Sixer’s Southend Soapbox: no points for Sol from the SoL

Malcolm Dawson writes……the bus from the business park off Wessington Way to the ground was packed yesterday but there was no buzz of conversation or air of excitement pre-match. Whether this is a reflection of the type of supporter who elects to use the park and ride, rather than sink a few in the hostelry of choice I wouldn’t like to say but it strikes me as a little odd that a bus load of mainly home fans, who witnessed a 5-0 victory the last time they made the trip to the SoL and who had only witnessed one home defeat in the previous thirty one league games were so subdued, though I confess I felt much he same.

The atmosphere outside the ground was not alive with anticipation either and even at 2.40 there were no long queues at the turnstiles, yet I had to stand in line for twenty minutes to get a ticket for next week’s cup tie and there were still more than 30,000 inside. In fact the only bit of the kind of banter I expect before a Sunderland game, came as I walked from the ticket office to the ground where a young lad (he’d have been about 20) complained to me that his mates who would have been about 40, (so maybe one was his dad) were calling him Harry Potter because he had started wearing specs. He should know better than to look to a man in a red and white scarf for sympathy. “Don’t take it,” I replied “turn them into frogs” at which point his mates creased up and he learned the lesson that you need a thick skin to be a Sunderland supporter.

Our technical difficulties mean that for some reason the first comment posted after an article seems to be accepted before disappearing into the ether and blocking others from adding their two pennorth. Yesterday we came up against the team that would have been rock bottom had Bolton not had all those points deducted so a win was expected and the team delivered. You can see what Chris Boyle (aka CSB) thought of it here as he tried to comment at the end of Sixer’s Sevens. You can find out what the man himself thought of the game by reading on.

SHRIMPERS SEEN OFF BY YOUNG GUNS.

“Oh well, at least it hasn’t rained” was the underwhelming assessment of this uninspiring win over a team who look destined for the basement league next season. It came from my brother, spending three weeks in the British Isles (two in Ireland, one in Little Britain) before he returns to Thessaloniki, where he has lived since 1997.

He times his visits to the North East to coincide with a home game. In the past he has seen the likes of Arsenal, West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea – the one where Eden Hazard delivered a master class a few years ago- but never the likes of Southend United. Trying to explain where Southend was to Veta, his Greek wife was a severe test of our geographical and linguistic skills.

The last time he was here, in November 2016, we beat Hull City 3-0 as we dared to hope that David Moyes could get us out of the quagmire at the bottom of the Premier League. Jermain Defoe scored that day and Victor Anichebe fired a double in the second half as we strung back to back wins together for the only time that season.

Now, instead of such Wearside legends as Papy Djilobodji, Didier Ndong and Billy Jones, we have Joel Lynch, Max Power and Conor McLaughlin, all three honest and committed players (as was Jones) but all a long way from the quality that we had for a few years in the Keane, Bruce, O’Neill, Poyet period of our history.

At this level, we need commitment and energy and a touch of class to make us stand out.

What we got against a side who have managed but a single league victory all season, was a performance that could be deemed no more than adequate and made Phil wonder whether an afternoon in The Bridges and The National Glass Centre with Veta might have been more productive and enjoyable.

National Glass Centre

So, five games into the new manager’s term of office and with the prospect of the riches of Croesus to spend in January (relatively speaking), where do we stand and what can we see in his team pattern and selections?

He likes his full backs to get forward, hence the selection of McLaughlin (C) and Hume. Both had good games, with Young Denver turning in a sparkling opening half hour until Southend worked out how to stop his foraging into danger areas.

The cross that the Northumberland born wing back put in for the goal was a cracker and the one that Will Grigg headed on to the post was almost as good. He foraged down the left-hand side to great effect and is one very good reason for using a tranche of the U.S. investment to maintain and improve the academy. Home grown players like him, Lynden Gooch, Elliot Embleton, Bali Mumba and Ethan Robson are important for the future of the club. We are finding it difficult at Under 23 and Under 19 level at the moment – let’s hope for an upturn in the next two years.

Both McLaughlins were competent on their re-calls although (J) seemed to be a little less comfortable than he was last season. He had little to do but one excellent punch out in the 93rd minute, as Southend filled the box for a “Hail Mary” free kick, wrapped up the points for us.

We played a 4-2-3-1 formation, not quite a Christmas Tree (plenty on sale now – I expect to see the first one up on the paper round this week) but one that gives us options. The donkey work is done by the 2 and Parkinson has handed the opportunity to Max Power and George Dobson to claim those roles above Leadbitter and McGeouch.

Both performed as expected. Captain Power, resplendent in his orange boots, took the responsibility of moving the ball forward and his young, fresh faced subaltern did the hard yards in tracking back and winning the ball. Aesthetically, the former Walsall man is not pleasing to watch (he has a rather ugly running style) but he gets there and he tackles well. He fits into Parkinson’s game plan well and should improve.

Power has matured as skipper. There was an occasion in the second half when he was lining up a shot and McGeady took it off his foot. Twelve months ago, he would have been enraged. Here, he bit his tongue and applauded the mercurial Irishmen as he had forced a good save out of the Shrimpers keeper.

Two of the three that played in front of George and Max were not so impressive. Both Maguire and McGeady try too hard to bring that extra bit of special to the team, which I presume is what Parkinson wants from them. Both can do it, but not to order and both were disappointing, with Maguire being the winner of the Most Disappointing of the Midfield Three competition.

He works hard enough but got himself tangled up a few times and seemed determined to relive that glorious goal of twelve months ago when he finished off Southend. It just didn’t work for him in this one and he knew that he had not performed particularly well when he was replaced by a much sharper Duncan Watmore midway through the second half.

McGeady also tries to bring off the spectacular and on his day is a threat to any opponent. Like Maguire, it didn’t quite work for him and he almost played himself into trouble on a number of occasions in the later stages of the game. Like Maguire, when it comes off, it’s spectacular but maybe in the latter stages of his illustrious career, it just doesn’t come off as much as it used to.

That leaves the club icon and testimony to the club recruitment policy, Luke O’Nien.

His enthusiasm and ability to play at full back and further up the field is keeping us afloat at the moment and there will surely be clubs further up the pyramid monitoring his progress on a regular basis. Here, he took his goal well, converting a splendid cross from Hume (another one whose radar blip will be increasing in size) with a fine diving header. He defends well, picks the ball up and runs with it, tackles, harries and scores goals. Whether his future is in midfield or at full back remains to be seen, but he has a future and hopefully it will be a Wearside one.

And that brings us to Will Grigg. Like many before him, he has not made a great impression in his time at the club and the goals we hoped for have been like a shower in a cheap hotel – the water comes through in dribs and drabs rather than in a flow. It could be a good shower but it just doesn’t work properly so nobody gets much benefit from it.

