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

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

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done a bit of work to the ground too and I was disappointed to find the double decker bus that sold cheap beer had been replaced by a number of bespoke refreshment bars but with a pie and a pint deal costing only a fiver it was still an inexpensive way to take a break from the diet.

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

WHAM! BAM! THANK YOU STAN!

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

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

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

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

Jordan Willis. Photo by courtesy of safc,com

“After you, Alim.”

“No, after you, Jordan.” “

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

“He’s not quite pukka, Jordan.”

The conversation on the terraces was probably not that polite.

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

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

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

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

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

Kick off at The Wham

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

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

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

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

It was an adequate performance rather than a great one.

Accrington Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tribute to an Accrington groundsman and his dog

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

Ha’way the Lads (in American accent).

Highlights via safc.com

Sunderland easily see off the youth of Manchester City

Jake: ‘not so silly a cup after all’

SUNDERLAND 2 MANCHESTER CITY U21s 0 – EFL TROPHY

Sunderland got to within one step of a Wembley Final last night, with a victory in the Quarter Finals of the Checkatrade Trophy against a youthful Manchester City side, a win that was in truth, much more comfortable than the scoreline might suggest.

With Citeh defending a 9-0 lead in the other EFL cup competition tonight, and Pep Guardiola looking to give some of his fringe players a run out in that, it was unsurprising that few in the ground recognised any of the opposition squad, whose numbers were more appropriate for those playing the grid iron form of football than the one we are more used to. But there were a couple of names which stood out to those in the know.

The young lad captaining the visitors was the son of former German international Uwe Rössler and the number 69 Tommy Doyle was the grandson of former Man City captain Mike Doyle and another light blue legend Glyn Pardoe. PS – guess who enlightened me to those facts!

Jack Ross had made a whole raft of changes and of course in the days of social media and daily radio phone ins, it didn’t take long for conspiracy theories and uninformed opinions to be aired, but the manager was quick to point out he used all the first choice players who weren’t carrying knocks and it was still a strong starting XI. With Adam Matthews and Bryan Oviedo both fit again, we could revert to having two genuine full backs in their favoured positions. Alim Ozturk got another run out and was one of the stand out players. More on him later.

With Dylan McGeouch and Lee Cattermole occupying the holding midfield spots, Luke O’Nien was able to play in a more advanced attacking role and was unlucky not to get on the score sheet. He could easily have had a hat trick. The gangly Benji Kimpioka led the line and grew into the game while Duncan Watmore also started up front. For the first 45, Chris Maguire prowled the gap between the two forward players, with Jack Baldwin and Robbin Ruiter completing the line up.

City played the City way. They had plenty of skill and passed the ball about well but rarely threatened Ruiter’s goal. If my memory serves me well he really only had one decent save to make all night when late in the second half he was quickly off his line to smother the ball at the feet of an onrushing City player whose number I didn’t catch.

In terms of quality football the visitors were one of the more skillful sides to have visited the Stadium of Light this season. Comfortable on the ball, they worked hard and had a lot of possession, but where it counted they lacked a cutting edge. We seemed content to let them play the ball about at the back and though some around me felt that we should be pressing more and looking to regain the ball higher up the pitch, the fact our players were happy to defend our own half did mean that red and white shirts outnumbered the light blue ones where it mattered and there were few defensive gaps.

Solid Performance

Ozturk especially revelled in defending this style of play. He was composed, read the game well and made good use of the ball when he had it. He also made one fantastically well timed sliding tackle in the second half and showed why Jack Ross brought him to the club. If only the sides in League 1 adopted a slow methodical build up approach he may have had more game time.

The same applied to Dylan McGeouch who ran the midfield, looked composed and won the ball in important areas. He is a cultured player who may actually be more effective at a higher level, where technical skills are more developed.

Statistics will show that we had much less of the ball than our opponents but the reality is that we ran the show, which is what you would expect given the difference in experience and development. Watmore was making his runs but in the early stages both he and Kimpioka seemed to try to work the ball into better shooting positions and ended up losing the ball when an earlier attempt might have been better.

But it was Watmore who broke the deadlock on 20 minutes when Maguire out wide on the left, played the ball inside to McGeouch. The Scot played the ball into the box where Kimpioka, tried to set himself up for a shot before playing the ball back to McGeouch who had continued his run. He saw a decent shot blocked and was unable to do anything with the rebound which hit him on the chest before he had time to react. Fortunately the ball fell to the unmarked Watmore who hit a low drive across the goal into the bottom left hand corner.

First goal for three years

Not long after Watmore again made a good run down the right and cutting inside was fouled on the edge of the penalty area. From the resulting free kick Oviedo went for goal and was unlucky to see a lovely curling effort come back off the angle of post and crossbar. So a comfortable 1-0 half time lead and I wasn’t even feeling apprehensive that we might let the game slip. In fact I was expecting us to build on the lead and thinking that my 6-0 prediction might indeed win me a mug!

It wasn’t to be but could have been. Catts, had seen yellow early in the first half but wasn’t put off by that and another strong clean challenge saw him win the ball in midfield and play square to O’Nien, who played it forward to Roadrunner. Marked tightly, Watmore played it back to O’Nien whose long range effort whizzed over the bar. There were surely more goals in this team.

Watmore was starting to tire and on the hour was replaced by Gooch and it didn’t take long for the American to make an impact. An overlapping Adam Matthews played the ball back to Gooch from near the right hand corner. Gooch took a couple of steps infield before curling a lovely effort into the far corner to double the lead.

Gooooooooooooooch

After that O’Nien and Kimpioka both had multiple chances. One O’Nien shot from the 18 yard line seemed to have squirmed under Grimshaw’s body but somehow the young City keeper managed to reach back and claw back the ball just before it completely crossed the line. Unlike Bradford City’s on Boxing Day, this wasn’t in but my was it close.

With 15 minutes left Ethan Robson replaced Cattermole and just as Gooch had done made an immediate impact. He’d only been on a matter of seconds when he put in a crunching tackle in the middle of the park and almost immediately after that won the ball again and set Kimpioka off down the left and into space. It was a decent chance which Grimshaw did well to block.

The final chance came right at the end when Lee Connelly, brought on in the 89th minute almost opened his account with the last kick of the game.

It was an enjoyable match and the majority of the 14,679 spectators left happy, hoping for a home draw on Friday. Bury away on a Tuesday night is just about doable but having been to every Checkatrade game so far I don’t fancy a trip to Portsmouth or Bristol.

Ha’way the Lads.

Sixer’s Substitute’s Soapbox: home and dry on a wet night on Wearside

Malcolm Dawson writes……with the festive season almost upon us and Pete Sixsmith up to the eyes with all that he does on this site, to give the old boy a rest, it falls to me to bring you my take on what went on at a cold and wet Stadium of Light last night.

BARNSLEY (H)

I turned on the car radio at 5.55pm as I prepared to set off through the County Durham hinterland for what I expected would be a tough game in our quest for promotion, switching to Radio Newcastle’s Total Sport just in time to hear BBC weatherman Paul Mooney promise the rain would stop within the hour. Well he got that wrong and it was torrential as I drove through Willington, Neville’s Cross, Chester-le-Street, Shiney Row and over the Wearmouth bridge and it was still persistent as I took my seat in the West Stand.

The team was almost the same as had started on Saturday, with Chris Maguire for Oviedo an obvious swap, the Scot a more natural midfielder than the Costa Rican. Max Power’s rescinded red card meant he was available but I wondered how much that sending off might have affected the energy levels of the rest of the side and how all the adverse criticism Power had received might have affected his mental state. I was fearful that a poor refereeing decision which probably cost us two points at Walsall could have a knock on effect against the side that was starting the night in third place and who knew a win would catapult them above us.

Back in the starting line up

Barnsley lined up in their black change shirts, and first choice white shorts with red trim, which for a fashion buff such as myself didn’t look quite right but was brought about by the fact that our home kit was originally intended to have red shorts, but on the new regime’s insistence, when at home we pair our striped shirts with the change kit’s shorts and means the red numbers on the black shorts look slightly incongruous. Am I the only one who is OCD enough to find that irritating on the eye?

In the grand scheme of things it is irrelevant.

