Welcome to the 2017-2018 edition of Sixer’s Sevens, in which Pete Sixsmith captures the essence of each game in just seven words. An asterisk before the verdict indicates that Sixer was absent and the words have been supplied by a supersub.
But no Supersub was needed today. Pete was there. We got through (and after the most tedious draw in history we’re away to Carlisle in the next round). His match report will follow, though with Norwich so near and so far I’m not sure when, so for now we’ll have to mull over a very non-committal verdict that make no mention of George Honeyman, who did his bit in a team that just might be coming together. Maybe Jake got it right with his caption.
Malcolm Dawson writes…..Shildon play Whitley Bay in the Northern League Cup this evening. Peter Sixsmith will be there hoping to see a team in red and white progress in a knock-out competition. He travelled to the North Lancashire hotbed of football that is Burnley last night, more in hope than expectation of seeing a team in red and white progress in a knock-out competition. Burnley is a proper town, with a proper football club and proper folk drinking proper beer. It has a lot to commend it. If like me you agonised with Gary Bennett, whose commentary grew more and more agonised as the match went on, you’ll perhaps be relieved that you weren’t there in person to witness another shabby performance. Pete was. Here are his thoughts.
BURNLEY FA CUP REPLAY
Another away game, another disappointing journey home and another search for the words to describe a dismal performance.
So let’s look at the trip and do a bit of a travel piece. The fact that the Durham Branch were prepared to run a bus was a pleasant surprise. So along with a rival writer, we were waiting in Spennymoor at 3.00pm as the dinky 33 seater (without a toilet) rolled up to the bus stop.
There were 10 of us scattered around the coach, all stretched out and with ample reading material. The aforementioned rival had his nose in Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (Quiz alert – What does the K stand for? Which Midlands town did JKJ come from?). I read the remnants of the weekend papers and The Rugby League Express while The Sunday Times circulated.
Off we went over Blubberhouses Moor, past Menwith Hill and Skipton (one of my favourite towns) and into the hill top town of Colne. A break for an hour or so took us to a micro pub called Boyce’s Barrels, situated opposite the Colne Hippodrome – a splendid old cinema.
Boycie turned out not to be an Essex second hand car dealer with a pneumatic laugh but a jolly East Lancs lad who clearly loved his ale and who wisely sold beers from outside the area. A splendid pint of mild was quaffed from a Somerset Brewery called RCH and a half of bitter from a brewery whose name I have forgotten.
From Colne we traversed the M56 several times before we entered Burnley from above and saw the gleaming lights of Turf Moor in the distance. The coach was parked outside the ground and it was straight in and into the wooden seats of the Cricket Ground stand – state of the art 40 years ago but looking a wee bit tired now.
That’s the good bit over. On to the reason for us being there…………
Moyes shuffled his cards a little bit. He started with three at the back – Jones, Djilobodji and Denayer – with Manquillo and Van Aanholt playing as wing backs. Donald Love combined with George Honeyman in midfield (Love and Honeyman – Florists to the Polari) with the chosen skipper Seb Larsson in the middle. Up front those two powerhouses, Borini and Januzaj (I gather Wakefield Trinity are looking at them to play in the second row in the upcoming Rugby League season) were there to rattle in the goals. A decent selection under the circumstances – those being that we appear to have no more than 13 fit senior players.
It started reasonably well. The three central defenders coped well enough and we buzzed around a little bit in midfield. Unfortunately, we appeared to be completely incapable of passing the ball to our own players while Burnley, entirely unreasonably, persisted in passing to their own men. For 43 minutes we held out until Jason Denayer lost his concentration and lost Sam Vokes who, entirely unreasonably, turned a fine header past Vito Mannone. One down at half time, there was hope for the second half as we attacked the goal behind which the 1800 Sunderland supporters (including a group of Belgian groundhoppers who happened to be Anderlecht fans) were massed.
Unfortunately we never saw much action as our defenders decided to kick the ball to anyone wearing a claret and blue shirt. Barton and Defour ran the midfield while Keane and Tarkowski swatted away the “threat” posed by Borini and Januzaj. And so it went on. Aimless long balls from the defenders, plenty of pointless running from the midfielders and absolutely nothing from the forwards. Defoe replaced Love (what’s Love got to do with it?) and we reverted to a back four but the midfield guile was still lacking and we never threatened.