There were a couple of flashes here – a decent header from a a Hume cross and he started a move with a ball to McLaughlin(C) which led to another header that just whizzed over the top. Parkinson will have to persevere with him while Wyke is injured. McNulty looks like a half hour man and there is nobody else to call up.

As far as games go, it was as dull and dreary as anything I have seen over the last few seasons. The opposition were limited and, apart from one early chance, never looked like scoring. Sol Campbell has organised them, but we struggled to break down a team who have conceded an average of 2.75 goals per game and who have taken one point from the last fifteen available.

The evening in Durham was an improvement on the afternoon in Sunderland. A fine fish and chip tea in Bell’s Restaurant in the Market Place was followed by a most enjoyable evening in the company of Show of Hands, Miranda Sykes and Cormac Byrne at the Gala Theatre.

Show of Hands

When we left it was raining, but the brother was still on a high and hardly noticed it.

Had it been so after the game, he would have justifiably complained all the way home- to Thessaloniki, not Shildon.

Highlights for those in the UK via safc.com

If there is any copyright claim, not answered by “fair use”, on the images used in this report please let us know and we will acknowledge or remove as requested

View from the West Stand: initially impressive Cats overPower MK Dons then hang on

Jake: ‘from Spain, it sounded like the classic game of two halves’

Returning visitors to Salut! Sunderland will know that Pete Sixsmith, our regular match correspondent, is a Guardian reading liberal (with a small l) with a well developed sense of decency and fair play but there are a few things that I guarantee will provoke him enough to elicit a barrage of anger and expletives, namely: Crystal Palace, Surrey County Cricket Club, Highways England, Rugby Union, Ant and Dec, raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.  Oh and I almost forgot – franchised football.

I don’t know how many of you remember, but only a few days after our defeat to Millwall in the 2004 FA Cup semi final at Old Trafford, we had to travel to the National Hockey Stadium to face a club that had been allowed to up sticks and move lock, stock and barrel to a land of concrete cows and ring roads. It was there that my sister and I met up with Sixer and I had my first experience of a volley of Sixsmith invective, aimed at a youth of no more than thirteen years who dared to try and mock we three for supporting a club that had got to within one game of the Millennium Stadium, whilst his team, still known as Wimbledon had been knocked out  in Round 4. We won 2-1 that evening with goals from Darren Byfield and Marcus Stewart but would miss out on promotion after losing to a side from South London in the playoffs. See you bright young things, we have seen it all before.

Wimbledon on the other hand, would be relegated from what was then known as the First Division, but was really Division 2 in old money, before changing their name over the summer and sparking Alun Armstrong, a native of the North Durham village of Annfield Plain, to wear an AFC Wimbledon shirt on the newly aired TV series “New Tricks”. 

Was that really 15 years ago? It was and Pete still hasn’t forgiven the footballing authorities for allowing a club with a long history to move and change its name, so only a few weeks after we beat the real Dons at the Stadium of Light we agreed between us, that I should bring you the Salut! Sunderland view of a game that brought a welcome three points.

Jake does his bit for the seat change

M K DEFEATED

The Grand Canal Venice

Because of an imminent trip to Venice courtesy of a Thomas Cook package (fortunately our Ryanair flight took off a matter of hours before they went bust) I didn’t get to the Bolton match and followed the Carabao Cup tie at Bramall Lane via the BBC and SAFC text services, whilst cruising the Grand Canal and Venetian lagoon on my way back to the hotel on the islands of Murano.

But I’d made sure that I was going to be back in time for the next home game, although you wouldn’t have thought it on Friday morning when I looked out of my window, what with the amount of  water that was running outside my house and the state of my patio around the back. Fortunately, although it was still wet underfoot on Saturday morning, it had actually stopped raining so the Park and Ride option was still viable and in the end it turned out to be a pleasantly sunny afternoon.

View from my kitchen window on Friday

I’ve only started to use the P&R this season and one thing it does is to allow me to take a snapshot of the pre and post match feelings of a section of the support. Yesterday the atmosphere on the bus going to the ground was subdued but I detected an air of quiet confidence, whilst on the return journey there was a quiet satisfaction at a job done and the group from Milton Keynes who sat near me had enjoyed their day, were looking forward to an evening in town and weren’t overly disappointed at the result, having had no expectations of a victory before kick off.

As I passed on the copy of La Gazzetta dello Sport which I had brought back for Mr Sixsmith it was good to have a brief word with associate editor John McCormick who I last saw at the rainfest that was Accrington Stanley away last season and who has spent the past few months recovering from a particularly unpleasant form of medical treatment. At least the sun shone for him yesterday and he was to see a home win.

Whilst injuries had obviously limited Jack Ross’s choices, we now have a squad that not only seems well balanced, but contains a number of players who can do a job in a variety of positions. The starting line up reflected this, with a back four comprised of summer signings including Jordan Willis who was handed the captain’s armband. Laurens De Bock and Joel Lynch after getting midweek game time were considered fit enough to start and this not only gave the team a more balanced look, but also provided a bit more height and muscle to the side. Having the Belgian available meant Conor McLaughlin was able to play on his favoured right side and more importantly freed up the energetic Luke O’Nien to play in a much more advanced role. The central midfield was taken up by Power and McGeouch both of whom are more mobile than Grant Leadbitter and more experienced than George Dobson. Charlie Wyke was to lead the line.

No Aiden McGeady meant that Chris Maguire was to start wide right with Lynden Gooch taking up the left hand berth. I suggested in a GTS comment, that I thought sometimes the team plays better without McGeady, which is not to say that I wouldn’t have him in the starting line up, just that when he isn’t there others step up to the mark and can maybe play in their stronger positions. Maguire, as we know can operate in a variety of positions but for me he is most useful when he plays wide right and I prefer to see Gooch on the other flank, where he can twist and turn then cut inside more effectively to set up a shot with his stronger foot.

Chris Maguire

Despite the suggestions in the headlines of some of the more sensationalist websites, desperate for clicks and increased advertising revenue, it was not shocking to see Jon McLaughlin back between the sticks. Yes Lee Burge had a good game against The Blades but big Jon is first choice and will remain so until he suffers a loss of form, forgets to have his flu jab or needs a lie in on a Saturday morning.

Certainly with this line up we saw eleven players who knew their brief and in the first half especially, retained the shape of the side, with little lateral movement or swapping of positions. The basic shape was 4-2-4 with O’Nien, buzzing about just behind Wyke, but the two wide men were quick to drift back and make it a 4-4-2 when required and as the game progressed, the two full backs got forward more, not in the gung ho attacking style that we sometimes get when O’Nien and Hume take up the Cec Irwin and Len Ashurst mantle, but in a more considered supporting role.