Fortunately, unlike the previous Tuesday night home game, irritating phone menace woman was not sitting in front and I could focus on the game. It was immediately apparent that although the personnel was 91 per cent the same as Saturday, they were set up in a completely different way. As you would expect Flanagan and Baldwin were the centre halves in a back four, but Matthews and James had been instructed to play much higher up the pitch when we were in possession, providing width to the attack. Power was sat (not literally!) in front as the defensive midfielder but Honeyman was in a more advanced position, Gooch playing in a central role with the “M People” McGeady, Maguire and Maja moving on up and around the opposition’s penalty box when we attacked but all dropping deep when we lost possession.

Physically, Barnsley looked a lot bigger than us and centre forward Kieffer Moore towered above Jack Baldwin and was even a few inches bigger than Tom Flanagan. That said he had good feet for a tall man and got through some work in midfield as well as providing an aerial threat in front of goal.

We looked OK in the opening minutes and were moving the ball around well. Glancing up to the big screen after what I thought was about three minutes of play I was surprised to see that almost 10 minutes had passed already. It had been pretty even up to that point with Adam Matthews showing some good skills down the right wing but it was Reece James on the left wing who created the first clear cut scoring opportunity when his peach of a cross found Josh Maja in space in front of goal, but the young striker steered his header wide. For a young man of his ability it would have been a big disappointment, just as it was for those of us watching. But it was an encouraging start.

We keep saying there are no easy games in this division and Barnsley were producing some decent moves of their own, without really putting any pressure on Jon McLaughlin and shortly after an opportunity for the visitors came to naught we had a great opportunity ourselves to go ahead. Aiden McGeady found himself in the penalty area and twisting and turning was tackled by Ethan Pinnock, who perhaps slid in with the wrong leg. Did he win the ball? I wasn’t sure from my seat but when the Irishman went down the ref pointed to the spot and it was McGeady himself who took the resulting penalty. It may have been a soft decision and had I been a Barnsley fan I might have argued it shouldn’t have been given, but after a stuttering run up and a brief pause that was just this side of what is legally allowable, McGeady sent the keeper the wrong way and tucked the spot kick away.

Oh wow oh it’s Maja – you know (again!)

One minute later we were two nil up. The ever improving Adam Matthews, once again marauding down the right, played a lovely ball in to Josh Maja, who took a touch with his right foot, made space and shifted it to his left and curled in a lovely shot from the edge of the box beyond the reach of Barnsley keeper Adam Davies.

Almost immediately, Maja could have, probably should have had a third, when he again headed off target after a wonderful cross from Chris Maguire.

We appeared to be cruising at this point and with half an hour on the clock, Gooch earned himself more Brownie points (which he was to need later), first by clearing off the line then going up the other end and finding the net to put us three ahead. The ball was played out to the left, Honeyman was tackled and left sprawling and whilst the crowd around me were berating the ref for not blowing, the skipper stuck out a boot and prodded the ball on to McGeady who set up Gooch for another left footed curler into the top corner from the 18 yard line.

This was a similar situation to that we had found ourselves in against Scunthorpe and the bloke beside me asked if I could settle. The lady in front asked if I had a bet on as I explained why I’m never relaxed unless we have at least a four goal lead. The next 50 minutes or so just reinforced my cautious approach as The Tykes got back into the game.

They got one back just before half time as full back Zeki Fryers got to the corner flag to set up Moore in front of goal. McLaughlin pulled off a terrific save but Gooch fluffed the clearance, first slicing the ball vertically then chesting it weakly straight to the feet of Moore, who had dropped back to the edge of the box. He made no mistake and scored the third left footed goal of the evening. McLaughlin might have saved that effort too but in trying to block the shot, Jack Baldwin deflected the ball over the Sunderland keeper.

Those around were complaining that we had taken our foot of the gas and it certainly looked that way as passes went astray, we struggled to maintain possession as Barnsley continued to press and the half time whistle blew at the right time for the red and whites just after Cauley Woodrow had swivelled and fired a right foot shot against the post. 3-1 was nervy enough. 3-2 would have been heart in mouth time.

Sometimes it is easier to criticise our own than give credit to the opponents. At 3-0 we were comfortable and showboating. The crowd were cheering every pass as we maintained possession, Matthews back heeled, Gooch performed what in ballet terms might be deemed an entrechat as he flicked the ball on and I wondered if we would start to tease the 1,500 or so visiting fans with a chorus of “It’s just like watching Brazil”, a song they sang themselves in their Premier League days. But they upped their game and made it hard for us, grabbing another when Moore headed home a corner unchallenged at the near post.

Gooooooooooooooch

Immediately before they scored Jack Ross had replaced Maja with Luke O’Nien, a move which which baffled some, but Maja walked off clutching his shoulder and as I pointed out to those questioning the absence of a recognised centre forward, we had scored twice at Walsall without an out and out striker on the pitch. But now the nerves were jangling as the Tykes were back in the game.

At the weekend we watched the game anxiously after the sending off, then with hope as McGeady pull one back, then with joy as the Lads fought back to earn a point in the last minute. Last night it was the other way round and at 3-2 it was a case of hoping not to see a comfortable lead wiped out.

As a Barnsley attack broke down Maguire found himself in the clear and one on one with the keeper, who had rushed out of his area, would expect to score 8 times out of 10 but this was one of the two when he couldn’t convert.

McGeady, who had put in a good defensive shift as well as causing the visitor’s defence problems all night, found space on the left and fired in a teasing cross which O’Nien got a head to but couldn’t deflect into the net. This was nowhere near as straightforward a chance as Maja’s two earlier headers, but the ex Wycombe man was to get his reward in the 84th minute when we found our passing skills again. With Sunderland pressing high up the pitch, the ball broke for Gooch, who side footed to the tireless Honeyman who drove forward a pace or two before sending out a diagonal ball to McGeady who in turn squared it across the keeper for O’Nien to side foot home.

And that was it more or less. Five minutes of added time were seen out. Oviedo was brought on to kill a bit of time and as the 4th official put the wrong number on the board, Honeyman handed the captain’s armband to Power, who had been effective, if low key, all night, before taking it back when the number 10 was swiftly changed to 11 and Gooch left the field.

At the end O’Nien, with his trademark massive grin, gave his shirt to a young lad and we left the ground happy with the three points. We had seen the potential this side has in the first half hour, then became frustrated as they let a strong position slip but let’s not do Barnsley a disservice. They are a decent team who will be in the mix at the end of the season.

And the rain had stopped on the walk back to the car.

Click here to see the match highlights courtesy of safc.com

They’ve all gone quiet over there. Where is Brian, Sunderland’s counter-revolutionary?

Catts out, gooch out, mcgeoch out of his depth, ditto nien, honeyman out of form.

Malcolm Dawson, deputy editor, compares and contrasts Sunderland AFC’s encouraging progress on and off the field with some less positive thoughts remembered from one contributor to Comments at Salut! Sunderland earlier in the season …

Read moreThey’ve all gone quiet over there. Where is Brian, Sunderland’s counter-revolutionary?

Sixer’s Rochdale Soapbox: Oh oh oh it’s Maja…….and a dozen or so others!

Malcolm Dawson writes……..on the walk back to the car yesterday, I saw a yellow legged gull scrapping for a discarded chip near the sheepfolds. Yellow legged gulls look just like herring gulls, but are the Mediterranean species identified by ……you’ve guessed ……yellow legs rather than salmon pink ones. So it was miles away from its normal place of residence and this after a Sunderland performance that was miles away from the routine fare we have been used to seeing at the Stadium of Light for the past few years.

Before going too overboard and comparing us to Brazil in a somewhat cliched way, as one listener to Radio Newcastle’s Total Sport did, there are still areas that could be improved which both the manager and the players acknowledged in their post match interviews, but coming away from the Stadium of Light in an upbeat mood is something we rarely experienced since the day of Big Sam’s departure. It’s such a positive place at the moment that even Didier Ndong allegedly wants to be part of it! 

But someone who was of course there was Pete Sixsmith and he brings us his version of yesterday’s comprehensive victory.

Pete Sixsmith

ROCHDALE (HOME)

I would imagine that Jack Ross slept well last night. He’s had a tricky week. After having the temerity to actually lose a game to Burton Albion, the doom mongers and naysayers have been emerging blinking into the light, making it clear that managing Alloa Athletic and St Mirren is not the kind of pedigree required to succeed in England.

