaced by a number of bespoke refreshment bars but with a pie and a pint deal costing only a fiver it was still an inexpensive way to take a break from the diet.

I couldn’t get to the two midweek games we have played since Noah and his sons were spotted doing a bit of DIY on the recreation ground next door but Pete Sixsmith did and he has yet to see us lose there. It’s not a big stand at Accrington and Pete was only a few seats away so I have a pretty good idea about his impressions of a performance which brought about another three points in another 3-1 win. You can find out too by reading yet another top notch match report. 

WHAM! BAM! THANK YOU STAN!

After a two-week break from the County Palatinate, it was back to Lancashire as we trekked over Blubberhouses Moor and along the A59 to Accrington via Colne.

For many of us, this was the fourth visit to the home of the Accrington Nori (it’s a brick) in 9 months. For part timers like me, it was the third one since April. Fortunately, all three have been bathed in sunshine rather than bathed in the precipitation that often hangs over Pendle Hill.

It was an important game for us after the unpleasantness at Peterborough. With more pressure on the ramrod straight shoulders of Jack Ross and players needing to cement their places in the team, it was a game we needed to win.

By 3.05, it didn’t look good. Accrington played a long ball forward, Willis and Ozturk showed perfect manners in leaving it for each other.

Jordan Willis. Photo by courtesy of safc,com

“After you, Alim.”

“No, after you, Jordan.” “

“I say Alim, what’s that cad, Jordan Clark doing thumping the ball into the net?”

“He’s not quite pukka, Jordan.”

The conversation on the terraces was probably not that polite.

(It wasn’t behind me with a proliferation of fs and cs and a bloke in front doing an impression of Bez from the Happy Mondays – MD).

The mood lasted two minutes. Denver Hume put a fine cross in from the left for Lyndon Gooch to volley home a spectacular equaliser, restore equilibrium and establish control.

Half an hour later we were well ahead with goals from Aiden McGeady and Mark McNulty and the game was all but over.

McGeady’s came after a penetrating pass from the lively Gooch. The mercurial Irish international used his twinkling feet to create space and scored for the third successive game in this little corner of North East Lancashire.

Ten minutes later, Accrington’s defence was wide open as Chris Maguire broke away, beat two defenders and slipped the ball to the industrious Mark McNulty who opened his league account for the club with a comfortable finish.

Kick off at The Wham

In between the two goals, Stanley could have equalised when a Cody Bishop shot struck Jordan Willis, fooled John McLaughlin, hit the bar and dropped just the right side of the goal line before being hoofed clear.

The second half was relatively comfortable as Accrington huffed and puffed and resorted to a long ball game, which Ozturk and Willis handled with reasonable aplomb.

McLaughlin had a couple of tricky moments but was never really in any trouble and we had opportunities to wipe out the three-goal deficit in our goal differences.

For Rob Mason, one of the Durham Branch’s intrepid travellers, emotions were split. Another goal or two would put a marker down with the other promotion rivals and quell some of the grumbling. On the other hand, he had 1-3 at 16/1 and with the Mason family mortgage riding on it, he exhaled loudly when Will Grigg fluffed a sitter that would have made it 4-1 and would have reduced he and the delightful Sandra to living in a cardboard box on the mean streets of South Hetton.

It was an adequate performance rather than a great one.

Accrington Market

The game was one that we needed to win and win we did, so what’s not to like about that? Well, it wasn’t the most coherent performance and there were some blips but we could put that down to being rusty after a couple of weeks off.

Stanley look like strugglers for the rest of the season. Without Billy Kee, currently having some serious mental health issues from which we hope he makes a complete recovery, they had little up front and, despite having a grip on midfield, never really threatened.

Sam Finley was the pick of their players and kept them ticking over. His career started at Everton and has taken in stints at Southport, Warrington Town, Wrexham, The New Saints and AFC Fylde before he pitched up at Stanley a couple of years ago. He is a busy player who can pass, tackle and move forward and I admired his technique and commitment. He may not go any higher than League One but it shows that there are players who deserve an opportunity at this level.

For us, Lynden Gooch made a massive contribution with a splendid goal and an excellent pass for the second one. He used the ball well and worked extremely hard. George Dobson, who replaced Max Power, drove us forward but this was not one of Grant Leadbitter’s better games as he was hustled out of it by eager if limited, opponents.

