What better way to get over the serial disappointment of following Sunderland’s first team than to take a look at the young ‘uns bursting with ambition and talent? That was Pete Sixsmith‘s theory. At least he saw Jan Kirchhoff’s return from injury (not that Man Utd seemed to care too much whether they inflicted another one on him) …
It was hoped that Monday’s Under 23 game with Manchester United might wash away the blues after the miserable weekend that we had just experienced. Our lads had just qualified for the latter stages of two cup competitions, we were in a decent place in the league and they were near the bottom, we had the promise of a return for Jan Kirchhoff and Lynden Gooch and George Honeyman were both scheduled to turn out.
As usual, it was a let-down.
United won 3-1 and looked streets ahead of our fledglings. Not only were they better, they were bigger and considerably so. The whole back four looked like trees as the relatively tiny Gooch and the not much bigger Maja struggled to make any impression on the likes of Cameron Borthwick Jackson (that’s only one player) and his fellow defenders.
That is often the problem with our younger players – they have skills but not a great deal of physicality.
Max Stryjek, the keeper (and a good one at that) is probably the biggest player on the team. With Tom Beadling and Michael Ledger leaving for Bury and Norway respectively, we had been stripped of two of the bigger defenders. George Brady is a decent size and his new partner, Sam Brotherton, a Kiwi signed from the Wisconsin Badgers (I kid you not….) is more of a scrum half than a second row forward.
Both did OK against Redmond and McTominay but it was in the crucial midfield area where we were found lacking as Ethan Robson, Honeyman and Greenwood tried to get a foothold and failed.
Kirchhoff used the game as part of his training regime and he showed the younger players how to use the ball properly rather than giving it away too easily. He was rattled a couple of times by the irritating if talented McTominay and was badly fouled as he embarked on a great run which saw him put his final shot inches past the post.
He was then fouled again by McTominay which led to a flare up and he looked less than amused when somebody on the United bench urged one of his players to hit him hard when play resumed. He then departed the proceedings with a teutonic scowl on his face, safe in the knowledge that his first hour had gone well enough.
Donald Love also played but was disappointing while Gooch and Honeyman worked hard but to little avail. The arrival of Joel Asoro for Josh Maja at the start of the second half (we were two down by then) saw a bit more spark, but Stryjek was the busier of the two keepers and did well to keep it down to a late Devonte Redmond goal.
Honeyman pulled one back after Regan Poole was sent off for a second bookable offence by a referee who had travelled all the way from Southport and who would have been better off supping Everards Tiger in The Guest House so poor was his performance.
As always, a pleasant night out with good friends and loyal Sunderland supporters but there was little to disperse the raincloud that has settled over all of our heads as we contemplate a likely stint in the Championship.