Bob Chapman is always a great stand-in for Pete Sixsmith, a home and away stalwart who lives so far south that even a home game means a trek. Wolbverhampton wasn’t next door but neither was it anything like as far. And Bob was rewarded by a display of outstanding commitment (and a decent day out with pals) …
When times are good, I can’t get enough football. I will go over to my allotment, even in the worst conditions in the knowledge that invariably I can watch the local primary school children at their football practice.
I will wander over to the local rec on a Sunday morning to watch the local teams. On top of that I will watch any and everything on the various TV channels .
My Skybox is full of recorded matches that need to be seen. On top of all that, I suffer from a condition that requires me to watch Sunderland home and away. I have witnessed all 15 points gained this season and the vast majority that we have given to opposing teams.
However, because of our poor form there has been a change. I no longer have that desire to watch as much football. Digging the allotment has finished for the winter months. I often don’t bother with Match of the Day and matches have been deleted unwatched from the Skybox. Unfortunately the Sunderland habit can’t be broken!
It was another long drive home last week after the debacle that was the latest home defeat. I knew as soon as McManaman got his red card, that the game was lost.
With that in mind I woke up Saturday morning with little expectation from the Wolves match. in fact I thought the best scenario would be for the match to be called off at lunchtime and Mick, Luke and myself to have a day drinking in our favourite Birmingham watering holes and for the match to be rescheduled later in the season.
We set off by train from Northampton and were soon stopping at Coventry, the 2021 City of Culture. As we paused, I contemplated the possibility that we could be playing them next season, as they are Div 2 high fliers and we are flirting with relegation once again.
Arriving in Birmingham, Mick decided on the Old Joint Stock. Originally a library, then a bank, it’s now a stunning Fullers pub. With a central island bar it always has a good choice of beers and food is always available.
Musing over drinks we contemplated having something to eat. Game faggots caught my eye. However, I decided against when Luke pointed out the small print on the menu which stated, “may contain pieces of shot, so please be mindful of this when eating”.
I passed on the food and had a pint of ESB instead. Being beaten by Wolves and then poisoned as an afterthought is too much to take! We didn’t venture far and as a consequence found ourselves behind schedule, waiting on New Street station for the train to Wolverhampton.
Arriving at Molineux with five minutes to spare I wasn’t surprised by the team selection. We needed a team of grafters if we were to get anything against Wolves.
Dropping McGeady seemed the sensible option. Having a back five with four in front was the only logical way out from defeat against a side at the top of the table and on an unbeaten streak. McGeady, for all his ability, does not fit in with this model. Against a different team and in a side playing with confidence he is no doubt a match winner. He is no good trying to save a match.
From the start it was obvious that we were going to keep to this game plan and the target was clearly to keep a rare, until Burton elusive, clean sheet. Although Wolves moved the ball around the park, they proved to be lacking in their ability to unlock our defensive line in the final third. They had a few half chances but nothing threatened our keeper.
Half time came to chants of “top of the league, you’re having a laugh”. In truth Wolves did look a decent side, but had just come up against a solid defensive unit, that were playing at the top of their game. In fact I couldn’t remember the last time a back five had played so well for us.
Much of the same for the second half and rather surprisingly Grabban had the first shot on target for either side in the 56th minute.
Soon after Cattermole got himself sent off for the first time in four years. He was unlucky with the first yellow card, but then allowed his temperament to get the better of him just a minute later. He lost possession to Jota and went flying in to try to retrieve the situation.
Here we go again I thought. However we just dug in even more, defending even deeper and continued to frustrate Wolves, who just couldn’t break through. They had a couple of half chances that were wasted and Ruiter had to make just one save from Jota.
I suppose Wolves must have wondered why they had bothered to get the match on and I suppose the majority of the 28,000 went home thinking they had seen a non-event.
Me, I saw the best match of the season so far. After our dreadful run, it gave me more pleasure than the away wins at both Norwich and Burton. It was a lesson in how to defend properly. The three central defenders were outstanding, though their task was made so much easier by the tremendous effort by man of the match Gibson, ably supported by Honeyman and Gooch.
After the match we discussed our options. We decided against Tina T’Urner Tea Lady’s Steamy Bingo back at the Old Joint Stock! I forgot to mention that this pub has a theatre attached. Instead, we got the train back to Northampton. Just as we were approaching Coventry again, news came in that Newcastle had conceded a third goal against Leicester. How differently my mood suddenly changed from this morning. Thoughts of Div 1 matches against Coventry next season had been replaced by Championship derby days!
Maybe the future is brighter under Coleman after all.