Last season our punters got it more or less right and correctly predicted most of the top six. Luton were missed but that was mainly down to the Coventry Ninjas, whose hijack of last year’s poll pushed them (Luton) out of the top places.
Maybe the ninjas or another club’s fans will do the same again this season. As far as I’m aware the polldaddy vulnerability that allowed multiple voting still exists and all I can do is disable the ability of readers to see the results in real time. That might change how the poll coding works (it’s built-in and can’t be changed) but it takes something away. A pity, but there we go.
I’ve got a lot on for the next few weeks so I won’t be conjuring up a novel method of tracking and displaying our chosen clubs’ progress or the lack of it. All I’ll be doing is monitoring the accretion of points for now, though I might come up with something different later in the season.
As always, your comments are welcome. We hold posts for moderation but they do go up eventually, subject to meeting commonsense rules of decency, manners, libel etc.
It was on 18th June that I put up the first in this series, covering the League One clubs beginning A-L, apart from Bury, Blackpool and Bolton. This, part two, was intended to cover the back end of the alphabet but, at 2,300 words, ended up far too big for a single webpage.
There was only one answer. I had to split the piece and cover only five clubs, meaning there will be a part three for the last five and part four for the Lancashire Bs and Sunderland. These will arrive at some yet undetermined point in the future, bet you can’t wait.
Who would have thought? Wembley not once but twice and in the same season.
Monsieur Salut is old enough to have been at the famous Bob Stokoe/Jimmy Montgomery/Ian Porterfield FA Cup final on May 5 1973. Sadly, the promised ticket didn’t materialise so the game was watched with plenty of beer to hand in a first-floor flat in Uxbridge.
Malcolm Dawson writes…….at half time Pete Sixsmith’s text was less than complimentary about our opponents who he feels reflect the attitude and personality of their manager. Watching on TV there were some obvious examples of what some might call acceptable gamesmanship and others underhand.
But with a 1-0 lead at the three quarter mark I was still apprehensive about whether or not we’d hang on and even with only a minute left the butterflies were fluttering in my stomach.
How Pete was feeling at Fratton park he’ll doubtlessly let us know when he eventually gets round to filing his match report. For now let’s make do with his 7 word verdict.
16 May 2019 Portsmouth 0 (o) Sunderland 0 (0) Disciplined and controlled from start to finish.
11 May 2019 Sunderland 1 (0) Portsmouth 0 (0) Deserved, thanks to gutsy second half performance.
4 May 2019 Southend United 2 (1) Sunderland 1 (0) Deserved nothing. Southend kept going. We didn’t.
30 April 2019 Fleetwood Town 2 (0) Sunderland 1 (1) Lost any semblance of control after leading/More points dropped to an average team/Lost – worst league finish in our history
27 April 2019 Sunderland 1 (1) Portsmouth 1 (1) A frustrating result against unpleasant opponents
22 April Peterborough United 1(0) Sunderland 1 (0) Bitterly disappointed at the end. Automatic gone
19 April 2019 Sunderland 2 (2) Doncaster Rovers 0 (0) The manager gambled and it came off
13 April 2019 Sunderland 4 (3) Coventry City 5 (3) Incredible but for all the wrong reasons
09 April Sunderland 1 (1) Burton Albion 1 (1) Looked a tired side against sprightly opposition
06 April Rochdale 1 (1) Sunderland 2 (0) Had to battle for a huge win.
April 2 Accrington Stanley 0 (0) Sunderland 3 ( 2 ) Comfortable win with some excellent individual performances
March 31 EFL Checkatrade Trophy final: Sunderland 2 (1) Portsmouth 2 (0) (AET. Portsmouth win on penalties.)
*Penalties gloom as Lads fade after interval.