On came Andre Gray and he terrorised Billy Jones sufficiently to wrap the game up before Seb Larsson finally forced a save out of Burnley’s third choice keeper Tom Pope in the 90th minute. Sean Dyche could have played his club’s Under 11 goalie in this game as our attacking threat was so puny.
Back to the coach in time to catch the rousing commentary from Sincil Bank as Lincoln City dumped Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Town out of the old tin pot and Blackpool’s 50 travelling fans danced with delight at Oakwell when they grabbed a 119th minute winner.
Much of the talk during the day had been about a hard exit from the EU. Not for the first time, Sunderland found an easy way to exit the FA Cup. The exit from the Premier League draws ever closer.
The Under 21s have done significantly better in their league than the senior Lads have in theirs. Pete Sixsmith, has been a regular at home games, caught their last of the season and paid proper attention – despite the competing instinct to ponder away trips to the Pirelli Stadium and Craven Cottage, not to mention SJP…
Sunday lunchtime at the Stadium of Light. The dust had settled on the bitterly disappointing 0-0 draw with Tony Pulis’s band of merry entertainers and the realisation that relegation was just that little bit more likely.
A smattering of supporters, including three of the Hetton Irregulars, sat in the West Stand to say goodbye to Liam Agnew, Mikael Mandron and George Honeyman who are being released by the club at the end of the season.
It was also an opportunity to widen the gap between us and Manchester United at the top of the Premier Reserve League Division One. With only one more game for us (away to Tottenham Hotspur) and with United having four games in hand prior to the Southampton game, a home win was essential if relegation was to …… sorry, force of habit …… if the league title was to be won.
The Saints showed more attacking intent in the first five minutes than the Baggies had in the entire game the previous day. They played some decent football as did we, but, like the Albion game, there was a sense of a wasted opportunity after the game.
The three destined to depart did well enough with Honeyman showing some of the touches that made the Hetton Irregulars wonder if he could be the next one to make it after Henderson and Colback. Mandron showed plenty of willing but he is not robust enough and was eased off the ball far too … er, easily.
Liam Agnew led from the front as he has done for the last two years. He could well make a success lower down the leagues, following in the footsteps of Blair Adams, Billy Knott and Liam Noble. He isn’t the most incisive of passers and he tends to move the ball sideways but he has a great engine on him and I, and the other HIs, wish all three of them well.
Of those who remain, the Polish keeper Max Stryjek has a future and has come along really well this year. The same applies to Thomas Robson and Thomas Beadling, both of who have been training with the first team, while Rees Greenwood is also well thought of. He has been away with the England Under 20 squad and, with some good advice and lots of hard work, he may well get his chance next year in whatever league we are playing in.
Some of the younger players made the step up and Carl Lawson had an effective game up front, while Richard Wright ran himself into the ground in the unfamiliar midfield position that he was asked to play.
The game ended 2-2. Southampton took the lead 10 minutes into the second half when George Brady was slow to react to Stryjek’s save and Sam Gallagher fired in.
Saints keeper Paulo Gazzaniga kept his team in it but Honeyman beat him with a crisp shot to deservedly level the scores. There was a fair amount of pressure, Gazzaniga saved well from Mandron and a home win looked the likeliest result.
With three minutes left, Ollie Cook headed the visitors back into the lead, but sub Luke Molyneux levelled a minute later with his first touch after excellent work by the impressive Greenwood.
The referee, a far more authoritative figure than Roger East – but then so is Mr Pastry – blew the whistle and, with only that last game at Spurs to play, the SoL curtain came down on another season for the Academy boys.
Considering that they have lost Watmore, Gooch and Mavrias since January, they have done well to remain at the top of the league for so long. It may well be that Manchester United, who have had the likes of Rashford, Blackett and Lingard in their squad, will win the league, but our lads and their coaches Robbie Stockdale and Andy Welsh, have had a season to be proud of.
Rumours are rife that Heritage Park, Bishop Auckland will stage some Under 21 games next season. I can see the ground from my front upstairs window if I stand on a chair and crane my neck, so next season’s reports may well come through the lens of a telescope.
Best wishes to all those who are leaving the club and here’s hoping that we can get some local lads coming through into the first team.
Robson(T), Greenwood, Stryjek, Beadling and Lawson are all possibilities, particularly if we do drop a league. Two of those would justify the academy and they couldn’t be any worse than some of the dross that we have shelled out big money on in the past. Will Buckley anyone?