Just as we had against Rotherham we dominated the first period of play. After only three minutes the MKD keeper Lee Nicholls was called into action saving at the feet of Charlie Wyke. Our boys were linking up well and retaining possession and on the odd occasion that the visitors pushed forward the defence looked solid and capable. There was plenty of interplay, short passing and running into space and despite the presence of Wyke, for much of the time we played the ball on the ground. It was this sort of play that produced the first goal.

O’Nien, tracking back in his own half, took possession and played the ball out to Chris Maguire who, surrounded by three yellow shirts did a bit of twisting and turning before sending a ball down the line to big Charlie who had drifted out wide. For a big man Wyke looks comfortable with the ball at his feet but he seemed to have played a poor ball behind O’Nien and into a triangle of opposition players. It was just in front of where I sit and there was a split second’s disappointment as it appeared that a promising attack had broken down, but what the centre forward had seen that we hadn’t, was the run of Max Power, who hit a beautiful curling shot that gave  Nicholls no chance and Power his second wonder strike within three days. One – nil and looking comfortable. Deja vu and not for the first time. We all knew that more was needed before we could feel confident that all three points would come our way.

But we kept going and within three minutes we were two ahead while Luke O’Nien might have had a hat-trick. Almost straight from the re-start Joel Lynch found Gooch in space on the left wing. As the defence moved across, our favourite American had jinked and twisted his way into the box before playing the ball back to De Bock, who sent a first time peach of a cross into O’Nien who was unlucky to see his header rattle the foot of the post before being put behind for a corner. The coaching staff and players have obviously been working hard on corner routines as there is now much more variety. Instead of simply lumping the ball into the box, there are a number of shorter options being used, as well as those finding players outside of the penalty area, like Wednesday night.

Although that corner came to nothing, from the resultant goal kick, the MKD defence got into a right pickle trying to play it short and a hasty clearance from Nicholls only found a rejuvenated Max Power, who picked up the loose ball and now full of confidence tried another 25 yard pile driver which deflected off a foot for another corner, this time on the right. Maguire curled one in to the near post where a stooping Luke O’Nien got off another great header, which was well saved and prompted the former Wycombe man to go over and congratulate Nicholls for the quality of his diving stop as we set up for another corner.

This too was defended effectively and the Dons broke forward but a fine tackle from Max Power not only stopped the visitors in their tracks but also won us a throw in. At this point one of our opponents decided that his white boots didn’t really go with primrose yellow so hopped off the pitch to swap them for a darker pair. More fool him because from the resultant throw, the ball was returned to McLaughlin C who lobbed the ball forward into the path of Luke O’Nien. Nicholls, unsure whether to come out and close him down or drop back onto his line did neither and O’Nien lobbed him in a way that reminded me of a goal I once almost scored myself in a 5 a side game at The Crowtree Leisure Centre. However, while mine bounced back off the angle of post and bar, O’Nien’s effort hit the post and side netting, with enough of the ball across the line to convince the referee’s assistant that it was a goal. From my seat I couldn’t be 100% sure all the ball was over the line before it was headed out, but hey who are we to argue with the officials when they rule in our favour? Having watched the replay it looks as if VAR could have decided either way and the 450 odd visiting fans might not have been happy but we were and our play up to that point had been worth more than a one goal lead. Luke O’Nien too was overjoyed. It’s not always easy to tell with our Luke as he plays with a permanent grin but his enthusiastic demolition of the corner flag as he went to celebrate with the fans said it all.

We continued to dominate, whilst the visiting defence looked shaky at times and another poor clearance found Gooch who burst forward and was unlucky to see a powerful drive from distance, pass just the wrong side of the far post. There was still time for one more bit of controversy as Max Power was fouled just in front of the technical areas and while the game continued, with the ref playing a good advantage, substitute David Kasamu did something to the prostrate Max Power as he ran past. We assumed it was a kick and there was plenty of shouting at the ref for a red card. After speaking to the 4th official Kasamu only saw yellow and then Max Power also went in the referee’s notebook, presumably for remonstrating as he walked away, although some thought it might have been for making out it was worse that it was. If I’m right and it was for criticising the ref, this is the second Saturday in a row that Power has picked up a stupid booking and while I like to see a bit of feistiness in our players it is no good if it means that player ends up missing games.

Anyone who knows me will confirm that I am rarely relaxed until we have at least a four goal lead and despite being two up at half time, the consensus around me was that we needed at least one more to settle the nerves. And true to form we were to endure a nervy second half as the Dons got into the game more effectively and halved the lead after only ten minutes of the half – although we might have had another goal before that, when a Chris Maguire cross found Lynden Gooch who was unable to shoot first time and in controlling the ball gave the defence time to re-organise and head clear, but only to the feet of Max Power, who tried his luck yet again with a right footed volley from the edge of the box, which scraped the post as Nicholls made sure it stayed out.

Their goal when it came was not great from a defensive point of view. I was explaining to the young lad who sits near me that the high pressing game we had employed earlier on uses up a lot of energy and that with a two goal lead, by defending deeper and allowing our opponents to pass the ball around in their own half, the emphasis was more on reducing passing options and managing the game but I was probably trying to reassure myself as much as him. The Dons had been passing the ball around more in our half and eventually Kasamu, crossed the ball deep to George Williams who had stolen in unnoticed on the far side. McLaughlin moved across to cover the near post but when Williams headed across the face of goal, he was forced to scramble back as Jordan Willis struggled to block the run of Jordan Bowery and somehow the ball ended up in the back of the net. McLaughlin protested he had been impeded but to be honest it wasn’t the finest bit of keeping I have seen from the big man. But there was confusion as first we thought the goal had been given, then disallowed, then given again.

There was some anxiety in the last half hour or so, which Chris Maguire might have alleviated had his effort brushed the underside, rather than the top of the bar as MK Dons continued to press but on the whole the defence coped well. As had happened against Rotherham we allowed our opponents the chance to get back into a game which we had started as the better side but we can’t expect other teams to simply roll over and capitulate. At the end of the day this is another three points and takes Jack Ross’s managerial record in league games as P 56  W 27  D 23  L 6 which takes him close to the two points a game target he sets himself. We have only lost once in the 28 games which he has supervised at the Stadium of Light. I don’t suppose the facts and figures will go any way to silencing those who think that a change of manager will automatically mean we will see a team winning easily each week but I do think constant criticism is not helping. Wins over Lincoln and Fleetwood would help.