At the back, Denver Hume did well and once they had been re-introduced to each other, Ozturk and Willis looked comfortable. Luke O’Nien was as industrious as ever, but there is a feeling that a good winger will take advantage of him. Accrington didn’t have one.

I liked McNulty, who works really hard and who will score goals at this level, McGeady once again scored at The Crown Ground and Maguire did well enough. The arrival of McGeoch and Grigg reinforced the depth in our squad compared with the relative paucity of the opposition’s.

I enjoyed my day out. The bright lunchtime lights of Colne were not for me so I caught a train on the East Lancashire line that took me from Colne via Nelson, Brierfield, Burnley Central, Burnley Barracks, Rose Hill (change for the Todmorden Loop here), Hapton, Huncoat to Grand Central Station, Accrington before departing for (amongst others) Blackburn, Bamber Bridge and Preston. It crossed three splendid viaducts which gave a clear picture of theses old mill towns, tightly tucked into deep valleys where witches roam and Massey’s Ales are still fondly remembered.

Accrington is a small town of 35,000 people, slightly bigger than Bishop Auckland and Spennymoor and with a clear identity. They have a splendid classical style Town Hall, a shopping centre that has seen better days, a fine (but very quiet) market hall and tributes to The Accrington Pals and the groundsman’s dog from Peel Park.

Tribute to an Accrington groundsman and his dog

After three visits there, I hope not to be visiting again next season and will be happy to travel the rest of the East Lancs line through to either Blackburn or Preston. The two games this week, against Rotherham United and Bolton Wanderers may well define whether I am able to do this.

Ha’way the Lads (in American accent).

Highlights via safc.com

Sixer’s Accrington Stanley Soapbox: You’ve got to eliminate the negative

Easy Peasy says Jake

Malcolm Dawson writes……like a lot of us Pete Sixsmith was underwhelmed by our performance against Oxford and after the Ipswich game he e-mailed me to say that he was becoming disillusioned with SAFC and the game in general. It’s a phase many of us have been through and while I was disappointed by yet another two draws, as I see it, it is better than being disappointed by yet another two defeats and I remain convinced that we have owners who have the best interests of the club and supporters at heart, and a manager and players who are striving for success and never give less than 100%. Disappointment I can deal with if I can see commitment. Despite the disappointment, for me the football at League 1 and Championship level is closer to the game I have followed for nigh on 60 years, whilst the top half of Premiership with its ridiculous transfer fees, wages and player power is now so far removed from the game that was created for the working man and it is there I lose interest.

It was the nature of our performance against Oxford and in the first half of the game at Portman Road that was so frustrating. Last night’s game, as reported by Barnes and Benno, sounded much more open and whilst there were still some defensive lapses was, by all accounts, a much more impressive and attacking display by our boys in blue, with the first shot on target coming in the first minute thus immediately equaling the total for the entire 90 minutes last Saturday.

Pete Sixsmith was there and having instructed his manservant Bruce to retrieve the soapbox from below stairs, then to give it a good wax and polish, is now ready to climb back on it for the first time this season. Was he more inspired by last night’s performance in hilly east Lancs? Let’s find out………

ENJOYING EAST LANCASHIRE – ACCRINGTON STANLEY, LEAGUE CUP 13/08/19

What’s not to enjoy about a Tuesday night visit to Accrington?

It’s a pleasant run over the A59, down to Skipton and then along to Colne for a pre-match pint in Boyce’s Barrel, a pleasant micro pub complete with Sam, the Golden Retriever who will turn on his sad eye look in return for a crisp or two.

Boyce’s Barrel and dog

The beer’s not bad either. The Robbie’s Porter from Ayr was a welcome change from all the hopped pales and bitters that seem to be in favour at the moment.

The Crown Ground is neat and tidy (although it would benefit from a cover on the away end) and the stewarding is friendly but effective. Once through the portals, there is a pleasant alfresco bar area with relatively cheap beer and a splendid selection of Clayton’s Pies for those who are hungry.

Being a Tuesday night League Cup tie after a rather underwhelming start, the turn out was less than it would be for a league game, but 41%of the crowd of 2343 stood in the uncovered end or sat down the side, which is not a bad turn out at all – just under 1,000 made it.