March 16 Sunderland 2 (1) Walsall 1 (1) Nervy and edgy but it’s three points
March 12 Barnsley 0 (0) Sunderland 0 (0) Difficult opponents, difficult conditions: a good point
March 9 Wycombe Wanderers 1 (1) Sunderland 1 (0) We’ll take the point and move on
March 5 Checkatrade trophy semifinal: Bristol Rovers 0 (0) Sunderland 2 (1) Controlled performance means we’re off to Wembley
March 2 Sunderland 2 (1) Plymouth Argyle 0 (0) Great first half followed by competent second
February 23 Bristol Rovers 0 (0) Sunderland 2 (1) Rather a good day at the office
February 19 Sunderland 4 (2) Gillingham 2 (2) Not entirely convincing but it’s a win
February 15 Sunderland (0) 2 Accrington Stanley (1) 2 Two points dropped but grateful for one
February 12 Sunderland (0) 1 Blackpool (1) 1 Two chances missed equals two lost points
February 9 Oxford United (0) 1 Sunderland (1) 1 Scunthorpe all over again. Two points wasted
February 2 2019 Sunderland 1 (0) AFC Wimbledon 0 (0) A welcome win but hard to watch
Checkatrade Trophy quarterfinals: January 22 Sunderland 2 (1) Manchester City Under 21s 0 (0) Clean sheet, two goals and a semifinal
January 19 Scunthorpe United 1 (0) Sunderland 1 (o) Same old story. One goal rarely enough
January 12 Sunderland 1 (1) Luton 1 (0) Failure to build on lead costs us
January 5 Charlton (0) 1 Sunderland (1) 1 * Sunderland weather storm to earn useful point
January 1 Blackpool (0) 0 Sunderland (1) 1 Outstanding performance by Maja earns the points
December 29 Sunderland (1) 1 Shrewsbury Town (1) 1 A very frustrating afternoon. Never got going
December 26 Sunderland (1) Bradford City (0) 0 Hard fought win and thanks to linesman
December 22 Portsmouth (0) 3 Sunderland (0) 1 Better side until Loovens’s idiocy turned game
December 15 Sunderland 2 (1) Bristol Rovers 1 (1) * Just enough quality snuffs out the gas and Gas pressure tests us at the end
December 11 FA Cup 2nd Round replay Sunderland 0 (0) Walsall 1 (0) Pedestrian performance that raises some serious doubts
December 8 Accrington Stanley A (0) Match Abandoned Sunderland (0) Wet, wet, wet and to do again
December 1 Walsall 1 (0) strong>Sunderland 1 (0) *Fifteen minutes of Walsall pressure means replay
Nov 27 Sunderland 4 (3) Barnsley 2 (1) An important win with some shaky moments
Nov 24 Walsall 2 (2) Sunderland 2 (2) Even more heroic than Thermopylae and Agincourt
Nov 17 Sunderland 1 (0) Wycombe Wanderers 1 (0) A fair result after a disappointing performanceI
Nov 13 Morecambe 0 (0) Sunderland 1 (0) Left it late but the run continues
Nov 11 Port Vale 1 (1) Sunderland 2 (2) Negotiated a tricky tie successfully. Southport next?
Nov 3 Plymouth Argyle (0) 0 Sunderland (0) 2* Solid team performance earns another away win*
Oct 27 Sunderland 3 (1) Southend United 0 (0) Three goals and another clean sheet. Great
Oct 23 Doncaster Rovers 0 Sunderland 1 (0) Winning ugly is just fine by me.
Oct 20 Shrewsbury Town 0 (0) Sunderland 2 (0) A comfortable win that just oozed professionalism
Oct 6 Bradford City 1 (0) Sunderland 2 (1) Great win but Power made it difficult
Oct 2 Sunderland 2 (1) Peterborough 2 (0) Good point but spoiled by woeful refereeing
Sept 29 Coventry City (0) 1 Sunderland (0) 1 Fair result that could have been worse
Sept 22 Sunderland 4 (3) Rochdale 1 (0) Fifteen minute purple patch wrapped this up
Sept 15 Burton Albion 2 (2) Sunderland 1 (o) Weaknesses horribly exposed in a deserved defeat
Sept 8 Sunderland 1 (1) Fleetwood Town 1 (1) Huffed and puffed against very difficult opponents
Sept 4 Sunderland 0 (0)  Stoke City U21s 0 (0)  *Decent workout for young guns and recoverees
Sept 1 Sunderland 1 (0) Oxford United 1 (1 ) Poor first half, dug in well second
Aug 19 Sunderland 3 (3) Scunthorpe United 0 (0) Iron pummeled as three lusty blows delivered
Aug 16 Carabao Cup: Sunderland (0) 0 Sheffield Wednesday (1) 2 Result disappointing but plenty to enthuse about
Aug 11 Luton Town (0) 1 Sunderland (1) 1 Played well in patches against solid opposition
Aug 4 Sunderland (0) 2 Charlton Athletic (1) 1 A great day for club and academy
July 21 St Mirren (0) 0 Sunderland (2) 6 * Cracking results like this will suit fine
July 17 Grimsby Town (0) Sunderland (1) 1 *Gooch’s header from Maguire’s cross settles matters
July 14 Hartlepool United (1) 1 Sunderland (0) 1 Yet to see anything to inspire confidence
July 10 Darlington (1) 1 Sunderland (0) 0 Embarrassing
Talk about doing it the hard way.