His team selections have been scrutinised by fans who may not go to games but who still have firmly held opinions on the players he has chosen – “Loovens is too slow, Maja’s not strong enough, Honeyman doesn’t contribute anything” – and the airwaves have been occupied by those who know better than a man who has played football for a living, got his UEFA coaching badges and a M.A. From Herriott Watt University and who now has jumped feet first into the snake pit of football management.

To all his critics, I think the words of the French guard in Monty Python and the Holy Grail are appropriate; “Go boil your bottoms, sons of a silly person. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.”

Pete has a message for the grumblers and moaners

This comprehensive destruction of Rochdale is no large wooden rabbit intended to fool the world. It was a marker that has been put down, clearly and comprehensively, that Sunderland mean business in this league and that, with the right balance they are heading for the promised land of Sheffield Wednesday (away) next season.

The team selection was interesting. Both full backs from the disgraceful performance we apparently turned in at Burton were on the bench and in came Flanagan and Hume. Maguire was restored for the unfortunate Wyke (“a sick note” according to one correspondent, who clearly thinks that crashing into goalkeepers is something that is avoidable) and McGeouch was back in central midfield alongside Cattermole.

For thirty seven minutes, the game ambled along with little to excite the support. Then “biff, bang, bosh” and we went into the break three goals to the good and the visitors were wandering around as dazed as Tom the Cat when the anvil hits him.

The first goal was a superb cross from Chris Maguire which found Josh Maja unmarked with the ball almost begging to be headed in. It was. Were I a Rochdale fan sat high up in the South Stand, I would wonder about the marking. As a Sunderland supporter, I would place more emphasis on the fact that Maja had slipped his markers and that the excellent Maguire had delivered a cross that even Jozy Altidore could have converted.

Two minutes later, Maja turned provider, feeding Gooch in the box and Rathbone’s challenge was as clear a penalty as you will see. Up stepped the American to stroke it home and continue in the vein of Jim Baxter, Gary Rowell and Jermaine Defoe as Sunderland Spot Kick King.

Gooch has come in for some criticism recently, some of it considered. He does tend to try to do too much, not always a bad thing when you consider some of the players we have had who have got away with doing too little, but the manager appears to have instructed him to be more direct and play the ball early. Not bad advice from a man who has only managed Alloa Athletic……

The game was put to bed in the 45th minute as Maguire found the impressive Hume, Hume found the impressive Maja who moved the ball from right foot to left and into the net. Poetry in motion I would say.

The second half allowed McLaughlin to show what an impressive keeper he is by pulling off two excellent saves as Rochdale looked for some respectability. He is a keeper who has the confidence of his defenders, not something we saw last year. (There was also a cracker from a free kick in the first half – MD)

It also showed that referees can get things seriously wrong. When Henderson’s elbow caught Gooch full in the face, it was either an accident or a red card. I would suggest the latter, so why Mr Kettle waved a yellow at the Dale captain is a mystery to me. It was a flaw in another solid refereeing performance at this level.

Not that it worried Gooch. Ten minutes later, he took a fine pass from Maguire (who else) and drilled in number four, cementing the victory and making us dream of handing out the proverbial thrashing and keeping a clean sheet.

Gooooooooooooooch

It wasn’t to be as there was some hesitation by Baldwin (he may have been pushed by Williams in the build up) (he was….it was right in front of me and the linesman who chose to ignore a clear foul – MD) and substitute Done gave the visiting support something to cheer. Which they did. They brought a good following, about 40% of their home attendance, for what we hope is their only visit to the Stadium, unless we draw them in the Cup sometime.

Maja and Maguire departed early to rapturous applause from the crowd and Sinclair and McGeady came on to test their fitness. Both have attributes that will see us through a long season and when they are fully match fit, they will offer us alternatives which a former Alloa and St Mirren manager will be able to call on – if he is good enough to recognise their abilities.

Chris Maguire – MoM on a day when no-one put in a bad display?

