SAFC U23s 1 v Norwich City U23s 1
For some reason the Under 23s had elected to play their home fixture against Norwich at the Stadium of Light, rather than the Colliery Welfare ground in Hetton. I never seem to enjoy U23 games at the Stadium as much, partly because the small number of supporters gets lost in a ground designed to hold 48,000, partly because those that are there are confined to a small area in the West Stand and partly because they seem to attract some supporters who wouldn’t make the effort to get to Eppleton. For me it entails an extra 30 minutes drive but hey ho I went along anyway, expecting to see Pete Sixsmith there with the other Hetton Irregulars and half expecting him to do the match report but I caught neither sight nor sound so expect he was off to a Rugby League fixture at somewhere like Cleckheaten or East Ardsley or another equally obscure venue.
£2.60 for a brew at a reserve game seems a bit much but you can add a pretty rank, luke warm sausage bun for an extra £1.40 so being a tight sort, the diet went out of the window, which is totally illogical when you stop to think about it because I paid an extra £1.40 for something I didn’t want and didn’t enjoy! After quantities of draught Bass in Burton on Friday night, that’ll be me on the steamed fish and vegetables for the rest of the week then.
And so it was, cooped up in the padded seats with the arm rests I settled down for a game against the young Canaries. I must say that the North Stand looks a lot better now that you can actually read Ha’way The Lads picked out in white after the seat replacement in the week, but they must have run out of white bases with only three to go as the uncompleted seats stuck out like a sore thumb. See if you can spot them on the highlights package. I also wondered if they are planning to have the padded seats for the Black Cats Bar patrons steam cleaned as they were a delicate shade of grey, rather like my bathroom walls rather than brilliant white like my kitchen ceiling.
It wasn’t long before I remembered why I find it hard to settle at these games at the SoL, with two 4 year olds in front of me, bored after two minutes and kicking off with the type of tantrum usually reserved for the household detergents aisle at Asda and some 18 year old arsehole, who loved the sound of his own voice yelling abuse at the referee, the Sunderland players, the ball boys but mostly just screaming “Gerrrrooonnn” at 104 decibels. And with no hearing aids to turn down there wasn’t a lot I could do to shut him down.
So onto the game itself. I have to say I am not finding the red shorts as offensive as I thought I might do and we lined up with a number of players with first team experience in Mumba, Ethan Robson and Kimpioka in the starting XI. It would seem that Elliott Dickman is trying to get his charges to play the same type of passing game that Jack Ross favours but it was Norwich who had the temerity to create the first clear cut chance, when also in a moment so reminiscent of the first team a little bit of defensive indecision gave Ant Spyrou the chance to flash a shot across goal, just wide of the upright.
Kimpioka reminds me a bit of Peter Crouch in that he can appear ungainly but seems to retain possession and create chances when you think he really shouldn’t. He’s got a decent turn of pace and when he wriggled past a couple of Norwich defenders and got a shot off, the blocked effort lobbed up for Robson whose side footed volley fizzed just the wrong side of the post. Then after another wriggling run he managed to get a shot off from a tight angle and though the goalkeeper’s block again sent the ball straight into the path of Robson, this was a much weaker effort and easily cleared.
Not long afterwards, again mirroring the first team a long ball saw Bainbridge failing to deal with Spyrou who squared it onto the foot of centre forward Adam Idah who had the simplest of tap ins with Storey caught the wrong side of his man.
A dribble into the box from the right wing and a pull back to the waiting Simon Power gave the Canaries a chance to double their lead but a double block from Storey and Owen Gamble kept the deficit to a single goal and it looked as if Norwich would go into the break one up but just before half time Norwich defender Adam Phillips’ headed attempt to clear a corner from the left, only succeeded in looping the ball up to an unmarked Bainbridge who side footed home at the far post.
In the second half Norwich keeper John McCracken pulled off two decent saves from long range efforts from Kimpioka and substitute Jack Diamond whilst at the other end, Spyrou spurned the sort of chance where it looks harder to miss than score with goalkeeper Patterson stranded as a low cross came in from the Norwich right. And that was more or less it as the game drifted to an end.
A decent way to spend the early part of Sunday afternoon and one all was a fair result on the day. But next time the U23s play at the Stadium of Light I’ll get organised, have a bacon sarnie before I go and take my own flask of tea.