Sunderland 4 Newcastle U21s 0: experienced Black Cats polish off young Magpies

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.

Bali Mumba so nearly on the scoresheet

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.

Benjamin Mbunga-Kimpioka

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.

Another cracker

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.

Match highlights available via safc.com

Sixer’s Charlton Soapbox: breaking the mould of the first day hoodoo

Jake’s happy, too

Malcolm Dawson writes….this season sees a new chapter in my Sunderland supporting life. This time last year I was in despair at the way the club was being run. I felt marginalised and no longer part of a club whose teams I had followed since I was six and who I first saw play at Roker Park in 1964.

I had been uplifted and optimistic following the Sam Allardyce-led great escape and expected us to kick on from there. I saw a group of players and a manager who it seemed took pride in being part of the Sunderland AFC family and who were as one with its supporters. But we didn’t kick on. We regressed. While Allardyce had seemed to turn around a club which previous managers suggested had a fundamental flaw, without going into detail, I could sense that he wasn’t getting the backing he had wanted even before the England job was offered.

Under Moyes, we regressed not just as a team but as a club. The football was dire, the entertainment minimal and the enjoyment non-existent. Add that to what was for me becoming an increasingly painful walk from car to ground and I took the decision not to renew my season ticket for 2017-18. To be honest I no longer felt as if I belonged.

But healthy living has taken the pressure off my knees. A change of ownership, a new manager, a virtual 100 per cent change in playing personnel and an ethos that values supporters has restored my confidence and optimism. And so it was I took my new seat – in the West Stand this season – hopeful but also apprehensive. Apprehensive because the danger of too much optimism and expectation is that should success not be immediate there is the possibility of a return to the criticism, complaints and negativity that has infected the stadium over the past two years. 

This being Sunderland after a couple of early opportunities to go ahead were squandered, it was almost inevitable that we would go behind. I braced myself for a host of “here we go again – same old Sunderland” boos and jeers but it didn’t happen. Thankfully, as befits the best Sunderland crowds, the roar which followed the briefest of silences after we conceded was loud and encouraging and the support never waned. The team settled, a couple of substitutions and we all know what happened next. But even so we still want to read Pete Sixsmith‘s take on the game and here it is, as knowledgeable and entertaining as always……

The First Win is the Sweetest

The last time we won our first home game was when Bali Mumba was a diminutive five-year-old and Michael Chopra slotted home a last gasp winner against a bemused Tottenham Hotspur side in 2007.

Two years later, we won at Bolton on the opening day and since then, nothing. We have lost to Fulham and Leicester and had a host of draws against the might of Birmingham City, Derby County and West Bromwich Albion, but not a win. Until Saturday.

Opening day joy for Chopra.

Granted, it was in a division that is not one that we would wish to be in. Hopefully we will not be in it this time next year and we will be preparing for a Championship game, But it was a win and it sent us home happy, with a spring in our step and with a smile as wide as the Wear at Roker Pier.

It was down to two things that have been rare at the Stadium of Light in recent years: superior fitness and tactical nous. The last few managers have had one without the other on the odd occasion and on more frequent ones, neither. Here, all the hard work from manager, coaching and fitness staff and players came together after a shaky opening half hour, where Charlton ruled the roost and we were distinctly second best.

But even in that period there were things to admire. There was a willingness to get the ball wide and utilise the skills and trickery of Gooch and Maguire. There was a collective spirit that suggested that we were not going to be the pushovers that we have been for the last few years. When we went a goal down to a correctly awarded penalty by Lyle Taylor, we did not buckle. Last season and the one before and probably the one before that, we would have done. This time we dug in and kept on playing.

Was this the back four in the first quarter?

At times we looked as shaky as a Hartley’s Jelly in an earthquake as Loovens and Ozturk struggled with the pace of Taylor and Grant. Loovens makes up in nous what he doesn’t have in pace while Ozturk eventually settled and looked much more secure in the second half. But the first half of the first half was a bit of a worry…..

Love and Matthews were both mildly tormented by the Charlton wide men with Marshall being particularly active. When Love went off injured, the arrival of World Cup star Bryan Oviedo made a difference- particularly in the 96th minute. Midfield was controlled by Darren Pratley for much of the first half, although The Boy Mumba, Honeyman and O’Nien never stopped toiling and trying to set up a platform for Gooch, Maguire and Maja.

But when Mr Brooks, a reasonably competent referee, blew for half time, we were in familiar territory – one down to a side who seemed more streetwise, more savvy and with more fire power than we had.

The main difference was that the crowd (a magnificent 31,097 which is a record for this league), did not turn. Instead of booing and apathy there was a feeling that we weren’t that far away from getting back into the game. And we did.

Off went O’Nien, who had maybe tried too hard and on came Sinclair, a big physical centre forward, the like of which we have rarely seen these last few years. He scattered the Charlton central defenders and forced them on to the back foot. He had shots – some not very good, but he made them aware that he was there and that he was dangerous. He also took the weight of sole responsibility off the relatively slender shoulders of Josh Maja and the young Londoner responded with a splendid equaliser in the 65th minute.

In the past, we would not have kicked on.

We would have allowed the opposition back into the game (Norwich, Burton, anyone else you care to name) but this time we kept at them and had chances to go ahead. Mumba’s diving header from a sublime Maguire cross would have brought the house down if only he were a few inches taller.

It looked like a draw. Sinclair had limped off, some were leaving for a post-match pint or an appointment with Sports Report when Oviedo produced a cross that could not have been bettered by Nicky Summerbee in his pomp and there was the tireless Lyndon Gooch to wrap up the points for us.

Nicky Summerbee

The crowd reaction was rapturous. It was akin to the second coming of the Lord or the roar that used to bounce around the Stadium in the halcyon days of Quinn and Phillips. The place simply erupted in joy and pleasure and in the realisation that we may just have got a particularly uncomfortable monkey off our backs.

All credit to Jack Ross for the changes that he made at half time. Three at the back, two wide midfielders and two up front. Very few, if any, of our recent managers would have done that. All credit to the players for sticking at it.

Will Maguire become a legend in the red and white?

On this form, Chris Maguire could take this league by storm. He can use both feet, has a clever turn and almost scored with a free kick. What’s not to like (his tackling in the box, says a small voice at the back of my head).

Mumba looked precociously calm and, although knocked about by Pratley and co, was never bullied. He finished the game well and deserved his win bonus of a bottle of Pepsi, a jar of hair gel and a new case for his phone.

The walk back to the car was a heads up stroll rather than the head down trudge that we have become so familiar with. There was a feeling that this may be the start of a revival and that the support has bought into what the owners, the managers and the players have started. There will be tough tests for this squad. We are light on experience. But on a day when we finished with five Academy graduates on the pitch, two of whom had scored, there was a feeling of pride in a job well done.

And it’s a long time since we could last say that.

Is it too early to say bye bye to the monkey?
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