The morning after. As we bid farewell to the thousands of gloating Mags who headed here yesterday, (and we’d have been smug, too, if we’d won), Pete Sixsmith has plenty to get off his chest and does so with customary eloquence, warning Steve Bruce that the rumblings in the stands are gathering force …
Three times in Steve Bruce’s time as manager have we played our Tyneside neighbours and three times we have played in a manner that can, at best, be called disappointing.
Of the three, this was the worst. Last October was a one off, January was a game in which both sides were so awful that it can quickly be consigned to the far recesses of memory. But this one was different.
We had invested in new players, the opposition appeared to be in some disarray and we had returned from Liverpool with a point, some glowing reports from various pundits and a sense of optimism.
We started well. Sessegnon was outstanding, linking between midfield and up front. Cattermole bossed the midfield, the defence looked solid as Newcastle were pushed further and further back.
We needed a goal. Chances were snatched at or missed. Krul made a couple of decent saves, their two central defenders held them together. Had a goal come in that opening 20 minutes, I am pretty sure we would have gone on to win.
But it didn’t. We don’t have a penalty box striker. A Bent or a Cisse would have been on the end of those tantalising low crosses from Sessegnon and Larsson and we would have been up and running.
Instead we allowed Newcastle back into the game. They slowed it down. They took an age over goal kicks, throw ins etc. They took their time getting up from challenges. All legitimate and all, ultimately, justified as they seized control of the second half.
At the risk of sounding Wengerish, I didn’t see the handball (and I had no intention of watching it on MOTD last night, that’s for sure), but the reaction of the Newcastle players suggested it was a penalty and a sending off. On the other hand, Cabaye was fortunate to stay on for a bad foul on Bardsley, so maybe it evened itself out at that stage.
Pardew must have said the right things at half time as Newcastle controlled the game thereafter. Tiote (anonymous in the opening period) sat in front of the back four and laid off simple passes which broke up our pedestrian and unimaginative second half play.
The goal was dreadful. A needless free kick given away by Elmohamady, resulted in Mignolet building a wall that was even worse than that of Mr O’Reilly, Basil Fawlty’s hapless Irish builder. The free kick by Taylor was nothing special, but Mignolet was so far off his line, that it dropped over his head and into the net. Yet another error in a crucial game by the young Belgian.
After that, we huffed and puffed while Newcastle sat back and watched us achieve absolutely nothing. Our substitutions had minimal impact on the game because we have no Plan B – and quite frankly, Plan A looked pretty threadbare as well.
Tactically, Bruce reminds me of Peter Reid. If the players click and it goes well, then the team looks good. But if it goes wrong, there is no back up, no change of idea or plan. Surely Vaughan would have been a better replacement than Gardner? He can actually pass a ball and might have been able to open up an increasingly water tight Newcastle defence.
Up front, we have a real problem with Gyan. He makes good runs and pulls defenders about, but he is not a prolific goalscorer. He is a 10 goal a season man and we need a lot more than that. I fear that the crowd may well turn on him if he continues to misfire; there was a fair bit of grumbling at the end of the game.
To lose the first home game of the season is bad enough, but to lose it to local rivals in such a disappointing manner is catastrophic. The manager is already under pressure from the fans and no matter how many games we win between now and the end of the season, this was the one that counted for Sunderland fans.
I am not advocating a change in the manager’s office, but it should be noted that more and more supporters are beginning to question Bruce and Black’s credentials.
We have two tricky away games at Brighton and Swansea coming up, followed by the visits of Chelsea and Stoke City. Should we be in a difficult position by the end of that run, then the grumbling may turn into roars of derision – and when the crowd turn on a manager, owners get twitchy fingers over the ejector seat button.
On a happier note, I did get back to see the Shildon v Consett FA Cup tie which we won 2-1, so that took away about 0.0000000001 per cent of the hurt.