Pete Sixsmith sent a bonfire night seven word text concerning the probability that we wouldn’t be making a trip to Wembley in the EFL Trophy. Tonight’s match provided an opportunity to keep the flame alive. Pete was watching Spennymoor beat Boston so I coined a seven-word text of my own not long after Luke O’Nien crowned a pathetic display which ended an apathetic group stage.
Then, at the final whistle Pete popped up with his own seven words. You can see his and my thoughts below:
(We still can’t post comments on this site. If you wish to make an after- match, or any, comment of your own you can always have your say at Salut! Sunderland’s Facebook group. Click on any of the preceding four words. If you are told that you need to join the group, you can do so easily. Approval is very quick.)
Malcolm Dawson writes………tied up as I am in a hotel in Lytham St Anne’s (and before you get any ideas – not literally tied up – it’s not that sort of hotel!) with no commentary to listen to I was reduced to using a combination of the club website and the BBC’s for text updates from Glanford Park, which is not only frustrating but frankly boring. It’s not easy to get a feel for the game this way but the main points that came through were that we had more possession but that Scunthorpe had the only shots on target and that Jon McLaughlin had made a couple of brilliant saves. Eventually up flashed the image announcing a goal had been scored and I was relieved to see that it was Josh Maja’s name beside it. Just like when I’m at the game however, one goal is never enough to quell the anxiety and the little pessimistic trait that surfaces when we go 1-0 up niggled away but the minutes ticked and I began to think that maybe we would just hold on. But it wasn’t to be and as the countdown clock ticked down I was disappointed, but not surprised to see an equalising goal had been conceded. A crackerjack by all accounts but still means another two points dropped late on.
The usual statistic trotted out is that a win at home and a draw away (or an average of two points per game) will get you promoted. We have 53 from 27 so are just about on track so as fans we should be feeling good about things. I would have settled for that pre-season and in truth, whilst we have dropped no end of points in some games we have also gained points in others. Recently however, we seem to have just dropped them. A worrying trait? I wasn’t there yesterday so can’t comment. Pete Sixsmith was and will. Read on dear reader, read on.
What do you make of a draw at Scunny? A point gained or two thrown away? Luton open a gap, Barnsley close one and Portsmouth falter, so it’s a bit mixed. On the whole, against a very in-form side I’m inclined to be optimistic but I wasn’t there.
Pete Sixsmith, who was, will give us his considered opinion tomorrow. For now we’ll have to make do with his seven word post-match text and the warning it contains:
It’s over 100 years since E M Forster wrote “The Machine Stops”. If you haven’t read it I suggest you give it a go. After you have you won’t worry too much about the slight delay to the publication of this post in Pete Sixsmith’s “First Time ” series. You might, however, worry about the prevalence of the gremlins that stopped it reaching us.
“The Machine Stops”, by the way, is recognised as a classic in the world of science fiction. Pete Sixsmith, not quite as old, is recognised as a classic in the world of football writing. You know why:
Monsieur Salut writes: Ian Moore* came our way thanks to Matt Blanchard from the Scunthorpe Iron-Bru fan site and podcast (Matt answered our questions in superb style before the first game, which Sunderland won 3-0). It’s another fine addition to the best Who are You? series I can recall in Salut! Sunderland‘s 12 years of existence. But I fear his plea to away supporters to think of something new rather than trotting out My Garden Shed will fall on deaf ears, especially when they find out Alan Shearer is among his sporting heroes (I made up the bit about our fans’ musical tribute to him) …
Monsieur Salut introduces the latest prize Guess the Score competition. Don’t worry if your entry is ‘held for moderation’ – it can happen if you haven’t posted before or are using a different computer – as we will know when you tried to post it and if more than one reader correctly predicts the outcome, that will determine who was first …
At the beginning of the season, Rod Liddle – that most acquired of tastes as a man and a writer – wrote about Sunderland in The Sunday Times: “Let’s see how these overpaid moppets cope at Scunny on a cold January afternoon.”
Liddle is a Millwall fan so presumably won’t be there to “see” how things go.
With a break this weekend it’s time to revisit our “Ones to watch”.
If you’ve been following this series you’ll remember that we’re tracking six clubs over the course of the season. The six were chosen by a people’s vote, that new tool of democracy, with the club which came top of the poll – Coventry City – also providing a baseline against which the other five will be compared.
If you’re wondering how Coventry came to be chosen click the hyperlinks at the bottom of the page. (And if you want to see how I’ve followed our selected teams in previous seasons you can follow this link ).
Malcolm Dawson writes……..two weeks ago we celebrated the first win of the Donald/Methvyn/Jack Ross era in a way that was hard to beat with a winner deep into time added on, having fallen behind in the first half. Today beat that. I’d like to say this was the perfect performance. It wasn’t and the manager admitted that there is room for improvement but hey this afternoon was the most enjoyable I’ve experienced at the Stadium of Light for I don’t know how long. It was better than the Charlton game because for this one the passing was crisp, the movement brisk, the energy levels stratospheric and we went ahead, then further ahead and after the third went in even I could relax just a little and savour the performance, with just the ever lingering apprehension that this is Sunderland and that anything can happen.
But this is a different Sunderland. Here is a group of players who seem to be revelling in playing for the club. They were organised, confident on the ball and worked for each other. Gosh they even moved about and made themselves available when we had a throw in and it’s an age since I’ve seen that!
The crowd was fantastic again and even sang Lee Cattermole’s name at one point perhaps showing those who were giving him some stick in recent weeks that he can still be an asset if an expensive one. The same goes for Oviedo who could have gone off following a painful challenge, but stayed on to finish the game. At the end Maguire, who had been subbed came back on the pitch to thank the crowd and was last off together with Loovens who looks as if he really can’t believe his luck at being signed.
Add to that the mentions the crowd got from Methven and McLaughlin in the programme for the roar of encouragement that went up following the Charlton goal alongside the piece from our own Pete Sixsmith.
Speaking of Pete I suppose I better stop eulogising and let him recount today’s proceedings in his own eloquent way. That’s what you are here for after all!
At half time, after we had stopped pinching ourselves about the score and the quality of football we had witnessed, Neil Scott, an irregular Hetton Irregular and who sits in front of me at The Stadium turned around and said, “When were we last 3 up at half time at home?”
Neither of us knew, although we both remembered that day in February 2017 when goals from Kone, Ndong and Defoe (2) put us four up at Crystal Palace in what was Bryan Oviedo’s debut.
We also remembered that glorious day in February 1964 when we were three up at home to League Champions Everton in an FA Cup 5th Round game in front of 62,817 thanks to goals from Jimmy McNab in the third minute, Charlie Hurley in the 27th and an own goal from Mick Meagan in the 32nd. We went on to win 3-1 and take on Manchester United three times in the quarter final. Some research back at Sixsmith Towers turned up a game against Stoke City in September 2011 when Titus Bramble., a Jonathon Woodgate own goal and a Craig Gardener free kick sent us into the dressing rooms 3 up. Seb Larsson wrapped it up in the 58th.
Since then, nothing – or at least until today, when Scunthorpe United were despatched in as comfortable a way as I have seen for a long time. Yes, it’s the Third Division, yes, they have lost some good players over the summer, no I am not going to get carried away – and yes, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
So too did 28,000 Sunderland supporters as they watched a team that has been thrown together since July play in a swashbuckling way that has rarely been seen at The Stadium since the great days of Quinn and Phillips, Johnston and Summerbee and Makin and Gray. Players looked comfortable on the ball. There was solid defending. The midfield moved quickly. There were spells of intense short passing and then, BOOM, a raking long ball from one side of the field to the other was played.
The goalkeeper was sound. Both first choice full backs drew on their considerable experience and went forward well. Oviedo was excellent both as an attacker and a defender. His cross for Max Power’s goal was as good as the one he put in for Gooch two weeks ago and he linked brilliantly with Gooch and Maguire.
Baldwin and Loovens looked as safe as the Bank of England at the back. Lee Novak, the Scunthorpe forward, had a very low rate of interest in this game, as Baldwin had him in his pocket for the entire ninety minutes and Loovens was calmness personified apart form a couple of minor blips.
But it was in midfield that the most pleasure was to be derived.
