Malcolm Dawson writes…….well the Men and Women’s curling both proved to be a huge but not unexpected disappointment. I am becoming a bit fatalistic now in my sports watching and rarely expect those I want to do well to come up with the goods anymore. In my continuing refusal to actually spend any money following Sunderland, whilst the current owner remains, I didn’t go to yesterday’s game. I had listened to most of the Barnes and Benno commentary, but resigned to another defeat I missed the last minute and thought we had lost until I switched on Final Score. Like Wrinkly Pete I have no sympathy for the multitude who walk out early then miss the pulsating climax, yet here I was doing the auditory equivalent yesterday. Still whilst a point is better than nothing it’s not as good as three. (I’m stating the obvious in the hope that someone will notice and offer me a job as a TV pundit.)

Snatching a point in the dying minutes of time added on is much more uplifting than having the lead hoiked away, but did it leave Pete Sixsmith feeling that it had been a grand day out? Let’s find out…….

MIDDLESBROUGH

As we trooped out of the Stadium at about 9pm due to all the added time, the general consensus was that Callum McManaman’s welcome equaliser was “too little, too late”. Points wise, it just about kept us in touch with the other potential Checkatrade Trophy entrants in the relegation zone and it took the smirk off the faces of the Middlesbrough supporters, but it was another opportunity lost to drag ourselves into the heady heights of 22nd in a league that is competitive but not very good.

At least there was fight and spirit (although Jake Clarke-Salter took that a bit far) and after the last two wretched home defeats against mid table teams, we gave one of the so-called “better” sides a real scare. Ultimately, our appalling defensive habits let us down again. We have scored three goals four times this season which has earned us four points. That’s not very good is it!

There are some positives to take from this. We looked solid in the first half. Asoro took his goal well and looks a good player. Premier League scouts will have been alerted to his potential. We may make some money out of him to help pay off Ellis Short’s personal debt.

Joel Asoro starting to find his feet

Paddy McNair had an impressive 41 minutes before limping off. Injured by a tackle from Lee Cattermole. He had been a very influential figure in the centre of midfield. He got about the field well and made some telling interceptions and some lung bursting runs. Should he tire of football (as I am doing) there is a career for him in the second row at Leeds Rhinos. It is to be hoped that his injury is not deep seated.

Cattermole showed that there is still some life left in the old dog. The legs are struggling at times and some of the passing leaves a little to be desired, but he and McNair blotted out Besic, Downing and Grant Leadbitter up to half time. Our former captain still found time to spray some decent passes around and even had a couple of on target shots blocked by desperate Boro defenders as we lay siege in the closing stages.

Williams and McManaman made positive impressions when they came on and both scored. Williams celebrated with the support while McManaman decided to continue his feud with Tony Pulis and gave the impression that that was more important than salvaging a point for his team. Pulis’s comments after the game were interesting – “I didn’t pick him, Sheffield Wednesday didn’t pick him and he’s not getting picked here. Maybe he has some problems.”

But there are the usual negatives. The defending for all three goals was truly awful. Kone (who did actually strengthen the back three/four) stood too far off Bamford and allowed him to turn and equalise. There was a lack of communication between keeper and defenders for the penalty that put them ahead for the first time and John O’Shea miscalculated for the third one, allowing the impressive Bamford to put the Smoggies ahead again.

The lack of cohesion between goalkeeper and back line is a real worry. Lee Camp is an experienced player who was brought in to restore some stability but looks no better than Ruiter or Steele. He was slow off his line when he gave away the penalty, ignored Cattermole’s indication of where Grant Leadbitter was going to put the kick (Catts was right, Camp was wrong) and does not inspire a great deal of confidence in the support. Coleman has a dilemma here; stick with Camp, restore Steele or take a chance with Max Stryjek. I suspect he will choose the first option.

He also has an option at the back now that Clarke-Salter is out for three games. His tackle was a straight red and as I protested (more in anger than conviction), the quiet, thoughtful man who has the misfortune to sit next to me said, “The referee was given a decision to make.” He got it right. Coleman now has to decide whether to restore Browning to a back three or stick with O’Shea and Kone until one of them implodes.

Chris ah aaah…….Saviour of the Universe????

Rugby League man the Blessed Brian

Flash Gordon had 14 hours to save the universe and, aided by Brian Blessed, managed to achieve it. Chris Coleman and his disparate band of loanees, free transfers, young up and comers and grizzled old pros has 12 games to save us from another relegation and what could be the closure of large areas of the Stadium of Light as crowds below 20,000 would be the norm next season. Fleetwood and Gillingham won’t bring many with them.

I targeted a possible seven points from these last three games. We got one. I’ll target one point from the next three. We may end up with seven. Or none…………

If there is any copyright claim, not answered by ‘fair use’ exemptions, on the images used to illustrate this report, please make us aware and we will add credits or remove as requested.

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Born in Hetton le Hole, deputy editor Malcolm Dawson's first game at Roker Park was the three all draw with Leicester City at the beginning of the 64-65 season. Having spent more than thirty years living in the East Midlands, he was Chairman and Information Officer of the Heart of England Branch of the Supporters' Association but has now returned to live in County Durham.

8 Responses to “Sixer’s Middlesbrough Soapbox: fighting spirit, last minute equaliser. Better than nowt?” Subscribe

  1. KenG February 25, 2018 at 8:30 pm #

    Nothing I could disagree with here, and although a point was scant reward it was heartening to see some grit and determination from the side. Only Sunderland could sign a keeper who is worse than what we possess and I can hardly believe myself in saying that Steele looks the better option. Two of the goals were gifts and I’ve lost count of the utterly awful goals we have conceded.The Boro’ were well supported but were quiet when behind and when in front,as usual, were more intent on ‘hating Sunderland ‘ than supporting their own team. The clincher of their poor repertoire of songs was’ Sunderland’s a sh**hole, I want to go home’ without any sense of irony. Hope is receding but we are still hanging in there.

  2. Mick Goulding February 26, 2018 at 5:08 am #

    I said last week that I didn’t know which was worse – defence or attack. Now I know. It’s defence. And the goalkeeper.

  3. Terry McLoughlin February 26, 2018 at 9:47 am #

    I find it strange that we currently have three goalkeepers on our books who are all vying for the title “Worst keeper I’ve ever seen in a Sunderland shirt since 1960”.
    Oh for a 15 year old Derek Forster.

    • William C February 26, 2018 at 10:59 am #

      Or even a 31 year old Ben Alnwick?

    • vince February 26, 2018 at 2:08 pm #

      Kelvin Davies was pretty bad,but at a higher level granted. I also recall Ian Hesford who, was not all that great either,but to have 3 at the same time must be some sort if curse.

    • vince February 26, 2018 at 2:14 pm #

      Would heartily agree with the Mcmanaman point. For his first thought to be about his personal spat with Pulis and not the long suffering fans paying his generous wages says everything that is awry at SAFC at the moment.

  4. William C February 26, 2018 at 3:04 pm #

    Now that the January window has gone, there are only two things that Coleman can do to try to prevent yet another relegation.

    The first is to identify a system which suits his squad, and the second is to work on morale and team spirit.

    I think he is still undecided about the first, but it looks as if he has made some progress on the second.

    Even if it is too late and we end up in Division One next season, tackling these two factors is vital, because the same challenges will be facing us next season.

  5. Wrinkly Pete February 27, 2018 at 5:01 pm #

    An entertaining read to match an entertaining game. Double delight for me with the late, late equaliser: It validated my belief in our players and gave me a warm smug feeling over the early quitters who missed a magic moment.

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