Snow in South West Durham ruled out Pete Sixsmith‘s first choice of football on Tuesday evening, just up Busty Bank and along the road from him at Shildon’s own threatre of dreams, Dean Street, but didn’t stop him making his way up to Sunderland for the Under 21s or whatever number you choose at home in the cup to Notts County …
Two games and two wins.
After the triumph against all the odds in Dorset, the Under 23s, or 21s or whatever they are restored pride to the club by battling back to beat our old friends and rivals from Nottingham in a pulsating thriller of a game at the Stadium of Light last night.
The Under 21s have done significantly better in their league than the senior Lads have in theirs. Pete Sixsmith, has been a regular at home games, caught their last of the season and paid proper attention – despite the competing instinct to ponder away trips to the Pirelli Stadium and Craven Cottage, not to mention SJP…
Sunday lunchtime at the Stadium of Light. The dust had settled on the bitterly disappointing 0-0 draw with Tony Pulis’s band of merry entertainers and the realisation that relegation was just that little bit more likely.
A smattering of supporters, including three of the Hetton Irregulars, sat in the West Stand to say goodbye to Liam Agnew, Mikael Mandron and George Honeyman who are being released by the club at the end of the season.
It was also an opportunity to widen the gap between us and Manchester United at the top of the Premier Reserve League Division One. With only one more game for us (away to Tottenham Hotspur) and with United having four games in hand prior to the Southampton game, a home win was essential if relegation was to …… sorry, force of habit …… if the league title was to be won.
The Saints showed more attacking intent in the first five minutes than the Baggies had in the entire game the previous day. They played some decent football as did we, but, like the Albion game, there was a sense of a wasted opportunity after the game.
The three destined to depart did well enough with Honeyman showing some of the touches that made the Hetton Irregulars wonder if he could be the next one to make it after Henderson and Colback. Mandron showed plenty of willing but he is not robust enough and was eased off the ball far too … er, easily.
Liam Agnew led from the front as he has done for the last two years. He could well make a success lower down the leagues, following in the footsteps of Blair Adams, Billy Knott and Liam Noble. He isn’t the most incisive of passers and he tends to move the ball sideways but he has a great engine on him and I, and the other HIs, wish all three of them well.
Of those who remain, the Polish keeper Max Stryjek has a future and has come along really well this year. The same applies to Thomas Robson and Thomas Beadling, both of who have been training with the first team, while Rees Greenwood is also well thought of. He has been away with the England Under 20 squad and, with some good advice and lots of hard work, he may well get his chance next year in whatever league we are playing in.
Some of the younger players made the step up and Carl Lawson had an effective game up front, while Richard Wright ran himself into the ground in the unfamiliar midfield position that he was asked to play.
The game ended 2-2. Southampton took the lead 10 minutes into the second half when George Brady was slow to react to Stryjek’s save and Sam Gallagher fired in.
Saints keeper Paulo Gazzaniga kept his team in it but Honeyman beat him with a crisp shot to deservedly level the scores. There was a fair amount of pressure, Gazzaniga saved well from Mandron and a home win looked the likeliest result.
With three minutes left, Ollie Cook headed the visitors back into the lead, but sub Luke Molyneux levelled a minute later with his first touch after excellent work by the impressive Greenwood.
The referee, a far more authoritative figure than Roger East – but then so is Mr Pastry – blew the whistle and, with only that last game at Spurs to play, the SoL curtain came down on another season for the Academy boys.
Considering that they have lost Watmore, Gooch and Mavrias since January, they have done well to remain at the top of the league for so long. It may well be that Manchester United, who have had the likes of Rashford, Blackett and Lingard in their squad, will win the league, but our lads and their coaches Robbie Stockdale and Andy Welsh, have had a season to be proud of.
Rumours are rife that Heritage Park, Bishop Auckland will stage some Under 21 games next season. I can see the ground from my front upstairs window if I stand on a chair and crane my neck, so next season’s reports may well come through the lens of a telescope.
Best wishes to all those who are leaving the club and here’s hoping that we can get some local lads coming through into the first team.
Robson(T), Greenwood, Stryjek, Beadling and Lawson are all possibilities, particularly if we do drop a league. Two of those would justify the academy and they couldn’t be any worse than some of the dross that we have shelled out big money on in the past. Will Buckley anyone?
Pete Sixsmith, much in demand, found time to catch Sunderland’s heartening return to the top of the Under 21s league. After recent self-imposed distractions, what a pleasure it is for Salut! Sunderland to get back to reporting on SAFC …
Staying in is for wimps, at least when there’s a competitive football match to see. Pete Sixmsith took in the Under 21s, hosting Leicester City with a debut for the experience but currently unattached trialist Emmanuel Eboué. the Ivoiran right-back did OK until subbed but Sixer witnessed just the kind of result we do not want repeated tonight …
Pete Sixsmith is a hardy soul. Point him towards a match and he’ll be there whatever the time, whatever the weather. Mind, this was one to shake his resolve …
My hope was to bring you tales of derring-do from Eppleton Colliery Welfare, where the Under 21s played Chelsea at the strange time of 11.45 on Sunday.
It necessitated an overnight stay for those who represented the London club, presumably at the Radisson in Durham, although the friendly substitute warming up could only tell me that “it was near a river”. The mention of the nearby World Heritage Site of Cathedral and Castle merely elucidated a shrug of the well paid shoulders and the recognition of the word Radisson.
From a late cameo role to help preserve the lead at Crystal Palace, Danny Graham – in his 31st year – went straight into the Under 21s lineup to face Liverpool in a league cup tie. Top of the Barclays U21 Premier League, SAFC had already beaten the Scousers once and surely started favourites. Graham taught the young ‘uns a thing or rather two, but it wasn’t enough. Pete Sixsmith braved the cold to bring you this report on what went wrong …
Monsieur Salut writes: on Friday I found myself at a London event sitting next to one of the world’s least likely Newcastle United fans, Marwan J Al Sarkal, chief executive officer of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Sharjah, as every schoolboy should know, being next door to Dubai and one of the the seven emirates of the UAE). That Geordie Nation of theirs clearly knows no bounds. Marwan was good company all the same and smiled, with a hint of envy, when I showed him my ticket for Sunday. I can honestly say I wish he had been there with me to see our resounding (at least by the scoreline) victory.
Pete Sixsmith was still beaming when he headed to Hetton for a big test for the Under 21s. Don’t be too hard on him about the slightly grainy photo of pals at the game (M Salut has only basic enhancement tools) – he insists he was ‘playing with a new phone’ …
Hull were comfortably beaten at home by Arsenal, making it four out of six results from the weekend games, our own included, to go our way. That’s five out of six if Newcastle, their flimsy challenge tossed aside at Leicester, are sucked deeper into the danger zone. Pete Sixsmith decided the Under 21s game last night offered a good way of testing the water ahead of our most vital game since, well, the last most vital game …
Was it an omen? Did the Oracle at Delphi speak? Is Nostradamus on our side?
Monsieur Salut writes: The last I saw of Pete Sixmith was when he boarded one train, and I another, at Southampton Central. It’s fair to say our spirits were not high. As we await our Mannone payouts – Sixer reckons £500 would cover his extended south coast stay; mine involves diesel and motorway tolls for 1,200km through France and the south-east, one overnight stop, travel and beer on Saturday and the old codger’s ticket but I’d accept even less, say £300) – he takes in a Sunderland return to winning ways, unfortunately at the wrong level to ease our Premier worries …