The Chapman Report: script rewritten by defensive calamities at Reading and Newcastle’s comeback

Bob gets his very own graphic, courtesy of Jake
Bob gets his very own graphic, courtesy of Jake

Into Sixer’s shoes once again steps Bob Chapman‘s, our star writer having maintained his pickiness with long away trips (and even a few short home ones). Jon Keen, who writes for the Reading pages at ESPN, thought Sunderland ‘the worst team to visit the MadStad this season’. Supersub Bob could not see us losing from the moment Gardner struck home his penalty equaliser, just as many expected a comfortable Chelsea cruise once they went ahead at St James’ Park. Instead, characteristic defensive lapses and unconvincing finishing by SAFC, and Chelsea’s surrender on Tyneside, left him fearing the worst for his ‘Sunderland eighth, NUFC relegated’ pre-season wager …

Sunderland first played Reading in the 4th round of the FA Cup in 1973. After a 1-1 draw at Roker Park, Sunderland won the Elm Park replay 3-1 and the rest is a slice of history (fondly remembered by older supporters whose offspring yearn for something in which they, too, may glory – ed).

I missed that game so my first visit to Elm Park was in 1990 for a 3rd round tie. Standing on an open terrace I got absolutely drenched in the process and we lost 2-1. Elm Park certainly had character but could only best be described as a dump.

But then, I have never enjoyed going to Reading. With the move to Madjeski Stadium in 1998 Sunderland have had mixed fortunes, but my opinion hasn’t changed that much. Built on the outskirts of town, it’s located in an industrial estate just off the M4. There are no facilities nearby and getting in and out can take up to an hour whether coming by road or rail.

This year I travelled by rail with my brother Tim. Every year for my birthday in August he buys me a bet. This season the bet was a double – Sunderland to finish in the top eight, Newcastle to be relegated. The betting slip was nearly thrown away just before Christmas but I retained it and it was once again a topic of discussion in the pub beforehand. Ever the optimist, I saw a Sunderland Chelsea double as a bank certainty for the day.


This was a match we should never have lost. Two poor defensive mistakes cost us at least a point.

As early as the fourth minute a warning could be seen. A ball was played in behind Craig Gardner, flat footing the back four. Fortunately nothing came of it, except that the same thing happened two minutes later with disastrous results. Once Larsson was beaten the cross was driven in to the edge of the box where Kebe beat O’Shea too easily to drive in past Mignolet.

Larsson came close to equalising soon after, being fouled from behind he managed to get his shot on target only for Frederici to make a good save. To the ever vocal Larsson, Lee Mason played advantage and didn’t sanction a penalty. However moments later he awarded us what seemed a soft one, though the replay clearly showed O’Shea being felled needlessly by Pogrebnyak. Craig Gardner duly stuck it away in typical Gary Rowell fashion with a firm shot just inside the post.

Once we had clawed our way back into the game I couldn’t see us getting beaten. We were not playing particularly well but never seemed under much of a threat. Similarly we were unable to get support up for the isolated Fletcher.

'No way we'll lose now.' Oh well
‘No way we’ll lose now.’ Oh well

A mundane 1- 1 draw seemed on the cards for much of the game until we introduced Danny Graham and started to play with two up front. I am sure he will do well for us and it was good that he received a warm reception from the fans. He came close with two headers within minutes of each other and probably should have done better with the latter one.

In addition, N’Diaye should have at least hit the target with a great chance from only five yards out. We definitely had the best chances in the last quarter of the game and should have gone on to win.

But don’t we ever learn? Concentration is so important and top players don’t concede unnecessary free kicks around the box. Needless to say we gave one away with just five minutes to go. I suspected what was coming and, as with all penalties, I quickly crossed my fingers in the hope it might have some effect. It had certainly worked with Gardner’s penalty so why not now! No such luck and we had lost a game which we could so easily have won.

So what did we learn from the game. Once again Mignolet didn’t have much to do but pulled off a great save to further his reputation as one of the best keepers in the division. I wonder whether we can hold onto him for next season? N’Diaye needs shooting practice. Danny Rose did well when he came on and will surely start next week against Arsenal. From being a small side we now have some bigger players and need to start using this to our advantage. Graham and Fletcher could be a formidable force if supplied properly.

Getting away from the industrial estate was the usual calamity. Having witnessed another needless defeat I needed instant refreshment. Having to wait 50 minutes for such therapy is one of the reasons I dislike many of these out of town stadiums. At least when you get thrashed at places like Everton you can always get something to eat and drink afterwards to cheer yourself up.