Maguire had an outstanding game. He has been a bit of a wanderer in a career that has never really taken off but he has some memorable days. He hit the winner for Kilmarnock against Celtic, the team he supports, he rattled in a hat trick for Derby County against Pinxton in the Derbyshire Senior Cup and on his debut for Coventry City, he scored two free kicks late in the game at MK Dons to give the Sky Blues an unlikely victory. But a standing ovation from 27,500 Sunderland supporters must be very high up on his list of career highlights.

The whole team had a better balance about it and looked far more comfortable. The opposition were limited, neither as fired up as Oxford United or as competent as Fleetwood Town, and were never at any stage in the game.

And so we go to Coventry next week. It’s a game that will test us and our support. 5,000 tickets have been sold which will fill one end of the Coventry Arena and the expectations will be great. A win against a side who are struggling after promotion will be expected and, if we can show the clinical side of our game that was on display here, it is by no means beyond the realms of possibility.

I’m looking forward to events today and can’t wait to see Ndong back in the side.

Then bring on Peterborough……….

If there is any copyright claim, not answered by ‘fair use’ exemptions on the images used to illustrate this report, please make us aware and we will add credits or remove as requested.

 

Wahbi Khazri: forget Saint-Etienne – you could have played at Grimsby tonight

How the French turned ‘Sunderland, the play’ into ‘Saint-Etienne, the film’

As Sunderland rceord a first pre-season win, 1-0 at Grimsby, we also say farewell – or another one since he’s long gone any way, if previously on loan – to Wahbi Khazri.

Read moreWahbi Khazri: forget Saint-Etienne – you could have played at Grimsby tonight

Sixer’s Carlisle Soapbox: At least our name’s in the douli for the next round

Malcolm Dawson writes……….Pete Sixsmith made the trip across the Pennines to Brunton Park last night and saw us win our way through to the next round of the competition which I still call the League Cup. We got through but was it a comfortable victory or a fortunate one? Here’s what Pete thinks.

Carlisle United (away) Caraboa Cup

Tomorrow is the day when the English Football League draws the next round of this competition that has been ticking over since the 1960-61 season.

Our first game in it was at Griffin Park, Brentford on the 26th October. We lost 4-3 after having been 3-1 up at half time thanks to goals from Ian Lawther, Willie McPheat and Amby Fogarty. Later that week, the draw for the next round was made at the Football League headquarters in Lytham St Annes, at the posh end of Blackpool and I presume that the Football League panjandrums who drew it included Alan Hardaker, the formidable secretary of the League and Barnsley Chairman Joe Richards who was the President of the League at the time.

Read moreSixer’s Carlisle Soapbox: At least our name’s in the douli for the next round

Sixer says: Welcome back Lynden Gooch, au revoir John Hurt

Sixer by Jake

John McCormick writes: Patrick’s impending departure leaves me quite unmoved. It’s just on a year since I saw him score the opener at Spurs, after which he disappeared as they swept past us. And that seems to epitomise his play since. What does move me is not only how will we replace him but how will David Moyes rebuild a squad that is depleted, underskilled and getting older by the minute? Pete Sixsmith may have some of the answers in his report on events at Hetton: 

Read moreSixer says: Welcome back Lynden Gooch, au revoir John Hurt

Moyes on the Boys: it’s going to take time

Jake flags our new columnist
Jake flags our new columnist

John McCormick writes. Pete’s sevens were pessimistic but I thought we did OK in the second half and will be fine once we sort out our defence, midfield and attack.

What does our manager think, however? Well, to let you know, here’s a look at the letter he sent to M Salut, and maybe one or two others, immediately after the game:

Read moreMoyes on the Boys: it’s going to take time

Pete Sixsmith’s alternative “Who’s who”

Pete Sixsmith. Delivers more than just the papers
Pete Sixsmith. Delivers more than just the papers

John McCormick writes. Our Web wizard has scheduled some site maintenance and you may find the site is down for a short while some time today, so please bear with us.

And while we’re on the subject of bearing we need to move beyond  the Lynden and Graham Gooch situation. Luckily, we have Pete Sixsmith to help us. Pete doesn’t just appear on TV (who else saw him on MOTD?) He doesn’t just deliver erudite summaries to the papers (and nor does he just deliver the papers). He’s also a bit of a historian, as he demonstrates in this wander through the genealogical archives of the North East:

Read morePete Sixsmith’s alternative “Who’s who”