Of that 1,000 (959 to be precise), the vast majority were non beer chuckers, non singers of songs about players they never saw and non-moaners, so that made for a pleasant evening as well.

The other thing I like about Accrington is that Aiden McGeady does something special there. In March, he opened the scoring with a fantastic strike from the edge of the box. Here, five months after the crushing disappointment of last season, he opened his account by scoring an even better one.

He arrived to replace an ineffective Will Grigg in the 69th minute, nine minutes after Stanley had levelled. Within two minutes, he had played a killer ball to McNulty, whose shot hit the bar and bounced out and then five minutes later, along came a wonderful goal to restore the lead.

He picked up a loose ball just outside the centre circle and bore down on the Accrington defenders as if he were a lion attacking a herd of frightened wildebeest. As they backed off, the McGeady twinkle toes took him into the box, from where he placed a superb shot beyond Dimitar Evtimov and into the net, to prompt wild celebrations amongst the faithful 959 who had made the trip.

Oooh that McGeady!

It also prompted one elderly female Accrington supporters to say to her friend, “That’s why I said s*** when he came on,” a comment that was picked up by Barnsey and Benno’s mike and faithfully relayed by Malcolm in his fine introduction to the 7. The ghosts of Cissie and Ada stalk the Crown Ground. I wonder if they heaved their bosoms up as effectively as Les Dawson and Roy Barraclough did…..

Enough of large knockers – there are a few of them that sit near me. Let’s do what Bing Crosby said and “Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative.”

There were first outings for Lee Burge, Alim Ozturk, Max Power and Grant Leadbitter. All did well, encouraging us to follow The Ole Groaner’s advice.

Decent return to the starting line up for Alim

Burge was a bit shaky at the start and was well away from a ball across the box that could have led to an equaliser, but as the game went on, he grew in confidence and showed that John McLaughlin has genuine competition for the goalkeeping spot this season. His distribution was excellent, if not quite Pickfordian.

Lee Burge – competition between the sticks

Alim Ozturk also did well as the second central defender in a back four. He looked fit and capable of forming a partnership with Willis. Both are strong in the tackle, neither gets pushed about and Ozturk clears his lines. He’ll probably have a stinker against Portsmouth (Remember – Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative).

The midfield duo of Grant Leadbitter and Max Power gelled nicely. This looks like a good pairing, as effective as the pairing between Bluetooth and the various devices that run off it. It will do its job for most of the time but will occasionally need a reboot – or whatever computers call it.

Leadbitter was competitive and sat a bit deeper than Max, who showed why we were all raving about him this time last year. The ball he played for Maguire to set up McNulty’s opener was excellent and he continued in that vein until he tired near the end. On this performance, Dobson and McGeouch will find it difficult to get into the starting XI.

They were aided by Maguire and Gooch, both effective at times. Gooch still seems to need an extra touch on the ball and Maguire is reluctant to go into a hard challenge after his broken leg last year, but both did well.

Up front, Will Grigg had a decent first half and could (should?) have opened his account for the season. In the second half, his game collapsed and once again, he was hauled off to be replaced by the man himself, Aiden McGeady. I’m afraid the sands of time are running out for Grigg with the support and maybe the manager as well. He seems a decent guy so let’s hope he can turn it round.

Mark McNulty looks a completely different type of player. He is physical, puts genuine pressure on defenders and seems very keen to show that his season at Reading was a waste of a year. Having to play at the dreary Majedski Stadium in front of dreary supporters and live in a dreary town must have taken its toll, although you would have thought he should have been used to it having joined Reading from Coventry City.

At The Crown Ground, he showed exactly why Ross brought him in. He scored an excellent opening goal, rounding off a fine move started by Power and extended by Maguire and finished off the game by bullying a Stanley defender off the ball, going to the by-line and giving Charlie Wyke a gilt-edged chance that he took gleefully to make it 3-1. Effective running from a Sunderland forward in the 90th minute is as rare as a thoughtful intervention into the national debate from Nigel Farage.

Poor Conor McLaughlin drew the short straw and had to play at left back. No doubt there will be some on social media lambasting Ross, Donald, Methven and the tea lady for letting Donald Love go, but we do need to bring someone in PDQ. The Ulsterman was bombarded with long balls behind him at the start of the second half and when Jordan Clark got in front of him, a needless penalty was given away. He may struggle to get his place back on the right as Luke O’Nien was his usual chirpy self on that side. We shall see….

Stanley were ok. A bit niggly at times, but no time wasting and for a team that is always being rebuilt, showed some cohesion. I liked the look of former Leamington forward Colby Bishop who converted the penalty with some power and Sean McConville was tidy and organised. With only two relegation places available, they should be fine. The league game in four weeks’ time will give a clearer indication.

On the way out, I dropped some coins into the bucket of a Bury supporter who was collecting to try and save The Shakers from oblivion. He was pessimistic about their chances of survival. In a world where huge amounts of money are paid out for decent but not outstanding players, the £3.5m that the Gigg Lane club need is a relatively insignificant sum.

Brian Clough

There is no chance of them getting any aid from a league where clubs have just spent £1.4bn in the summer. And you wonder why I am becoming disillusioned with a game I fell in love with when people gasped at the £42,500 we paid for Cloughie?

Let’s hope that we can continue the good work on Saturday and see off Portsmouth and some of the moaners and groaners. Remember what the oldest one of the latter said….

You gotta accentuate the positive

Eliminate the negative

Latch on to the affirmative

Don’t mess with Mister In Between.

Ha’way the Lads

 

Click the banner to land on the Salut! Sunderland home page
If there is any copyright claim on the images used in this report, not answered by “fair comment” please let us know and we will remove or acknowledge as requested

View from the West Stand: Maja, McGeouch and a back three? Things to ponder

Having moved my seat – it’s time for an update!

In contrast to some other websites and social media platforms, contributors to Salut! Sunderland, whether in the main body of text or in the comments sections, tend to make reasoned arguments and are prepared to respect the opinions of others and discuss issues, rather than indulge in polemics.

The season has come to a disappointing end and inevitably the inquests have started and just as inevitably, there are those calling for a change of ownership and/or a change of manager in an open and frankly rude manner. On the whole these types seem to believe their simplistic solutions would see us competing in the top flight and challenging for European trophies. Often a variation of the very approach they advocate has been tried with disastrous consequences in the very recent past and many of their solutions ignore what happens in the real world.

Add to this a kind of double standard which sees any decent player in the squad who looks to move to another club, as a disloyal traitor or a money grabbing mercenary but welcomes an incomer with open arms whether or not they have spent years at their former club, nor in what circumstances they were persuaded to come to Sunderland AFC. Allied to that is the belief that as long we offer the right money, every single person who ever pulls on a pair of football boots would jump at the chance to come to Wearside, as if finding a top quality striker or centre back is the same as deciding whether to go into Harrods to buy some wild rocket, mignoette and micro salad or making do with some iceberg from Lidl.

Decisions have to be made and one course of action will impact on another. In football of course there are also the imponderables over which no-one has any control. One such decision which was made this season which quite rightly, is being questioned is whether or not the club should have made Josh Maja see out his contract and finish the season with us. Elsewhere both John McCormick and Paul Summerside make valid arguments that this, in hindsight was a poor decision and they are supported by others’ comments.

They might be right and we might have been looking forward to Championship football next season had Maja been retained, but the truth is we don’t know. Anything might have occurred and all we do know is what happened. Maja might have suffered a loss of form. He may have been the recipient of the type of meaningless and vindictive challenge that saw the unfortunate Duncan Watmore sent back to the treatment table so soon after his recovery from serious injury. Then again he may have scored another fifteen goals and turned some of those draws into wins and finished off Fleetwood and Southend before they took all three points from us. We’ll never know and while I know John and Paul will accept the truth of that, there will be others out there who will be 100% sure that I’m talking rubbish.

My own view is that there is no point in going back and bemoaning that particular decision but now what is needed is an analysis of what went well, what went badly and what we need to do to improve and I’m sure Jack Ross, the coaching staff and the owners will do so.