Haway the Lads

Match highlights via safc.com

 

Will Toney atone? Luke O’Nien cleared but Peterborough man’s simulation stains football

HThe hardest bit is trying to enter the mindset of a professional footballer who, during a meaningless touchline tangle after his team has taken an unassailable 3-0 lead, receives no contact to his face but goes down clutching it as if someone has just whacked him with a sideways blow from a sledgehammer.

Luke O’Nien has been cleared by the FA disciplinary bods of committing the imaginary offence for which Peterborough United’s Ivan Toney managed to have him sent off. I do not know whether Toney has form for this kind of simulation but if he has a shred of dignity and decency, he should apologise now.

If the Chronicle’s excellent James Hunter is right, Toney could even say sorry without worrying about further inconvenience. You and I might think he should now be starting a two-match ban; James thinks his luck will hold out:

Read moreWill Toney atone? Luke O’Nien cleared but Peterborough man’s simulation stains football

The Chapman Report from Peterborough: alarm bells or just a wake up call?

Jake goes all monochrome on a grey day

Malcolm Dawson writes…..with Pete Sixsmith having set himself a southern limit of Lincoln City for away days this season, Bob Chapman steps off the subs’ bench for his take on yesterday’s events. His full time 7 word summary said not a single positive from this shocker.  I have to say I thought we started the game the stronger and until the second goal went in I thought we were still in with a chance, though clear cut chances were few and far between. McNulty looked lively and perhaps might have done better on a couple of occasions but in the end we were well beaten. 

I was going to say well and truly beaten but although it was daft and undisciplined of O’Nien to raise his hands, for Ivan Toney to go to ground clutching his head was scandalous. It may be that the ref would have sent O’Nien off anyway but his shove on Toney’s chest was no worse than much of the pushing and shoving that goes on in midfield when players challenge for a goalkeeper’s clearance.

That’s not sour grapes or an excuse on my part as we were heading for defeat anyway but if video evidence can be used in an appeal then surely it’s not too much to ask that the footballing authorities look at that and similar incidents and think about issuing retrospective punishments to players who they deem have reacted in an unfair manner. It’s a form of simulation after all.

Whilst I am desperately seeking positives I can’t argue that they weren’t heavily outweighed by the negatives, but remember that had we lost 9 of our drawn games last season and won 9 others we would have had 9 more points. That’s a trade I’ll happily make this year but for now, let’s see what Bob thought of our first defeat of the season.

Jake’s view of the subs’ bench

PETERBOROUGH UNITED 3  SUNDERLAND 0 31/08/19

My first contact with Peterborough United came in 1967, when Bedford Town of the Southern League played them in a 3rd Round F A Cup tie. At that time growing up in Bedford, watching Sunderland was always a treat and invariably involved a visit to London. Consequently it usually resulted in a defeat and disappointment. Although there was the odd away win or draw I got used to severe thrashings at a very young age!

Yes, I was at Upton Park when Geoff Hurst scored 6 in that famous 8-0 defeat. I saw the great Jimmy Greaves score 4 in a 5-1 defeat at Spurs and I even managed and still have Colin Suggett’s autograph before another 3-0 demolition at Spurs. Visits to Roker Park were always at the start of the season when we were visiting relations during the summer holiday.

Yet despite all the drubbings and being 230 miles away, Sunderland was my team. My second team was Bedford Town of course. Before I started playing regularly at 14 I would frequently go to The Eyrie where the Eagles- Bedford Town played. I would watch the first team and the reserves play. Bedford Town were in those days one of the larger non league clubs and had an excellent FA Cup Heritage.

The Eyrie as it was.

So on the 26th January 1967 I set off on my bike for the 3rd round tie against The Posh. There would have been a crowd of at least 12,000 for the match, but unfortunately we succumbed to a 6-2 defeat to the league side. After the match it would have been a quick dash to Radio Rentals TV shop window in town to catch the Sunderland result as it came through on the BBC tele -printer. We beat Brentford 5-2 that day and guess who we got in the Monday lunchtime 4th round draw- yes it was Peterborough United.

I have often wondered what would have happened if Bedford Town had beaten Peterborough on that day and gone on to play Sunderland. Even then I had no doubt as to which of the clubs I would want to win and even though Bedford born and bred it would have been Sunderland. My brothers are all the same, so my Dad did a good job on us is all I can say!

Apart from that initial 4th round tie I am sure I have seen all 9 of the other matches with Peterborough, winning or drawing all but one of them. However despite this record I was not that confident about this particular match. Although we were unbeaten in five I am not convinced about our ability to keep a clean sheet. To achieve a 100+ point total will require a significant number of clean sheets. Where they are coming from I do not know, unless the manager can sort out our defence and especially the full back positions.

Where have all the left backs gone?

Problems again I thought when the team was announced without Denver Hume our only recognised left back. As the half progressed I couldn’t understand why I had been so concerned. The game was fairly even with few chances by both sides. Knowing that we always score in this league I was now quietly confident that we would come away with at least a draw.

However with 35 minutes gone and nearly 35 yards out Maddison changed all that. His free kick completely wrong footed our keeper who was left stationary as the ball flew into the net. It had to be Maddison didn’t it? I could have predicted that. I can understand why we didn’t pursue him at £2.5M when he is out of contract in the summer, but there was always the inevitability that he would come good against us.

At half time I was still optimistic that we could get something out of the game. Although McNulty had a chance in the first half, coming back from injury, he had been pretty ineffective and I hoped he would be replaced by Grigg. Wyke had won a fair amount in the air but had little support around him. Playing towards our supporters I was sure we would equalise at some point.

That dream was soon shattered in the 56th minute when Knight increased the lead. Having only created one chance so far there was no way back from this. Inevitably it was Maddison who finished the job off just 12 minutes later.

This was going to be our biggest defeat at this level I thought as both O’Nien and then Wyke were dismissed. My mind went back to Arsenal some 23 years ago when both Martin Scott and Paul Stewart got their marching orders. The referee that day was the incompetent Paul Danson and I felt the current official, Craig Hicks was not far behind. O’Nien fell for a sucker punch by the cheating Toney. As for Wyke just put it down to frustration on his part.

Stepping into Cattermole’s boots

Lets just hope this match was a one off and a wakeup call. A two week break may just give us enough time to sort out our defensive frailties. I felt the performance at the SOL last week was the best we have played during the last two seasons at this level. I can’t believe we can then regress back to sloppy defending and a lack of fire power up front in just 7 days.

In hindsight maybe I should have stuck with Bedford Town. However, maybe not as The Eyrie no longer exists. The club went bust in 1987 and the brewer Charles Wells occupies the site. The club reformed about 5 years later and now play in a much inferior Southern League Division 1 Central. It a far cry from the days when they attracted 18,000 for a cup tie against Everton in 1966.

