Not often, Pete Sixsmith misses a game. Either some non-league or oval-ball (RL only) nonsense has taken his fancy or up with certain, usually London prices he will not put. Where Swansea away fitted into this is unclear, but luckily our old friend and very occasional contributor Bob Chapman, who is – like Pete – a teacher so a bit of a brainbox, offered to clamber into Sixer’s Soapbox to deliver the Monday morning lecture. As for the question Bob poses at the end of his report, mentioned in the headline, Newcastle’s failure to beat Aston Villa – a match that surely had home banker written all over it – seems more worrying for them than a draw at Swansea is for us..
This was only my third visit to Swansea. The first was under the guidance of Sixer himself who helped subsidise the trip by purchasing vast amounts of Persil washing powder for the attached travel vouchers.
As a teacher governor he was involved in my appointment at Ferryhill Comprehensive School back in September 1979. I wonder if being a Sunderland supporter helped him with his decision making?
Anyway the Swansea away trip is often recalled when we discuss the “old days”. It entailed taking the overnight sleeper from Darlington to Kings Cross, having spent the evening in the Timothy Hackworth in Shildon. We then walked across to Paddington in the early hours to catch the first train to Swansea, ready for opening time!
Needless to say I can’t remember much of the match, suffice to say we got beaten 3-1 and Gordon Chisholm played on the left wing.
The second visit last year was an uneventful 0-0 draw, of which I remember even less. So now, what of the third visit? Well, I nearly didn’t make it. Stuck, stationary on a train outside Gloucester for almost an hour, I was beginning to wonder whether this was going to be another calamitous Saturday.
Living in Bedfordshire, I have to treat all matches as away games. The thought of having to phone my wife, two weeks on the trot, to explain that there is no match and for her then to suggest I crack on with some Christmas shopping would be enough for anybody to take.
It was one of those games that could have gone either way and in hindsight we should be happy with a point.
Swansea will be disappointed that they had so much possession and were unable to convert that into goals. Their game plan hasn’t changed much since last year. They pass the ball as well as Arsenal and similarly over-elaborate around the edge of the box.
The game was refereed by Roger East who was making his Premier debut. He should have booked Neil Taylor for his reckless self-inflicted ankle breaking challenge on Gardner early in the first half.
We scored the opener against the run of play following a dreadful back pass by Williams. Fletcher nipped in. It was a difficult chance but he made it look as easy as he slotted it in the space between Vorm and the far post.
Following that McLean came close with a tremendous volley that would have been a candidate for goal of the month.
However within minutes Swansea had equalised. Clever passing around the box engineered a chance for Routledge to score
from close range. It was no less than he deserved as he along with Dyer caused problems all afternoon.
We then regained the lead as Fletcher tapped in following a Larsson free kick. To go in 2-1 at half time having only had 37 per cent of the play is fortunate although, to be fair, we were playing well. The game plan was obviously to defend deep and hit them on the break, the only problem being that we were only able to do the former (though doing it rather well).
The second half started with more of the same and it was no surprise when Michu scored the equaliser. Although we were competing and playing some good stuff ourselves I felt there was always going to be one winner and in typical Sunderland fashion it wouldn’t be us.
However that should have changed when Chico got himself sent off for a reckless challenge on Saha. Roger East definitely got this one right. Frustratingly, we were unable to press ahead the advantage we had and Swansea carried on in much the same way putting us under pressure with their slick quick short passing style.
Swansea are a good side and will have no problems with second season syndrome. In fact I feel it won’t be that long before Brendon Rodgers is regretting his decision to move on.
So, what of the new signings? Fletcher lasted 65 minutes, scored twice and demonstrated why he is so highly rated. He worked tirelessly and was always an option up top to relieve the pressure. In addition to his finishing, he has excellent close control and is capable of playing simple one-touch balls to supporting players. He is a much better footballer than Darren Bent and let us hope he can be as prolific. You have to remember for such a big man Bent is poor in the air.
Adam Johnson had a quiet game but showed enough glimpses of what he will bring to the team. Louis Saha demonstrated that there are still goals in him. Unlike Dwight Yorke, good player that he was, he hasn’t lost his pace and MON now has different options that he can use up front.
Hopefully, the days of 4-5-1 with Sess up top, fighting to retain a point are now gone. The back end of last season was desperate and now MON has finally brought in quality that means we will be in a position to give all teams a game instead of just trying to hold on.
A good solid start with two points from two difficult away games. Can we achieve a higher position than Peter Reid did and in addition finish above the Mags? I’m convinced we can, but then I’m an optimist.