Letting Maja go and replacing him with an injured Will Grigg, who let’s face it, despite his song, hasn’t set the Stadium of Light or any away ground come to that on fire, seems to many a poor decision. Facts would seem to support that view though personally I am convinced we are yet to see the best of the former Wigan man. There is of course the financial aspect. Failing to get Maja tied down to a new contract would have seen him leave for nothing in the summer. I am prepared to accept that finances are such that without his transfer fee the club would have been limited when looking for a replacement over the summer, and had we gone up the type of player we needed to replace him would be expensive. At least with Will Grigg, the club has a saleable asset, as well as a player who might well contribute the number of goals we would like to see from him next season.

We need to find a way to get the best from him

Similarly Charlie Wyke, though working hard in every game he has played has not been in any way prolific. Does that make him a bad player? I think not – not at this level anyway so I think we need to look elsewhere as to how to improve.

One thing I’m sure the management team are looking at is the balance of the squad. In my view, the best 11 players don’t necessarily make the best team and one of the problems I feel we had against Charlton was the lack of creativity in midfield. To my mind, Power, Leadbitter, Honeyman and Cattermole may all have deserved to start on recent performances but are all too much of a muchness in my view. Of course the manager has to pick from the players at his disposal and judge not only how fit they are, but how ready they are to start, but in the case of Honeyman, Leadbitter and Cattermole, there should be no room for sentiment in a one off play off game. I’m sure that didn’t play a part in JR’s thinking but it’s possible he felt that they might be more motivated than some others.

Dylan McGeouch is perhaps our most creative midfielder, but wasn’t even on the bench. He hadn’t really contributed much in the two previous games he had started but might have been able to give us something the others didn’t. Bali Mumba is young and inexperienced but again might have been the spark that was lacking in midfield. O’Nien is lively in midfield and has considerably more pace than those who started in midfield, but seems to have become the first choice right back.

Will Grigg is a different type of player to Charlie Wyke and with McGeouch in the side I would have been interested to see if Grigg and Maguire might have been able to work the Charlton defence better than we did on the day.

Morgan has been inconsistent since he came to us on loan and didn’t really get into the game on Sunday. He might have done as he has the ability. After Power was forced off I thought his introduction to the game might have seen a simpler tweak to the formation than we got, with Honeyman taking up Power’s position and Morgan playing Honeyman’s role but the skipper seemed to carry on taking up the same positions and the Celtic man never looked totally sure of what was expected from him.

A more creative option?

With Aiden McGeady less than 100% we may have expected more from O’Nien and Oviedo in the attacking third but as we saw against Coventry a kamikaze approach can be fatal (yes I know you Japanese speaking purists not can be but is) but I wondered if Jack Ross considered tweaking the system prior to Wembley. After all for the first time in ages he had an opportunity to put in some serious work on the training ground.

Might a back three have been better? It worked in the second half of the opening game of the season, when Ozturk was pushed out wide. I thought back then he looked good on the left of a back three. That would have allowed the wing backs more freedom to attack and I know it’s not a system Jack Ross has employed much but that in itself might have been a plus. The one reservation I have about JR’s tactics is they became too predictable.

Early in the season there was a fluidity about the team. Players knew their own roles, but also each others’ and we saw them chopping and changing within the game. If a full back went high up the pitch, the defence would move over and a midfielder would drop back to cover. We moved the ball more positively and players were always looking for space. The front line too would swap positions. We seemed to lose this as the season wore on. That may have been tiredness, owing to the number and frequency of fixtures but it’s something that can be worked on over summer but being able to implement plans A B and C during the course of a game, would give opponents a bit more to think about.

We’ll never know if Josh Maja was the difference between us going up and facing return trips to Accrington, Rochdale and Lincoln (games I’m looking forward to) and Milton Keynes, Portsmouth and Coventry (games I doubt I’ll be going to) and we’ll never know if my starting line up of McLaughlin, Flanagan, Dunne, Ozturk, O’Nien Leadbitter, Cattermole, McGeouch, Oviedo, Maguire, Grigg would have been able to see off Charlton.

But the club now has the foundations in place and can build this summer, whereas twelve months ago, those foundations were shaky and the cracks full of expandable filler.

Ha’way the Lads

Sixer’s Portsmouth Soapbox: play offs Pompey, Pompey play offs – and us

Malcolm Dawson writes……whilst not mathematically denying us one of the two automatic promotion spots, yesterday’s result finally extinguished any realistic hope of avoiding the lottery that is the play-offs. At the start of the season I don’t suppose there are many supporters who would have said that only losing a total of three games out of 44, two by the odd goal and one after having a man sent off early doors, would be considered a failure but there are plenty of brickbats being thrown around in the wake of our 19th draw of the season. 