And finally to finish off, why not ask your friendly Mag what they know about Bedford Town from 1964.

To save you looking, yes we beat them 2-1 in the Cup.

Highlights via safc.com – if you really must

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Sixer’s Bradford City Soapbox: Plenty of Christmas cheer on Boxing Day

Malcolm Dawson writes…..it was like old times yesterday with a packed house to welcome our visitors from Bradford, which included more than 2,000 in the North Stand Upper, who had made the Boxing Day trip from West Yorkshire.

Lake Poets – click the pic to hear the song on You Tube

Half time included a perfect rendition of “Shipyards” by Martin Longstaff, who performs as The Lake Poets. The song is used as the theme music for the Netflix docuseries “Sunderland ‘Til I Die” and credit to the Bradford fans, who could have tried to drown out a man in red and white stripes standing alone with a guitar in the centre circle, but the stadium was almost silent throughout before erupting into a huge cheer and round of applause when he finished.

If you haven’t seen the series it is well worth a look and you can get a full month’s viewing with no commitment for free.

In it Aiden McGeady criticises Chris Coleman for asking him to play in a 4-3-3 system without explaining what his role was. I have to admit I found it difficult to understand how a professional footballer who has played for his country, couldn’t work that out for himself, but the Irishman, nor any of the others in this squad, appear to have any problem with Jack Ross’s different set ups. Luke O’Nien for example putting himself up as a right back, even though he’d only ever played there on FIFA, looked as if it was his natural position.

I thought we were the better side yesterday and deserved to win, and for once we had the rub of the green and the Bantams’ fans will feel robbed. What did Pete Sixsmith think?

Well after having a drastic trim of his beard so the young people of Shildon don’t work out his secret identity and a triste with the local district nurse, she works for the National Elf Service of course, he found enough time to e-mail his thoughts which we can share with you here.

 

BRADFORD CITY

They have a lot to answer to do that Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven.

Here we were, slipping into the third level of English football and looking forward to rolling up to the ground at 2.45, lolling around over two or three seats, watching a side which another no hoper of a manager had put together with a load of deadbeat players who clearly despise each other, allowing the opposition from Rochdale, Accrington and Gillingham to bamboozle us every week.

Charlie at half time

After the game, we would slip out with the other 7 or 8,000 who had hung on until full time to berate the alleged players and the latest managerial team (the first sacked by October) and back to the car and home before the BBC Newcastle local football round up has finished.

Instead we get a bright, sharp manager who conducts himself well, a team where the players actually seem to like each other and a crowd of 46,309. I got home in time to watch the second half of Brighton and Hove Albion v Arsenal, with Paul Dixon’s dulcet tones a distant memory.

The stadium was full if not quite bouncing. Some regulars were missing because of Christmas, but seats were taken and there were very few gaps other than in the re-opened Premier Concourse. The Bantams had brought a good and noisy following and Christmas jumpers, new scarves and new hats were on show.

Look what Santa brought Sixer

I even wore a new hat myself as my concession to the capitalist con that is the (alleged) season of goodwill.

If people went expecting a rout, it was never going to be that. City are much better organised than they were in October and if the returnees were expecting a typical “Oh my god, it’s a big crowd, let’s do our collective impersonation of a rabbit caught in headlights,” this group of players have no collective experience of the stigma that has run through this club for far too long.

What they got was a decent game, three controversial refereeing decisions from Darren England who had a good first half and a second half that means he will not be welcome in any of Bradford’s excellent curry houses for quite a while and a performance from Luke O’Nien that is a testimony to him and to the scouting staff who identified him as the right kind of player for this manifestation of Sunderland AFC.

O’Nien – star

Let’s start with him. He had big boots to fill in this game as Adam Matthews has done very well in the right back position so far and young Luke is a midfield player. Matthews is injured, Love cannot escape the treatment room so rather than moving Flanagan across and bringing in Ozturk, Jack Ross asked the former Wealdstone and Wycombe Wanderers man to do a job there.

And do a job he did. City play a midfield diamond (Jack Payne was the outstanding member of it) and don’t appear to employ wingers, so it gave O’Nien the opportunity to break forward and to help out wherever he was needed in defence.

He backed up Gooch and McGeady brilliantly and in the second half, when we were searching for the second goal to kill off the spirited fightback from the visitors, he was outstanding. His passing was neat and precise, his presence was authoritative and his tackling highly effective.

I commented in my usual wise and considered way that he must be pinching himself at the moment, having exchanged life in Wycombe for life on Wearside. He probably looked around the packed stadium and wondered what he was doing here in front of a crowd that would be the equivalent of eight or nine home games at Adams Park and two whole seasons full of crowds at Grosvenor Vale, Ruislip. Wealdstone, of National League South, lost 0-3 at home to Slough on Wednesday in front of a respectable crowd of 1059. We owe them a pre-season friendly for bringing up Luke so well.

The three fortunate decisions went to us for a change. City fans will have been fuming all the way home, having had a penalty turned down, seeing a Sunderland player remain on the pitch when he could well have been sent off and having what appeared to be a good goal not given.

Mr England’s thinking may have gone like this:

  • “For the penalty, I didn’t have a clear view and I thought that Max Power went for and won the ball so I didn’t think it was a penalty. And he got sent off at Bradford, so it would have been nasty to award a penalty against him, especially at Christmas.”

  • “Tom Flanagan had a bit of a dust up with Nathaniel Knight-Percival and my assistant said that NKP was holding on to Tom’s leg, so Tom gave him a playful push when they got up. It was a bit like a Christmas party game, so I told him off and gave him a yellow card.”

  • “As for the goal that wasn’t, I couldn’t see very clearly, but the other assistant was right in line and he said that he wasn’t 100% sure that it had crossed the line, so we couldn’t give it. A Bradford player said it was but he may have been telling me a big fib so I didn’t give it.”

There were good performances all over the pitch with McGeady being another stand out. He looks a happy player and he works hard even though he does appear to be jiggered for the last fifteen minutes. He passes the ball really well and he pounced on the City keeper’s fumble to slap the ball into the net and put us ahead. (Ed. – After the initial diving save the keeper’s foot somehow stabbed the ball away from Maguire but straight to McGeady.)

Josh Maja continues to be a player who is improving. His movement is excellent and he was just off target twice in the first half before his shot caused the keeper to fumble for the goal. Once again, there are regulars sat behind me who think that he should have the touch of Messi, the pace of Usain Bolt, the heading ability of Tommy Lawton and the strength of Tyson Fury and I hope that the attitude shown to him by some does not contribute to him not signing a new contract. My advice to him would be to sign up for another two years and continue to learn. Interestingly, when he went off with fifteen minutes to go, he seemed to go without the disappointment he has shown on other occasions. Read into that what you will.

It was good to see Duncan Watmore and Charlie Wyke get game time. Both need it and both will play a key role in the games to come. A shame that Duncan’s header didn’t go in – that would have been the cranberry sauce on the Christmas turkey.

David Hopkin got a yellow card at Accrington. He got another at the Stadium of Light!

Bradford played well but without a great deal of punch. They work hard and will be gracing this division next season. David Hopkin and Jack Ross guided their respective teams to promotion last year – Hopkin won’t this season but he may next.

Jack Ross will….…. I hope.

It took ages to get out of the ground and back to the car – another black mark against the owners and the traffic was heavy. But I suppose you have to put up with some inconvenience if you want to win promotion and see the ground full. It may be not quite as hectic on Saturday, but I am looking for at least 33,000.

Ha’way the Lads…….

Match highlights via safc.com

 

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Sixer’s Sub’s Walsall Soapbox: Saddlers unseat Sunderland in FA Cup exit

Malcolm Dawson writes……. Pete Sixsmith is usually very busy at this time of year, and although he was at the Stadium of Light last night is otherwise engaged this morning, so once again he has asked me to climb on the soapbox for the Salut! Sunderland take on our FA Cup defeat.

Make no mistake. Walsall deserved to win this game. They were busier, harried and hassled whenever we had the ball and looked dangerous on the break. Technically, I thought we looked to have the more gifted individuals, but Watmore apart, all seemed lacklustre and battle weary. This was certainly not a great display from the home side, though unlike some of the crowd around me, I didn’t feel it merited the four letter synonyms for manure and excrement that they chose to describe our performance.

With four fullbacks unavailable, JR chose to start with O’Nien on the right hand side of a 4-4-2, with the now regular partnership of Baldwin and Flanagan in the centre and Oviedo as an attack minded left back. Power and McGeouch sat just in front of the back four, Maguire nominally wide right and Honeyman buzzing about all over the place and Watmore and Sinclair up front but both playing more towards the flanks than providing any direct threat in more central positions

Luke O’Nien started at right back – image courtesy of www.safc.com

I am beginning to find Sinclair frustrating. I like his effort and industry but he seems to be having little effect on the play at the moment. I can’t fault his energy or willingness to get involved but he does appear to rely on his right foot. The fact that he often turned up on the left wing last night meant that instead of looking to play an early ball into the danger area, he would look to cut inside first which often resulted in the attack breaking down before there was any real danger of someone threatening Roberts in the Walsall goal.

The other threat down the left came from Oviedo but too often for my liking he appeared to want to beat his man once too often so after showing some fancy footwork to get into a position where a dangerous ball into the box looked on, the opportunity would vanish as the defence got into position and he was closed down.

Maguire’s ball retention wasn’t great. He never stopped trying but he will know this wasn’t one of his better performances. He was guilty on a number of occasions of trying the fancy flick or blind pass and ended up giving the ball away when easier options seemed to be on the cards. It was an ill judged back heel that led to Walsall’s goal. Hemmed in on the right touchline he gave the ball away and although we had plenty of defenders in position, the ball was pushed forward and bobbed about a bit until it was headed back from just outside the penalty area by number 3 Luke Leahy to Josh Ginelly on the left wing and his short side footed pass to Liam Kinsella saw the midfielder drive in a right footed thunderbolt from all of twenty five yards that Bobby Charlton in his heyday would have been proud of and gave McLaughlin no chance.

The goal came early in the second half and we still had plenty of time to get back into the game and whilst it was frustrating and our scoring opportunities were limited, just one goal would have brought extra time and the possibility of a penalty shoot out, so please explain to me the logic of those who started leaving the ground when there was still plenty of time on the clock. Unfortunately last night they didn’t get to miss another hour or so of drama but oh how I wish they had.

Walsall also had the most clear cut chance of the first half, which was entertaining enough without setting the pulses racing, when Osbourne played a short ball to Gordon just inside their own half. He in turn played a lovely forward pass to Ferrier on the left wing who got past Flanagan and squared the ball into the onrushing Gordon, five yards out in front of what looked to be an open goal. Somehow McLaughlin got down and smothered the Walsall man’s side footed effort from point blank range.

A bit ring rusty – unsurprisingly

We had a few chances of our own. McGeough, Honeyman and Sinclair all combined to set up a position where Power had a clear site of goal but his effort from distance went wide. Watmore who looked delighted to be back and why shouldn’t he after his injury nightmares, was willing to take on defenders and shoot whenever he could but in truth never really looked like scoring in that first half. Like McGeady did, he will need a couple of games to get back to his best but he’s a welcome addition to the squad.

A better opportunity came his way later on and his curling shot would probably have found the far corner or needed a smart save from Roberts, but number 34 Martin was in the right place to head Roadrunner’s right foot effort round the post.

Oviedo had a decent free kick which he fired in towards the far post later on and although it looked as if the Costa Rican was looking to score himself, neither Maguire nor Flanagan was able to get a head on it and it curled around the post with the keeper nowhere.

Maja and Cattermole had replaced Watmore and McGeouch but neither could exert any influence on the game. Mumba came on towards the end and looked lively enough to perhaps justify more game time but overall this was a more lacklustre performance from our boys.

Baldwin and Flanagan defended well enough last night but both were wasteful with the ball at times. I was surprised that Ross didn’t give at least one of them a rest last night. Loovens and Ozturk both looked OK last week and maybe instead of playing O’Nien in an unfamiliar role he could have played a back three with Oviedo and O’Nien or Mumba as wingbacks. Just a thought and perhaps he was taking the opportunity to take a look at a few options in case Matthews, Love, Hume and James are all out of action again.

Positives to take from last night?

  • The team didn’t panic and looked to play patient football and keep possession, even when we were behind, but too many times sloppy passes gave the ball away unnecessarily.

  • Portsmouth lost and so didn’t widen the gap at the top, though their result does mean Charlton are creeping up behind.

  • Exiting this competition doesn’t mean that we now have to fit in another fixture or two but does now mean we have only one chance of a visit to Wembley left this season.

  • With only the East Stand open to home fans I found that, unlike two years ago, I could get up and down the steps of the upper tier with no problems, the improvement in my mobility reflecting the improvement of the health of the stadium which looks so much better than not so long ago.

Well Bristol Rovers on Saturday is a game we would expect to win but is another of those slippery yellow fruit peelings that can cause someone to go apex over elbow. Let’s hope not.