Back at the pub with my brother we reflected on the match and that ongoing bet. With Chelsea and ourselves losing it was a bad day for us both and probably a good day for the bookies, come the end of the season.

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6 thoughts on “The Chapman Report: script rewritten by defensive calamities at Reading and Newcastle’s comeback”

  1. I suspect the MON’s patience with Sess is wearing a bit thin and I fully expect to see him benched for the next game in favour of Graham and a new system.

    I also think that Bramble’s’ inconsistent form will see him replaced by Mangane, once the big fella is up to speed…maybe even this weekend.

    In summer I expect we will see a major clear out , particularly of defenders. To use a good old Geordie phrase I think it will be ‘au revoir’ to Bardsley, Bramble,Kilgallon and Wes Brown,who I suspect may well retire.Their replacements will include Mangane(maybe), and a couple of youngsters like the Dutchman, Virgil Van Djik who we were linked with a few weeks ago and maybe Pearce from Reading who we were also linked with recently.Ideal IMO to replace the ageing but still effective O’Shea and Cuellar.

    Hopefully we will keep Rose and see Laing and Egan make the step up to the first team squad next season .Not sure who will fill the right back void….maybe some foreign chappie.

    In midfield I think it will also be cheerio to Sess and Vaughan and maybe even Seb who have all been a bit too ineffective this season, with Maloney and McGeady to coming in.

    As far as strikers go I can’t see us buying another one so we will probably go with Fletcher,Graham and Whickham. If Ji’s loan proves successful he may be kept on as the fourth striker…unless we have someone in the development squad ready to be further developed…so to speak.

  2. Considering we missed guilt edged chances and didn’t deserve to lose the game, it really is worrying for Reading fans if every other team has opened them up even more than that.

    We don’t play five right across the middle as some are suggeting. It may be time for Sess to move out wide permantly and drop Fletcher back, though some would suggest that was a change in formation and thank God – when in fact, it would be more or less the same.

  3. Well I ‘d return the compliment to Mr Jon Keen and say Reading have been the worst team to visit the SOL this season.That said we really should have done better if we have any pretentions to acheive even mediocrity in this league
    One could not help but compare the effect Newcastle’s new signings had on the same day.I know it is only one weekend but Pardew certainly has an knack for picking players that hit the ground running, why is it ours only hit the ground and do little else.(Fletcher excepted)

  4. Why would anyone expect a tactical rethink on Saturday ? MO has persisted for close on 6 months now with his failing system. In addition to his medieval tactics we have now had the final confirmation that he hasn’t a clue in the transfer market either. In my opinion we have comfortably the worst midfield in the premier league, not an ounce of skill or creativity amongst them and MO yet again did nothing in the xfer window to improve things.

    I’ve already got huge doubts about Alf (although he was better than Johnson and the hopeless McClean when he came on…which tells you how bad they were) – even when he gets up to speed he will be just another workhorse…..two a penny I’m afraid….we might as well have kept Whitehead. In fact I’d argue that the current team is no better than the Whitehead/Danny Collins/Murphy team in the first season up under Roy Keane…..that’s how much progress we have made.

    Stringing 5 men across the midfield at crappy old Reading was the final straw as far as my support of MO goes.I don’t see this club going anywhere under him now, or at any time in the future. His methods are outdated, he’s 60 year old and he clearly won’t change now. On top of this he came out with the comment last week that our style is not too dis-similar to Swansea’s …..what !!???…..he really is loosing his marbles…. along with his already lost football managerial skills.

  5. Just for the record Bob,in 1973 we drew 1-1 at Roker and then won the replay 3-1 at Elm Park.I would be happy enough with Tom’s team for the Arsenal game but I suspect Martin might be a bit more cautious.

    NB: Piece now corrected Thanks for the spot, Ken – salutsunderland

  6. Please have the courage to start games against mediocre sides like Reading with two strikers, Martin.
    Giving Graham 10 minutes was unfair on a player, who at £5m, you presumably have confidence in to score goals and give defenders more to think about than when we operate with one striker for long periods of every match.

    Some excitement and entertainment against Arsenal would not go amiss this Saturday after two pretty ordinary performances against Swansea and Reading.

    We are better than this but need to have a tactical rethink immediately to stop the season petering out into a damp relegation threatened squib.

    My starting team v Arsenal [fitness allowing]:
    Mignolet
    Gardner-Bramble-O’Shea-Rose
    Sessegnon-Cattermole-Vaughan-Johnson
    Fletcher-Graham.

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