Lee Cattermole’s recall was not greeted with universal approbation. Some thought it a risk. He had done well enough in the practice match that masqueraded as a League Cup tie on Thursday, but how would he cope with a league in which he had had no experience? Was he too slow? Would he be caught out? Was he a liability? “Nay, nay, a thousand times nay” as Frankie Howard used to say. Used in a role that suited him perfectly just in front of the back four and with willing youngsters there to do his running, he had a stormer and even got into the Scunthorpe box.
Aided and abetted by the impressive Max Power (crazy name, crazy guy), the industrious George Honeyman and the mercurial Lynden Gooch, The Iron were hammered into a shape akin to that of a flattened Tom Cat when Jerry Mouse cuts the rope thus allowing the anvil to fall on the foolish feline.
Chris Maguire popped up everywhere and Josh Maja produced some shimmies and moves that would guarantee him a place on Strictly were he ever to become really famous.
The goals were splendid. A powerful header from who else but Max of that ilk, reminded this watcher of Charlie Hurley in his pomp. The delivery by Oviedo was as out of place at a third level game as Richard Burton would have been at the Brandon and Byshottles Amateur Dramatic and Light Opera Group. It begged to be thumped in and it was.
Oviedo also played a part in the second, working the ball to Maja who whipped it into the net to keep up his average of a goal a game. He should have made it a goal every 0.75 of a game in the second half had he planted a ridiculously easy chance between the posts, But good players often miss easy chances – Kevin Phillips missed a few and Pop Robson once put one over the bar at White Hart Lane from two yards.
The third was a sublime back heel by Chris Maguire after a wonderful one two from Honeyman and Gooch. Our American winger had destroyed the Scunthorpe full back, Lewis Butroid, a young player starting his second full season as an Iron first teamer. He will lock himself in a cupboard for the next few weeks whenever the name Gooch is mentioned because I have rarely seen a defender systematically destroyed as this young man was. Hopefully, his career will recover – or at least until January when we play them again.
Scunny were outclassed and outplayed. The penalty claims they made in the first half were genuine but a look at it shows that Baldwin got to the ball before George Thomas and headed it away before the forward tumbled over. The referee, who was at best ok, called that one right. But throughout the game the 10 outfield players pressed the men in yellow all over the pitch and never allowed the opposition to settle. Furthermore all 11 players made themselves available to receive a pass so there were always options for the ball carrier. Most times good decisions were made. Occasionally the desire to create openings and play the ball out from the back led to errors but Jack Ross is developing a culture where players are encouraged to play without fear.
One swallow does not make a summer but the signs here were very encouraging. When Matthews limped off and James came on, we switched to a back three and pushed Oviedo up. Would any of the previous three managers have done that? Answers on a postcard please.
There are two difficult tests looming next week. A minimum of two points is required and four or above would be more than satisfactory. Flanagan and McGeouch may be ready for one or both, leaving Jack Ross with some tricky decisions to make.
Good. That’s how it should be……….
I can’t remember the last time I put in a (3)-(0) to signify the half time scoreline when setting up for Pete Sixsmith’s post-game text. From what I read on the all too infrequent comments coming up on the SAFC website that score was well deserved and the final score could have been more. But 3-0 it remained. What happened in the second 45? I suspect more of the same but who knows, other than Pete and 29,000 other lucky souls.
We’ll have to wait for Pete’s match report to see if it really was a game of two halves. For now, here’s his instant seven-word summary:
John McCormick writes: Scunthorpe itself probably predates the Norman Conquest as the suffix “Thorpe” in a place name indicates a certain level of antiquity. Anglo-Saxon/Old Scandinavian in origin, it typically indicates an area of Danish settlement. Scunthorpe United doesn’t have have quite the same level of antiquity. It was founded in 1899 but it wasn’t until 1950 that it gained entry to the Football League (with a McCormick playing in their first ever FL game), and it took another few years before the club dropped “and Lindsey” and adopted its present name. In those early years (the 50s, not the Norman Conquest) Pete Sixsmith was just a snip of a lad, and by the time he was old enough to travel to Roker, Scunthorpe and Sunderland were in different divisions.
Even so, he has seen Scunthorpe play. Did you ever doubt it?