A draw was really of no use to either side (although Portsmouth might still get an automatic promotion spot if they can win their last two games and either Barnsley or Luton fail to get maximum points next Saturday) so I was surprised that Pompey weren’t more adventurous in their play and that they were prepared to indulge in a lot of the time wasting tactics that seem prevalent in this division and having succeeded in getting Glenn Loovens sent off at Fratton Park, seemed to be trying the same trick, this time with Aiden McGeady one of their prime targets.

Eppleton Colliery Banner

Some pundit or other was saying on the radio how successful Tottenham’s season has been so far and this is a side that has lost 12 times from 36 games. The ease with which social media allows instant reaction will no doubt be rife with those quick to point out how dreadful this result was towards the end of what to them has been a dreadful season. But those taking a more thoughtful and objective view will be of the opinion that our disappointment stems from hope and expectation. Some of us hoped we might go straight back up whilst others expected us to run away with the division. Games we might have expected to have won have seen us drop points and while our record might have seen us finishing in the top two most seasons, this year the form of Barnsley, Luton and Portsmouth have meant it hasn’t. That Spurs record shows 12 defeats but only 1 draw and dropping points at home to the likes of Shrewsbury, Wycombe, Accrington Stanley, Oxford and Fleetwood as well as a failure to hold on to leads at Wycombe, Oxford and Scunthorpe have ultimately cost us a top spot. 

What I haven’t been disappointed with this season, is the effort and commitment to the club that team have shown, even if they haven’t often been dominant in games and haven’t always been able to get all three points. Unlike some I can’t fault the attitude. But the big success for me, whether we go up or not is the efforts the club has gone to reconnect with the supporters and after years of being treated like a customer with my support less valued by the club than by my local supermarkets, I once again feel a part of the SAFC community. The parade of miners’ banners, one of which was from Eppleton where my dad worked most of his life and which dominated the view from my bedroom window when I was growing up, yet another example of how the ownership is trying to re-engage with fans and whilst there will be sound economic reasons for them doing so, I am pleased to see it.

Anyway, my introduction seems to be almost as long as Pete Sixsmith’s match report. He was less than complimentary about our opponents on the way home last night. Has he tempered his views after a night’s kip? Let’s find out.

Read moreSixer’s Portsmouth Soapbox: play offs Pompey, Pompey play offs – and us

Sixer’s Sheffield Wednesday Soapbox: not enough to pass the test but A for effort

Malcolm Dawson writes……..there were plenty of positives to take from last night’s game, both on and off the field.

Off the field the new administration’s decision to seat the majority of fans in the East Stand made economic and logistical sense as well as projecting a better image to the watching television audience and creating a better atmosphere for the players to respond to. It is no secret that the club’s finances need careful husbandry and by reducing the number of turnstile operators, stewards and people manning the bars and refreshment kiosks there must have been substantial savings made for a fixture that rarely sees the ground one quarter full. It was last night, and though the vast majority of seats were empty, by concentrating the spectators in a smaller area the impression was of a less sparsely filled stadium. As it happens the crowd of 13,000+ wasn’t bad for a Carabao Cup fixture which included a good turn out of Wednesday fans. Not sure I saw any police presence either.

Those that were there were generally supportive and appreciative of the style of play, application and effort that Jack Ross and his squad seem to be adopting. At least that was how it was around me, notwithstanding a couple of blokes in the row behind, who after Ozturk’s part in the first goal decided that they would complain about him at every opportunity, even when it was the similarly bearded Jack Baldwin who was at fault. Well I suppose 15 looks like a 5. No negative vibes for Cattermole that I noticed either.

When Flanagan, Wyke, McGeouch Sinclair and Watmore are all fit to play, the manager will have many more options at his disposal than the rather limited choice he has at the moment. When I spoke to Pete Sixsmith as we made our way back to our respective cars we agreed that there was much to encourage us from the performance and here as always Pete brings us his insightful and articulate take on last night’s proceedings. 

THE VIEW FROM THE FRONT – SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY

As part of the club’s newly found and entirely worthy desire to stop haemorrhaging money, the only part of the ground open for home fans for this game was the East Stand.

Consequently, the 12,000 or so Sunderland supporters who pitched up for this one were all sat together making it look like one of those reserve games from the early days of the Stadium when large crowds turned up to thrill at the sight of Neil Wainwright, John Oster and Milton Nunez.

My ticket moved me from Row 31 to Row 6 and from the North side to the South side and I enjoyed it. I was closer to the players and, although I could not see the game unfold as well as I can from my loftier perch, that (relative) intimacy is enjoyable. Of course, it’s not quite the Clock Stand Paddock. There is no clear view of the players calves, no Jeremy Robson barracking Tony Morley to the extent that he started to cry, no Ray (the man with the necklace made of proper nails) or the sight of David Speedie and Gary Bennett wrestling on the track with Benno desperately trying to stop Speedie from going over the fence, thereby preventing him from being torn apart by the frenzied occupants of the aforementioned paddock.

Nostalgia – not what it used to be.

Nostalgia out of the way, what about the game? Twelve months ago, we huffed and puffed to beat Bury at Gigg Lane in this competition with a team that we thought might just have the makings of a promotion side. This time we turned in a performance that was as fluent as the Bury one was disjointed and went out. C’est la vie.

There were some encouraging signs.

Reece James, fresh from his 45 minutes in the Under 23’s on Monday, made an impressive debut. He was energetic, pushed forward well, defended equally competently and looked a good replacement for Bryan Oviedo at left back.
He was aided and abetted at right back by Denver Hume, who becomes the first player to be named after a U.S city since Poughkeepsie Wilson in the 1920’s and the Greek winger Syracuse Papadopoulos in the early 2000’s. He has grown over the summer and, although he may be behind one or two in the pecking order, a good loan to a Division Two/ National League club where he will be playing regularly will help him to progress even more.

Ditto Elliot Embleton, a candidate for the FIFA goal of the season, who showed that he has an eye for a pass, that he can tackle and that he too has a future. Two good products of the Academy there. More please. He benefited from being alongside Lee Cattermole, who turned in the kind of performance that must have delighted Jack Ross and made any watching scouts think very carefully about revising their opinions of him. He conserved his energy, did simple things well and left to a warm round of applause from the faithful. He may well have a role at the club despite his astronomical wages.

Steady and sensible. A starter v Scunthorpe?

The running that he usually does was done by Max Power who made a good home debut, while his fierce tackling was done by Luke O’Nien who had a much better game than he had against Charlton. He followed in Cattermole’s footsteps by being booked for his third careless tackle and missing a good chance to equalise just before half time. He will have an important role to play as the season unfolds.

Some of the football was very pleasing on the eye and these players have been brought to the club to match the style that Jack Ross wants to play. That in itself is revolutionary for a club that had no discernible pattern or style for years and appeared to sign players for no good reason other than nobody else wanted them.

We know where the problems are.

There is a serious shortage of goals in the team and that was exacerbated in the absence of Josh Maja from the starting X1. Chris Maguire worked hard on his own and the midfield players tried to get up there to help him, but our threats were limited. The fitness of Wyke and Sinclair are essential for us and we may be able to hang on until they are ready without having to make another loan signing.

Unfortunately, there was one weakness on the night and that was Alim Ozturk, who followed up his shaky performance against Charlton with one that resembled a jelly caught in an earthquake. His dithering over a long ball in the 29th minute allowed Matias to score and he was understandably nervous after that. He may improve but needs to be aware that many in the crowd need a scapegoat and he looks to be a prime candidate.

The general consensus as we filed out was that Sunday’s game against Scunthorpe was of far more significance than a Tuesday night against Wolves. There will be a different side on show then and, we hope, a different result. But on a day when A level results were published, we come away from this game with a decent B grade with more rigorous tests to come.

Alim Ozturk gets the traditional Salut! Sunderland welcome

Follow the Lads at salutsunderland.com

No time for much else, but Salut! Sunderland could not let the signing of Alim Ozturk – our first acquisition under Jack Ross – pass without the customary welcome.

Enjoy Sunderland, Alim, and let us enjoy the football you play for us.

Read moreAlim Ozturk gets the traditional Salut! Sunderland welcome