We knew the playoffs would be tough and that is how it is turning out, at least for us.
To no great surprise, we take a narrow lead to Portsmouth while Charlton grabbed a straightforward 2-1 win at Doncaster – forget the away goals, or absence of them, since these do not count in the EFL playoffs – and the finalists will be known by the end of this week. Our game is first up, on Thursday night, with Charlton completing what ought to be a formality 24 hours later.
Malcolm Dawson writes…..thanks to the Lads’ inability to get anything from their two days at the seaside at the end of the regular season, this was to be my last live game of the campaign as I have a hospital appointment for an old man’s scan on Thursday and a pre-arranged commitment back in Lytham, should we have to make a return trip to Wembley. Thanks to SKY TV and the armchair football fan it kicked off at the strange time and doubtless there were more than a few season card holders who refused pay the extra for this game or to give up their Saturday night at the pub and watched proceedings there. As much as I dislike the way fixtures are arranged for the benefit of TV, at least it means I shall be able to follow our progress in the quest for promotion.
I’m not sure if Pete Sixsmith was at the Bradford Bulls v Leeds Rhinos game yesterday afternoon. I know he was thinking of going, so if he did he was probably fuming on the drive back up the A1, after the Bulls, once all conquering and mighty, but now massive underdogs put their near neighbours to the sword.
Would events at the Stadium of Light cheer him up? Let’s find out
PORTSMOUTH SENT PACKING.
Played four, won one, lost one, drawn two. Goals for 5, goals against 6.
One penalty shoot out (lost), two red cards, one flare thrown, two decent performances, one disappointing one and one – this one- that had us reaching into our souls, dragging up almost the last reserves of energy and taking a lead into the second leg of a play off game. The previous three games had been memorable in their own way.
By all accounts, Portsmouth played well at Fratton Park and deserved their 3-1 win, albeit all of their goals came after a contentious red card for Glen Loovens and the Wembley final was the proverbial game of two halves, with us dominating the first 45 and them the second before extra time and penalties.
The league game two weeks ago saw a blinding performance from their keeper to keep out efforts from Wyke and McGeady and the general feeling was that we were the better side and certainly the one who declined to extend the limits of “acceptable” gamesmanship, particularly in the second half.
Both clubs would have been a tad disappointed to be in the play offs, especially as perceived “smaller” clubs had bagged the automatics by dint of being better. That was reflected in a reduction of spectator numbers from both clubs, with there being a good 15,000 less than those who turned out on the last Saturday in April. No doubt they will all have good reasons for not being there. Some of them may be genuine.
Having said that, their choice not to attend appeared to be vindicated in a tight and rather turgid first half. It was as cagey as one would expect a semi final first leg to be between two sides who know each other pretty well and who are both desperate to re-join the money loss machine that is The Championship with its 5.15 Saturday kick offs, ailing former giants and a whole hour of Colin Murray on Quest. Maybe we should stay where we are…..
Portsmouth made changes. In came Hawkins, a threat at Wembley, and Evans started, but our old favourites were still there. Thompson, he of the most conspicuous dive of the season, Lowe, the man who kicks the ball away at every opportunity and Burgess, a petulant child inside the body of a man, who thinks it is fine to manhandle Wyke but who squeals like a frustrated six-year-old when anything happens to him.