Ha’way the Lads

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Team: The Chairboys of Wycombe

Malcolm Dawson writes………our publication of Pete Sixsmith’s twin series, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Ground (before our away fixtures) and The First Time Ever I Saw Your Team (for our visitors to the Stadium of Light) is normally the remit of our Associate Editor John McCormick but his ageing laptop has finally succumbed to the Millennium bug and left him strictly non PC.

So it falls to me, fresh from watching the young Lads comfortably progress in the FA Youth Cup after beating Oldham Athletic Youth 4-1 despite centre forward Connor Slack failing to convert a penalty in the dying minutes for his hat-trick, to bring you this instalment. Despite the missed pen it was a good game nevertheless.

Mr Sixsmith was there of course, but just before he went was able to trawl through his memory banks and recall the occasion he first saw the Chairboys when they took on a team in black and white playing within spitting distance of the Tyne.

TFTEISYT WYCOMBE WANDERERS

Another tricky one as we have never, ever played them in a competitive match. Not an FA Cup tie in the early 20th Century, not a pre-season friendly. Not anything.

Like Fleetwood Town, they arrive at the Stadium of Light as Wearside virgins.

Not only have they not played us, I have hardly ever seen them. Fortunately, without recourse to hypnotic regression  I can remember two viewings of them. Firstly at Gateshead in 1992 and my sole visit to Adams Park which was 13 years later almost to the day.

Martin O’Neill – back in the day

The Gateshead game was an interesting one. Wycombe, under Martin O’Neill, were nip and tuck with Colchester United in what was then The GM Football Conference. There was only one up, one down then, so that made it even more interesting. They came to Tyneside on the 25th April.

On the same day, we were preparing for Wembley and had travelled to The Goldstone Ground where we drew with Brighton and Hove Albion.

Our team that day was: Tony Norman; John Kay, Gary Bennett, Anton Rogan, Kevin Ball; Gary Owers, Paul Bracewell, Gordon Armstrong, Brian Atkinson; Don Goodman, John Byrne. Subs; Paul Hardyman, Peter Davenport (for Gordon Armstrong).

Goals from Anton Rogan and Don Goodman gave us a point which just about guaranteed our place in the second level and we could prepare for what became the non-event at Wembley two weeks later.

So a game was looked for and we (Pete Horan and I) opted for Gateshead’s home game with Wycombe. It looked an attractive tie with the visitors looking for wins in order to overtake Colchester United at the top of the Conference. Gateshead were comfortably ensconced in the upper bottom half of the table so they would presumably play to win rather than stick men behind the ball.

But the main reason for going was to observe events over the bridges in Newcastle, where the Mags had a must win game against Portsmouth. Not for promotion to the about to be formed Premier League, but to avoid their first ever relegation to the Third (soon to be second) Division.

David Kelly – Pete thinks this is the right one

They had sacked Ossie Ardiles and replaced him with Kevin Keegan. The Halls and Shepherds had taken over the club and knew what relegation would mean for the club and Keegan was brought in to unite the febrile atmosphere that surrounded the ground which was to become The Sports Direct.

They were involved in a 5-way battle to stay up, with Port Vale, Oxford United, Brighton and Hove Albion and Plymouth Argyle as their rivals. Had they lost the Portsmouth game (the penultimate one) they would have gone. Not even a win at Leicester in their final game would have kept them up. We had one eye on Gateshead v Wycombe and eyes and ears on the events over the water.

With four minutes to go, it was 2-2 at The International Stadium and Colchester United were probably cracking open the champagne. At The Sports Direct it was 0-0 with Newcastle pressing but with Pompey playing up as usual and creating chances and we looked forward to watching the “Discarding of the Scarves” from the Tyne Bridge at 4.45.

Then it all changed.

Wycombe centre forward Keith Scott notched the winner for the Chairboys and at the same time, David Kelly was beating Alan Knight in the Pompey goal to send the 26,000 in the Sports Direct wild. Was it any wonder that Sunderland supporters never took to Kelly when we paid big money for him a few years later.

Both clubs held on to their three points.

For Wycombe, it was still not enough to win promotion to the Football League (they had to wait twelve months for that ) while for Newcastle it heralded a period when they were “everyone’s second team” and gave them a sense of entitlement which allows them to punch horses, shout at shops and scream into cameras while under the influence of whatever they have taken.

Mmm is this what Geordies refer to as a horse box?

Wycombe and O’Neill went up the next year and the year after that. They have been good members of the Football League, having previously played in the Southern, the Great Western Suburban, the Spartan and the Isthmian, where they played from 1921 to 1985.

They were invited to join the newly formed Alliance Premier League in 1979 and again in 1981, but they declined, citing travelling costs. They wouldn’t get away with that in 2019. The FA has decreed that promotion is now compulsory and that if Shildon were to win the Northern League, instead of travelling to Bishop and West Auckland or Newton Aycliffe, would have to travel to Stocksbridge, Sheffield and Frickley.

Wycombe have history with Bishop Auckland, having crossed swords with the all-conquering, all paying amateur champions three times in the 1950s and losing all three games. Two were FA Amateur Cup semis and the third was the 1957 final at Wembley which Bishops won 3-1, fielding such famous names as Bob Hardisty, Jimmy Nimmins,, Harry Sharratt (“The Red Nosed Carrot” as he was known at Dean Street) and Bob Thursby.

Whereas Bishops have declined, an eventually forward-thinking Wycombe have progressed and have spent 25 years in the Football League. Promotions and relegations have been frequent and they have twice made it to Cup semi-finals, losing to Liverpool in the FA Cup in 2001 and Chelsea in the FL Cup in 2007. They were also dangerously close to going back to the fifth tier in 2014, only goal difference keeping them up at the expense of Bristol Rovers.

Number 13 in a previous life
Gareth Ainsworth

They have a good manager in Gareth Ainsworth who had a long playing career, taking in Preston North End, Lincoln City, Port Vale, Wimbledon, Cardiff City and Queens Park Rangers before falling into a comfortable shell hole at Adams Park.

He played 112 games for them and was then appointed manager after Gary Waddock was sacked in 2012. He also plays in a band called “Dog Chewed the Handle” and is highly regarded as a manager, but more importantly, as a man.

His comments when we took Luke O’Nien from them, saying that it gave him “immense pride that a player we took on as an apprentice is moving to such a big clubshow his qualities.

Compare that with Steve Evans and what he said about Jack Baldwin……

The Beast of Bucks

He brings with him a team that is not well known outside of Buckinghamshire, with the exception of a trio of veterans in Nathan Tyson, Craig Mackall-Smith and “The Beast”, Adebayo Akinfenwa, who is widely regarded as an all round (geddit!!) good egg.

They will provide stiff opposition for us but we all hope that their inaugural visit to The Stadium of Light is an unpleasant one results wise, but an enjoyable one socially.

Ha’way the Lads

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Sixer’s Carlisle United Soapbox: is this the beginning of a great adventure?

Pete Sixsmith: witnesses three wins on the trot

Malcolm Dawson writes………I am otherwise engaged in the wilds of West Lancashire this week, or I would have made it last night to bulk up the crowd and get another loyalty point on my season card. I’m betting there’ll be more than 7,800 Sunderland followers looking for Wembley tickets, should last night prove to be the beginning of a great adventure and we make it all the way to the final. (I’m not making any assumptions here – Lou Reed fans will understand.)

Still I should be able to get to Morecambe for the next, most likely irrelevant, instalment as it looks like we could be through to the next round anyway. But I’m sure Jack Ross will take nothing for granted and will do his best to ensure we can get a victory, whilst giving some of our fringe players valuable game time.

With the number of injuries and suspensions we’ve had many of those we may currently class as fringe players, could actually soon become more valuable squad members.

Pete Sixsmith of course was there and after Bradford on Saturday and the U23s at the Eppleton Colliery Welfare Ground on Monday it was three Sunderland wins in four days for our man on the spot. Here’s his report of last night’s Checkatrade Trophy run out.

Pete Sixsmith, Hangin’ Round

CARLISLE UNITED

Lou Reed would have loved Tuesday October 9th. The wizened (and dead) U.S rocker and iconoclast was not noted for his love of football and he was rarely seen on the terraces at Roker Park and even less so in the expensive seats at The Stadium of Light, but he did know a perfect day when he saw one. Yesterday I had one.

Sixer took a walk on the wild side (of Shildon) to begin his perfect day.

The papers arrived on time so work was over by 7.30. After breakfast, I caught the bus to Darlington and thence on to Richmond, where I took a leisurely stroll along the banks of the babbling River Swale, so beloved by that other musical icon, Jake Thackeray and then back along the old railway line to the Station Cinema and Arts Centre.

After a rather good Americano and a cheese scone I then entered the cinema and watched “The Wife” which I thought might have been a remake of the Thora Hird/ Freddie Frinton classic “Meet The Wife” but turned out to be a story about a Nobel Prize winning author played by Jonathan Pryce and the woman behind his success, played by the superb Glenn Close, who does not have to boil a bunny to show how good an actor she is.

Jonathan Pryce and Glenn Close in 60’s TV gold

The day was concluded with a comfortable 3-1 win over Carlisle United in the EFL Trophy which virtually guaranteed our place in the knock out stages of this much maligned but extremely useful competition, one which allows clubs with large squads to give all their players a game that has at least a twinge of competitiveness about it and also gives us an opportunity to go where we have never been before e.g. The Globe Arena, Morecambe on November 20th.

Much was made of the lack of 14 first team players but such is the depth and strength of the current squad that the only first time starter was Benjamin Mbunga-Kimpioka, the young Swedish forward who joined at the same time as Joel Asoro and Oscar Krusnell, both now former Sunderland players.

He is as raw as they come, but he has done well in a struggling Under 23 team and came on last Tuesday against Peterborough, almost scoring in the last minute. Had he done so it may well have led to the spontaneous combustion of Steve Evans and the eternal thanks of all sensible football followers.

It took him three minutes to score here when the impressive Aiden McGeady set him up with a perfect cross and he planted a firm header beyond Adam Collin and into the Cumbrians’ net. Being Sunderland, we allowed a well taken equaliser from Ashley Nadesan after Jack Baldwin lost him completely.

BMK almost scored after two minutes of his debut. Did score after two minutes of his first start.

But we bounced back in some style as Ethan Robson scored a very good goal in the 36th minute, rifling home a shot from the edge of the box and we went into the break a goal ahead, although we lost Robson to a knock and saw Luke O’Nien replace him.

The former Wycombe player has been a bit of a forgotten man so far. He was clearly brought in to replace Lee Cattermole when it looked as if he would be leaving but as Cattermole cemented his place and Max Power was signed, O’Nien has been squeezed out. Injuries and illness have affected him but it was good to see him back and he looks a useful player to have in the squad.

Luke O’Nien – courtesy of www.safc.com

As does Dylan McGeouch who impresses me as a real fetch and carry man. He is always there to help out in defence and to move the ball on and as the season progresses, he will prove to be a very important player for us, slowing the game down when we need to re-establish control and moving us forward when that is required.

There were no weak links in this team. After the blip in the first half, Baldwin worked well with Ozturk while Matthews got forward at every opportunity and has established a good link with Maguire. It was the full back’s splendid pass that rounded off a long sequence of them and it allowed Honeyman to put the game to bed in the 62nd minute.

Other chances were spurned. Kimpioka had another strong header turned away by Collin and some of the shooting would not have looked out of place in the RL Grand Final on Saturday, but we saw the game out and gave brief cameos to two of our other academy products in Jack Diamond (12 minutes) and Lee Connelly (5 minutes). Both did enough to book their places for Morecambe next month.

Sixer travelling on his out of date bus pass!

I sat in the front row for this one which was good because;

1). I could stretch my legs out.

2). I could hear the players – Maguire swears a bit.

3). I noted that few of ours are tattooed as if they were Maoris – Maguire is.

4). I realised how small Reece James is and how solid Adam Matthews is.

5). I had a perfect view of Ethan Robson’s goal.

In fact, even though I didn’t drink Sangria in the park or feed animals in the zoo, it was just a perfect day and I got free bus travel, reduced prices at the cinema and the match.

There are benefits to getting older…..

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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.

Another piece in the Jack Ross jigsaw: welcome Luke O’Nien from Wycombe Wanderers

Another day, another signing. Despite the six goals at St Mirren, we still need a boost in the striker department, but it’s good to greet the arrival of Luke O’Nien, another man who actually wants to play at the Stadium of Light for Sunderland AFC. Salut! Sunderland extends its customary greetings to a new Lad.

SAFC.com says he joins us from Wycombe Wanderers as one of those irritating and absurd (Monsieur Salut says) “undisclosed fee” signings and has put his signature to a two-year deal.

He’s Jack Ross’s 10th signing, 23, a midfielder and began his career at Watford and describes the move as “a huge honour because it’s such a big club”.

One final quote (read the coverage at the club site):

The direction of the club is only going to be up, and I’m going to do everything I can to help get the club to back where it belongs.

Wikipedia adds (League One is a steep learning curve):

O’Nien was born in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. His father Terry was a professional golfer. O’Nien qualifies to play international football for both England as well as Singapore He qualifies to play for Singapore through his Singapore-born maternal grandfather; his great-uncle was politician Lim Kim San.