Wycombe, Oxford, Coventry and Fleetwood intrude. But what about Peterborough, Rotherham, Doncaster and Portsmouth?

Another international weekend with Sunderland players called up. You might wonder how, given that we’re a League One club and we can barely  score, never mind keep a clean sheet. But let’s be thankful for small mercies, not only does it give the players a weekend without conceding, it also gives me a chance to bring us up to date before Pete Sixsmith starts a new series (I won’t tell you what it is but I will assure you of its quality) that will take us to Christmas and the site’s wind-down.

For my part, I’ll be keeping things brief. I still have neuropathy following my treatment (follow the link to find out what I’m on about)  and it’s likely to last a lot longer. Typing isn’t easy and creating and manipulating graphs takes forever, which explains why this lot aren’t a uniform size.

Still, things could be worse, I’ve now had two all-clear blood tests and we are still within spitting distance of the playoffs, as you will see below:

Read moreWycombe, Oxford, Coventry and Fleetwood intrude. But what about Peterborough, Rotherham, Doncaster and Portsmouth?

Sunderland’s lengthening list of promotion rivals: Ipswich, plus Rotherham, Peterborough, Portsmouth and Doncaster (or Wycombe, Fleetwood, Blackpool and Coventry)

Another weekend without football, another weekend providing space to keep our readers – and pundits – up to date with our chosen clubs. If you think as far back as the start of the season you’ll probably recall six clubs being selected by our readership as the most likely to finish in the top six slots come the end of the season.

Sunderland made the cut but would have been selected regardless. The other five clubs were Ipswich Town, Rotherham, Peterborough Portsmouth and Doncaster. Ipswich apart, they haven’t done as well as expected. In fact, they haven’t done as well as Sunderland who, as the first two graphs show, haven’t done as well as they did last season

Read moreSunderland’s lengthening list of promotion rivals: Ipswich, plus Rotherham, Peterborough, Portsmouth and Doncaster (or Wycombe, Fleetwood, Blackpool and Coventry)

View from the West Stand: Willis and Maguire leave Portsmouth pointless

Malcolm Dawson writes……..In a week in which a young bride excitedly looking forward to her honeymoon, wakes to find she is a widow and a family man is stabbed to death with a screwdriver in a busy shopping centre, apparently trying to stop an altercation, I find it difficult to put any real significance on the result of a football match.

But I was there yesterday in my usual seat and found the experience somewhat more satisfying than that of a fortnight ago. It was no surprise to find us one nil down in the first half – when are we not? But up until that point we had looked more lively than we had in the opening minutes of either of the two previous league outings.

I won’t harp on about lax refereeing as the defence really should have dealt with the move that resulted in the Portsmouth opener, and which came from an error in midfield, but Maguire and McNulty were constantly being manhandled by the Pompey defence and a free kick should have been awarded to us, immediately prior to their goal. I’d like to see where in the Laws of the Game it says it is permissible to grab a player around the neck with one arm, whilst simultaneously pushing him over with the other but referee Michael Salisbury seemed to find that sort of thing allowable. That said Alim Ozturk quickly realised this and used a similar tactic when he could. Doesn’t make it right though.

But it didn’t take long for us to get back on terms, Leadbitter showing why he is such a threat in dead ball situations, then McGeady and Maguire combining nicely for the winner and I went home reasonably satisfied.

Jake does his bit for the seat change

I’m no fan of these early kick off times, even though now it is a lot easier for me to get to a 12.30 home game since moving back to the North East than it was when a trip to the Stadium of Light was a three hour journey on a good day. So it was at a relatively civilised time I left home with time for a latte and a bacon sarnie in the Roker End cafe. Pity the 800 or so Portsmouth fans who had travelled up for this one, though the two I spoke to were students at the Uni and had an even shorter trip to the game than I had.

As Mickey Gray and his co-commentator faffed about on the touchline there was relative satisfaction around and about at the team that was announced, with only a couple of changes from the side that started at Accrington in midweek. McLaughlin J back between the sticks was no surprise and with McGeady replacing Grigg it looked as if Ross had decided to stick with a back four, two holding midfielders, two wide men in Gooch and Geads with Maguire just behind McNulty to form a two man mobile strike force.

We set down a marker straight from the kick off as a long ball, directly into the path of McNulty looked momentarily threatening, but it was too strong and was easily collected by MaGillvary, whose bright green kit contrasted sharply with the insipid grey effort that the outfield ten were wearing. We were quick out of the traps and the M people up front were lively, in sharp contrast to the slow start we made against Oxford. For Portsmouth Curtis found some space in the box and outjumped O’Nien, back in at right back, but his header sailed high over the bar without threatening McLaughlin’s goal.

Marc McNulty thanks to bbc.co.uk

With 24 minutes on the clock, McLaughlin sent a high ball up towards McNulty who was on the end of a two handed push from Burgess, the Pompey number 6 but with those of us who had a clear view of the foul screaming for a free kick, the ref waved play on. Not a lot of danger in midfield apparently, but when Power tried to get a foot in, he just succeeded in playing in Marcus Harness who burst forward into the box. We had chances to clear it but a couple of unintended deflections later it broke back to Harness who drove the ball, through Power’s outstretched legs, across goal and into the bottom corner.

We are so used to going a goal behind at home now, that it is no longer a cause for concern, at least where I sit, when it happens early in the game. Frustration only kicks in later if it doesn’t look like we are going to get back on terms or push on for the three points. And it didn’t take us long. Immediately following the goal, McGeady and McLaughlin C linked up when the latter’s shot was deflected behind for a corner. Then two minutes later after a bit of pressure from McGeady who had popped up on the right wing, Burgess ran the ball out for another corner, taken by Leadbitter. The new skipper brings us a quality set piece delivery and his pinpoint kick was well met by the run of

Jordan Willis. Photo by courtesy of safc,com

Jordan Willis who got there ahead of the surrounding defenders and powered home his header.

Game on. Ten minutes later a hopeful high punt forward from Alim Asturk was controlled by McNulty, who somehow found McGeady. An attempted clearance ricocheted off Geads’  shin and he was away. A delightful pull back across the face of goal found Maguire who slid the ball into the empty net and we were in front. Now the big question was would we hold onto that lead.

Half time came and went and not long into the second period, the ever lively McNulty chased after a long ball and pulled up holding his hamstring. He went off to be replaced by Charlie Wyke, whose greater physical presence brings a different dimension to our attacking play and after he came on we won more clearances and his hold up play was good. Let’s hope McNulty’s injury is not too severe though.

Apparently we tried to sign John Marquis in January, and he had a great opportunity to put McLaughlin under pressure when he latched onto a ball on the right of the penalty area but his shot was way off target. The next best chance that Pompey had came from a powerful diving header, from Grant Leadbitter of all people. Fortunately the diving orange flash that was Jon McLaughlin pulled off a fantastic save.

Chris Maguire

We had other chances. Wyke just failed to get his outstretched toe on the ball to flick it home. O’Nien and Maguire had penalty shouts waved away, whilst at the other end Ozturk got a foot on a decent effort from Harness after a piece of free flowing build up play but this was a good three points.

I can’t say we dominated the game but we certainly showed more positivity than we had against Oxford and in that first half at Ipswich. We still look vulnerable at times but this is League 1. The pairing of Willis and Ozturk looked solid enough for this level, though by no means error free. Leadbitter and Power in front gives us strength through the middle and Maguire and McNulty showed good movement and moved the opposition about. Gooch had a decent game and O’Nien does a decent enough job at full back.

We are still a work in progress but we have a squad with enough players who are good enough to get us out of this division. The effort is there, the commitment is there. Now it is a question of finding the right combinations of players, implementing the right strategies and finding ways to change things around when they are not going to plan.

This was no classic but in case you have forgotten, we are unbeaten this season. My worry now is that with Rochdale on Tuesday and Wimbledon next Saturday, we will be expecting to be on 11 points by this time next week and if past experience is anything to go by this is a sure fire recipe for disappointment.

Prove me wrong boys.

Ha’way the Lads.

match highlights via safc.com

 

 

Sixer’s sevens: Portsmouth make it heavy at the Stadium of Light

John McCormick writes: Let’s not quibble. We were not good. However, we had enough character to come back from a poor goal against a team that will feature at the end of the season and that must bode well,  for morale as much as for League position. Such wins are not to be sniffed at and I’m sure the crowd will have gone home happy.

We’ll find out tomorrow whether that can be said of our men at the match, when we get a full report. At the moment I don’t know if Malcolm or Pete will supply it. I do know Pete’s immediate post-game feelings, courtesy of a seven word text that winged its way south as the final whistle blew:

Read moreSixer’s sevens: Portsmouth make it heavy at the Stadium of Light

Did beating Sunderland at Wembley compensate for not going up? Portsmouth views invited

Jake: ‘a big one’

NB: the official web address of Salut! Sunderland is now https://safc.blog for those who like to bookmark the site. Using https instead of http should eliminate the annoying ‘site not secure’ warnings and, worse, re-direction to a dodgy Turkish site …

Our usual pre-match buildup has been disrupted by a technical issue, now resolved. This was how we invited Pompey fans to take part in our lazy new version of the traditional Who are You? series. Apologies to readers who found a way here despite our problems and have already seen what follows …

Playing the same team five times in one season, in the case of away trips as far away as is possible without falling into the sea, should be like one of those long trials after which 12 good men (and/or women) and true are excused further jury duties for life.

But no, Sunderland must face Portsmouth at least twice season, starting with Saturday’s early kickoff and not in the league we both fancied ourselves playing.

Salut! Sunderland has run a Who are You? series for most of its 12 years of existence. It has yielded superb interviews with followers of opposing clubs, whether celebrities, churchmen, writers, politicians. broadcasters, former players and managers or “ordinary” fans.

But setting up interviews is hard graft and this season, we are posting a shorter list of questions here and inviting supporters to answer as many of them as they wish.

If the quality of the answers we received for the Ipswich Town game is maintained, we will keep the annual Haway (Highly Articulate Who are You?) awards going. If the response is more like readers saw for the Oxford and Accrington games, our kind prize sponsors will not be troubled next May.

Read moreDid beating Sunderland at Wembley compensate for not going up? Portsmouth views invited

Sunderland vs Portsmouth: familiar friends, or not quite? Guess the Score

Jake: ‘a big one’

A technical fault means our headlines are not currently being picked up by NewsNow. This will seriously affect readership levels and it will be a struggle to attract Pompey fans to answer the questions below. So the Who are You? exercise is combined with Guess the Score – just for fun because the fault is proving very expensive to fix.

Playing the same team five times in one season, in the case of away trips as far away as is possible without falling into the sea, should be like one of those long trials after which 12 good men (and/or women) and true are excused further jury duties for life.

But no, Sunderland must face Portsmouth at least twice season, starting with Saturday’s early kickoff and not in the league we both fancied ourselves playing.

This posting is aimed in particular at Pompey supporters. Salut! Sunderland has run a Who are You? series for most of its 12 years of existence. It has yielded superb interviews with followers of opposing clubs, whether celebrities, churchmen, writers, politicians. broadcasters, former players and managers or “ordinary” fans.

But setting up interviews is hard graft and this season, we are posting a shorter list of questions here and inviting supporters to answer as many of them as they wish.

If the quality of the answers we received for the Ipswich Town game is maintained, we will keep the annual Haway (Highly Articulate Who are You?) awards going. If the response is more like readers saw for the Oxford and Accrington games, our kind prize sponsors will not be troubled next May.

And while you are here, Guess the Score. Just for fun.

Read moreSunderland vs Portsmouth: familiar friends, or not quite? Guess the Score

Accrington Stanley vs Sunderland: victory would boost confidence for the Pompey test

Jake: ‘Pkmoey’s the bigger game, but a win here would be nice’

The invitation to supporters of our Carabao Cup opponents, Accrington Stanley, to answer a few questions from Salut! Sunderland has received more or less the response we might have expected.

Not one of the hardy souls who follow “the club that wouldn’t die” has taken us up on the offer.

The questions are repeated below in case there is more enthusiasm with the game being that much closer. There isn’t much to update; Stanley’s first home game of the season was suspended because of the continuing crisis at the intended opponents, Bury, so they remain pointless.

Another invitation – to supporters of Sunderland and Ipswich to predict the outcome of Saturday’s game at Portman Road fared better.

The absence of a prize did not deter readers and the posting attracted a healthy 18 responses, though not all were entries. David Miller correctly forecast 1-1 and is probably cursing Salut! Sunderland for making it a prizeless edition.

Let’s have another go, once again for fun. Do we care too much about a league cup game? Well, clearly not as much we care about Saturday’s tough league match at home to Portsmouth, who beat us twice last season as we played each other five times (including the Checkatrade final and the play-off semis). But for those of us who want Sunderland to win every game, a strong and successful performance at the tiny Wham stadium would be welcome – and do no harm to confidence after our less than resounding start to the season.

Read moreAccrington Stanley vs Sunderland: victory would boost confidence for the Pompey test

Sunderland, Portsmouth, Ipswich, Peterborough, Rotherham and Doncaster – the League One top six?

John McCormick,  writes: our ‘who to follow’ poll remained quiet, although the trickle of votes that came in over the last week did result in some changes. Sunderland and Portsmouth are clear leaders, with not much between them, after which we have Ipswich, Rotherham and Peterborough. Then come Doncaster, who edged ahead of Coventry, followed at a distance by Lincoln and Burton.

I did expect Blackpool to do better but our site appears to have attracted few of their fans. Their season tickets had reached 4,818, when I last checked, so there’s obviously life returning to this once-troubled club. That’s about twice the number sold by Coventry, whose own troubles are nowhere being resolved and who slipped out of our top six after Doncaster Rovers gained a few votes. A third troubled club, Bolton Wanderers, who might or might not be sold by the time this post goes live, also didn’t do too badly and finished in the top half of the table. I don’t know how they’ll do that with only 7 first team players but what do I know about football?

Read moreSunderland, Portsmouth, Ipswich, Peterborough, Rotherham and Doncaster – the League One top six?

Promotion poll: Sunderland vie with Portsmouth but can Burton, Lincoln or Doncaster make top six?

John McCormick, associate editor, writes: things have quietened down with our ‘who to follow’ poll, as we might expect. Portsmouth, Sunderland and Ipswich are clear leaders, with not much between them, after which we have Rotherham and Peterborough. Then comes Coventry, followed at a distance by Donny, Lincoln and Burton.

That’s interesting because on Wednesday over at  Roker Report, Nick Barnes, who knows more about football than I ever will,  identified Lincoln and Burton as teams that could mount a challenge to Sunderland, along with Ipswich, Portsmouth, Peterborough and Coventry. He didn’t mention Rotherham.

I could extend our watch list to eight clubs, even nine on the grounds that Donny are ahead of Lincoln and Burton in our poll, and I have added clubs during the season – Luton last season being the most recent – but it makes graphics difficult to follow. So I’m going to stick with six.

Read morePromotion poll: Sunderland vie with Portsmouth but can Burton, Lincoln or Doncaster make top six?

Portsmouth then Sunderland, Ipswich, Rotherham, Peterborough and Coventry top our poll. But where are Lincoln?

On Friday we had over 3,000 visitors, followed by a quiet weekend. Not everyone took part in our top six poll  but over 1200 votes (not voters) have now been cast. That’s not bad, I suppose, for a League One fans’ site but I am expecting a few more will chip in before the season kicks off.

Early results suggest the headline I used then – for which I visited a couple of betting sites to find the promotion favourites – was on the right lines. Of the six clubs I named five are in the top spots. Lincoln (currently lingering in 8th place) are the exception with Sunderland, unsurprisingly, replacing them. There’s a gap – slight but quite evident – between the top three and the next three,  after which numbers drop off, so Lincoln and Doncaster, who made last season’s playoffs and now lie seventh, have quite a bit of ground to make up.

All of the clubs in the League received votes, which I’m taking to signify that we  managed a wide reach. It will be interesting to see if enough fans of so-called smaller clubs, which are predominantly towards the bottom of the poll, visit in large enough numbers to move their favourites upwards. Crowdwise, numbers are against them but we have only small numbers voting so you never know.

Read morePortsmouth then Sunderland, Ipswich, Rotherham, Peterborough and Coventry top our poll. But where are Lincoln?