We had changes as well after last week’s debacle at Southend.
O’Nien and Oviedo came in at full back, Morgan returned for Grigg and, prior to kick off, we thought that McGeady was back for Gooch. Alas, no. His foot was still giving him pain and he withdrew. Cue frantic tactical revisions in away dressing room as Portsmouth decided who to kick the most seeing as McGeady wasn’t playing and Maguire was only on the bench. Wyke got the short straw.
He had the kind of game that we have needed from him all season. He was brave, he worked so hard that he put Stakhanov, the Soviet Hero of Labour, to shame and he had Christian Burgess to contend with. The constant fouling was bad enough, but for a lad brought up in Middlesbrough, it must have been the constant whining that got to him:
“Please Mr Referee, he stood on my foot. He’s not being fair. I only tried to pull the shirt off his back.”
“Shut the f*** up and get on with it.”
“Mr Referee, he sweared at me. That’s not nice. You should tell his mammy what he been and gone and done.”
Enter Captain Mainwaring type figure in referee’s kit;
“Yes, I will, Christian. Wyke, behave yourself and no more of that rough type of play. This is a game for gentle boys with man buns not craggy oafs like you.”
And so it continued ad nauseam.
We huffed and puffed and didn’t do a great deal in the first half, but they did even less and looked happy to settle for a 0-0.
Enter Chris Maguire. He replaced Lewis Morgan, who has ability but who does not relish a physical challenge – so Portsmouth will not be his favourite opponents. Maguire’s arrival came after McGillivray had made a blistering save from a Honeyman header and within minutes of coming on, the former Portsmouth loanee had won the game for us.
Wyke put pressure on the Portsmouth defence, a weak header landed near Maguire who produced a stunning volley to settle the game. Brilliant goal from a player who has dazzled and frustrated in equal portions this season. Should he start on Thursday, they will target him continually and he will have to keep control of himself.
Then we lost Ozturk to a poor decision by another poor referee.
Andy Woolmer had a decent first half but he must have had a message at half time from friends and family saying that they were disappointed that they hadn’t seen much of him, could he do something about it please because all the neighbours were round and Mrs Baker from Number 22 thought he wasn’t doing enough to get in the cameras. So he sent Ozturk off for denying Evans a clear goal scoring opportunity – except that it wasn’t. It was a foul and a yellow card, but Evans did not have the ball under control and was heading away from goal. The “last man” argument is redundant now – it has to be a clear opportunity.
Mr Woolmer got his moment of fame and Ozturk, who had been excellent and had many wondering why he hadn’t been in the team earlier with his lusty tackles, excellent positioning and competitive attitude – although he does lack pace – trooped off to the dressing rooms. Flanagan has looked far more confident alongside the former Hearts man and there were worries that Dunne may flounder. He didn’t and, apart from the subsequent free kick hitting the bar, the consistently excellent McLaughlin had little to do.
Jackett sent on the cavalry to try and take advantage of our numerical deficiency but we held on, with Cattermole and Power shielding the defence, the full backs working hard and Honeyman turning up everywhere. Maguire hit the post and we saw the game out successfully.
We go to Fratton Park and its decaying infrastructure on Thursday for what will be a very difficult 90/120 minutes. There are no away goals counting double, so we need to draw or win to go through. It will be difficult. They will have their usual 19,000 crowd baying for blood and putting pressure on the referee. It will be difficult, but the only time we have gone into a second leg without being a goal down, we won. Newcastle 1990 – Gates 13, Gabbiadini 85.
The home crowd for that tie was similar to the one on Saturday. The moaners who inhabit the seats behind me were not there and the whole experience was an improvement. The support roared the team home in the second half which is what support is supposed to do rather than moan and criticise. Few left before the end and many stayed to revel in a win. Biggest is not always best – as the actress said to the bishop.
Train tickets and hotel booked for Thursday.
Ha’way The Lads………
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A moral victory as well as an actual one, will that single goal be enough? That’s not a question I’m going to answer here as I don’t want to jinx a team that had more than enough bad luck in the first leg. It must be said the first 20 minutes were not good, but then we grew into the game and were dominant until an excellent substitution by Jack Ross was negated by a very poor refereeing deision
Pete Sixsmith will be doing a full report in due course, unless Malcolm subs for him, and will no doubt fulminate at length on that decision. For now he has but seven words with which to describe the game
@SunderlandAFC fans. Your support has been sensational. You have wanted to believe in us and have been inspirational. I appreciate a lot are frustrated with the p/offs. We can though still do this. We can reflect later but our best chance is with ur backing – together please???
— stewart donald (@stewartdonald3) May 4, 2019
A quick glance at our fellow-contenders for promotion via the playoffs shows we have Wembley previous against two of the three – and it’s not encouraging. Portsmouth beat us there in the Checkatrade Trophy final in March and plenty of us will never forget the anguish of 1998 against Charlton.
So if hoodoos exist, they need to be broken. Here’s your chance to say whether and how we’ll make a start on Saturday night.
Malcolm Dawson writes……whilst not mathematically denying us one of the two automatic promotion spots, yesterday’s result finally extinguished any realistic hope of avoiding the lottery that is the play-offs. At the start of the season I don’t suppose there are many supporters who would have said that only losing a total of three games out of 44, two by the odd goal and one after having a man sent off early doors, would be considered a failure but there are plenty of brickbats being thrown around in the wake of our 19th draw of the season.
A draw was really of no use to either side (although Portsmouth might still get an automatic promotion spot if they can win their last two games and either Barnsley or Luton fail to get maximum points next Saturday) so I was surprised that Pompey weren’t more adventurous in their play and that they were prepared to indulge in a lot of the time wasting tactics that seem prevalent in this division and having succeeded in getting Glenn Loovens sent off at Fratton Park, seemed to be trying the same trick, this time with Aiden McGeady one of their prime targets.
Some pundit or other was saying on the radio how successful Tottenham’s season has been so far and this is a side that has lost 12 times from 36 games. The ease with which social media allows instant reaction will no doubt be rife with those quick to point out how dreadful this result was towards the end of what to them has been a dreadful season. But those taking a more thoughtful and objective view will be of the opinion that our disappointment stems from hope and expectation. Some of us hoped we might go straight back up whilst others expected us to run away with the division. Games we might have expected to have won have seen us drop points and while our record might have seen us finishing in the top two most seasons, this year the form of Barnsley, Luton and Portsmouth have meant it hasn’t. That Spurs record shows 12 defeats but only 1 draw and dropping points at home to the likes of Shrewsbury, Wycombe, Accrington Stanley, Oxford and Fleetwood as well as a failure to hold on to leads at Wycombe, Oxford and Scunthorpe have ultimately cost us a top spot.
What I haven’t been disappointed with this season, is the effort and commitment to the club that team have shown, even if they haven’t often been dominant in games and haven’t always been able to get all three points. Unlike some I can’t fault the attitude. But the big success for me, whether we go up or not is the efforts the club has gone to reconnect with the supporters and after years of being treated like a customer with my support less valued by the club than by my local supermarkets, I once again feel a part of the SAFC community. The parade of miners’ banners, one of which was from Eppleton where my dad worked most of his life and which dominated the view from my bedroom window when I was growing up, yet another example of how the ownership is trying to re-engage with fans and whilst there will be sound economic reasons for them doing so, I am pleased to see it.
Anyway, my introduction seems to be almost as long as Pete Sixsmith’s match report. He was less than complimentary about our opponents on the way home last night. Has he tempered his views after a night’s kip? Let’s find out.
For a short while it was looking good. We were winnng and Barnsley were losing. Then it all turned round and, despite Luton’s loss, we didn’t do enough. Theoretically, we could still finish top but we know it won’t happen. More likely, we’ll be up against Charlton in the playoffs.
I think it’s Pete Sixsmith‘s turn to do tomorrow’s match report but I could be wrong. It’s definitely his text, though, and if you count the words you’ll see a little bit of symbology. Just like Sunderland, he’s come up a little bit short: