Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Saturday, April 17, 2021

A knife edge: the Mighty vs Sunderland

Taken a while to get this one on...

After writing possibly the most OFF TOPIC match preview in history I then remembered I had to write (I am being melodramatic when I say 'had', I could always just not do this) the actual match blog as well. Luckily, once again, an exclusive extract from our beloved impish master tactician fell into my lap recently. Don't ask me where I get these from. If I told you, I'd have to kill you. 

Critch's Diary

Thursday April 15th:  

Another strange dream. Janine made boiled chicken for dinner. Healthy, lovely food - I washed it down with a couple of Kalibers. Spent a fun half our on Whatsapp with Nigel Adkins, discussing the best games of bibs vs no bibs and our favourite ever examples of pressing in a training situation. I really like Nigel. Those glasses really suit him. Anyway. Big day on Saturday, so before I went to bed, I fed Embo. He said he was starting to feel weird in the cellar with no light, so I rang Big Gaz and asked him if he'd drop by with a sunlamp. 

"Fuck me gaffer, I shat meself then, I thought you was going to ask me to play!, Aye, nae bother, I'll drop in tomorrow on my way back from the cash and carry. They've got them big boxes of duty free tabs!" 

He's a great influence is Gary. Always ready with a joke! 

... Think I know the team, but still not decided whether to give Ethan 8 or 9 minutes... 

Friday April 16th: 

Jesus, Mary and the Orphans. That was a shocker of a dream. It was worse than the one where I was running a training session but I couldn't find any cones and my whistle didn't work. I spent what felt like an hour in a sheer state of panic. It started well - I got to Bloomfield, went in to the dressing room, I was excited. So excited I was humming a Lightning Seeds song! Mike was there...

"Gaffer, I've forgotten my black notebook? What am I going to do?" 
"Mike! the tactical masterclass is in that!"
"I know..." 
"Look, nip off to the club shop, get one of the kids notebooks they sell and we'll have to quickly write, it up, ask Ben for the keys" 
"Aye, gaffer, but I'll have to tell him I've forgotten the note book" 
"Ok, look, ask Big Gaz to put a brick through that glass bit in the South Stand concourse and then crawl in through there" 
"But Gaz isn't here yet... In fact, none of them are..." 

At this point Colin and Steve came in. Steve had his blue folder. I don't know what he has in the blue folder but I felt reassured by that. Colin didn't say much. He looked stern, but then, he usually does. I asked him once about his serious demeanour and he said something about "feeling the whole of history pass through his veins, like the shifting of tectonic plates and the formation of volcanoes, you, a mere mortal wouldn't understand" in a gravelly voice. I thought it best to leave it be. 

"Where are the lads?" said Steve. "Aye, where the fuck are them cunts?" growled Colin. "I was just saying that" chimed Mike. 

"Did you tell them it was an early kick off?" I asked the group. Silence. Then Steve said, "It's not my job, I'm only the goalkeeping coach!" I stopped short of saying, "well, if you're only the goalkeeping coach, why do you have a blue folder full of stuff, it can't take that much thinking just to practice diving!" because we don't need that kind of negativity around the group... 
Mike was next "You sent me to Macro to get a new lock for the cellar. You said that since Jordan Thorniley had broken out in January, you needed to make sure Embo couldn't do the same this weekend" That was true, I did say that. Then Colin just said "Don't look at me, I'm the big picture guy, kick off times, that sort of shite, that's beneath me" 

He had a point. They all did. What was I going to do? Then A player turned up. Oh, fuck my life. It's Ethan. I'm going to have to play him... 

I woke up. Janine said I was jabbering about having to play against McGeady. Something about getting the stewards registered in time. She said she found me in a cold sweat, wearing my old Crewe shirt, rocking back and forwards, cursing Prince Philip and his stupid funeral. That doesn't sound like something I'd say, but if Janine said it, it must be true. Got up, had a double helping of low salt muesli and texted all the lads. 
REMEMBER... KICK OFF 12:30. DON'T FORGET! Love and hugs Critch x 

Top notch pre match graphical summary: 

This week's roulette wheel response: 

The team is pretty much exactly the team I'd guessed he'd play. I kind of wanted to see the 4-5-1 again, but without Embleton, I'm not sure that would work as there's no one to drop in with Jerry, aside from Sullay and much as I'd like it, I can't see Critch playing him properly up the middle like that. Realistically, he was never going to start Robson, even if he hasn't lost faith in him, he's not played a game in anger in months, so Demi rightly comes in. Where we really struggled against Accy was not having pace and that's what he brings. He deserves the start. Turton is charged with the unenviable task of stopping McGeady and whilst Turton has his limits, he's nothing if not good at defying them. He'll have him in his pocket. 

Not really bothered about their team. I don't support them. 

Let's go. 


Sunderland's kit looks like something a kid would design on a computer game because it represents the colours of their favourite superhero. We start with a shocker of free kick from Garbutt after the ever enthusiastic O'Nein injures himself kicking Ellis Simms. Kaikai has a lovely little run. Nothing quite seems to be on, but he pulls out a through ball that is within a fag paper of setting Simms away. Minutes later, he's in the middle again and spreading it to Garbutt but the ball is ever so slightly heavy. I'm convinced that an involved Kaikai is a key today and the early signs are decent. 

What is also decent, is a move where Dougall robs it, Yates spreads to Mitchell, Demi shapes to cross but leaves it intelligently for the overlapping Turton whose ball is athletically flicked out from under the bar by O'Nien, who twists himself like a salmon and must be relieved to see it over the top. At the other end, Ballard tidies up a hopeful ball to Wyke and when McGeady finally gets a touch, it's (of all people) Kaikai who is able to get a foot in and dispossess him. Sullay completes another unlikely feat as he flicks on nicely for Simms. Who is this player? 

Jordan Jones does a bit of piss taking. I'm hoping he gets cleaned out, but he gets a cross in. We miss the first clearance but get the second away. It's a bit of a warning. So far, Sunderland look there to be got at, but decent up front. Wyke holds off Ballard well several times. They look to play first time and quickly but as they go forward, they also look like losing possession. Yates has a dig from wide twenty yards out, it curls comfortably into the keepers hands. He's a sniper. It's a warning shot. Grant Leadbitter tries to beat Maxwell from halfway. No problem. 

IFollow is helpfully logging me out periodically. We get a free kick from nowhere. Garbutt hits the wall. Sullay controls it beautifully in the middle, chesting it, then volleying a searching ball forward. Too heavy again. Yates closes their defence down and wins it but we can't make it count. Then McGeady does the best bit of football I've seen all year. He has it in the centre circle, back to goal, he's going nowhere, looking like he's going to lose it. He spins on a sixpence, lofts an inch perfect 40 yard sand wedge pass for Jones who can't quite get it under control and Maxwell is out to smother it. That's the player we don't have. 

Garbutt puts it across the face of the box. It's an easy clearance, but Mitchell gets stuck in and the ball breaks for Pele Yates who sees his partner clear with a terrific through ball, Simms takes, side steps and crashes it just over. If that was quality, Dougall's crashing challenge on Macfadzean isn't. Another 65 minutes on a yellow for Kenny. Ballard stretches well to clip away a McGeady cross as Sunderland get through on the left. From the clearance, there's the delightful sight of Jerry getting over excited and taking a throw, looking like he's not taken one since he was at primary school. 

Wyke and Ballard go in together at the near post. Sunderland have worked a nice crossing chance with quick, clever football on the right and the two big lads collide. The ball rolls away from them slowly into Maxwell's hands and Ballard gets up, runs away as if nothing as happened, whilst Wyke limps about a bit for a while after a bit of treatment. 

Oh, Ollie. Sullay drops a shoulder, goes past two with a couple of changes of direction that show the casual manner of someone in a supermarket deciding they don't need to go down that aisle after all. He then spreads a delicious pass to turton who is in miles and miles of space. Turton takes it and then falls over. One day he's going to score a goal. Our wizard (I mean Sullay, not Ollie) is looking lively, but theirs is waving a wand as well as he stuns a ball to the far post that Garbutt has to slide in to divert away. 

We break from the corner, Sullay doing the simple stuff, collecting, slipping Mitchell away who then gets cleaned out by Leadbitter. It's an even poorer tackle than Dougall's was earlier. The referee is really letting this flow. He's penalised the worst, wildest challenges but it's physical. Wright nearly tombstone's Kaikai and the ref declares it good old fashioned rough and tumble... I curse him then, but as Gretarsson tidies up a dangerous cross with a brilliant bit of positioning, putting himself in front of Jones with the minimum of fuss and maximum of effect, the ref is equally uninterested as the Sunderland player lobs himself to the floor after deliberately bouncing himself off the Viking. 

There's time for another good ball from Turton, that looks from the camera angle to be begging for a diving header that never comes and another stymied Sunderland attack and the whistle blows on a breathless half that has shown real quality. 


I've enjoyed it. It's been quite equal, it's been full blooded and I've never relaxed for a second. That's the sign of a good game. I think they look very good in the final third but much less assured in their own half. Ballard has had an excellent game and will need to continue to do so. Going forward, we've looked a bit more inventive but perhaps lacked the final bit of quality. We have got Kaikai involved and we have got both Garbutt and Turton up the pitch. They've looked maybe a little bit less inventive but at moments their quality has been excellent. 

If this is a play off preview then I'm ordering some hard drugs as I'm not sure I can take watching another set of games as finely balanced as this without them. 


We start again with nice play that doesn't quite have the quality it needs, but has all the right intentions. Yates charges diagonally at the box, swings a ball in, it gets cleared. Demi goes all across the box, beating three, spins and plays a reverse pass to Turton but it's cut out. Sunderland threaten with McGeady, Turton getting a touch on a cross that makes it manageable. They follow that with a through ball that Maxwell is very alert to race out and smother. 

Garbutt charges forward, gives it to Sullay. Sullay does a stepover or 6 and hits a hard ball to the near post. For a team with a dicey defence, they put their bodies on the line well at the last moment and again, the chance never quite comes. At the other end, Gretarsson is once again well positioned to stab away a dangerous ball from the right. From the corner, we break quickly, Yates is haring forward, men either side, they're back peddling, converging round Yates. Jerry slides it to the right, there's a Pool man on the overlap. Who is it? It's Ollie Turton. I'd love to report that he scorched into the box, slid it under the keeper, performed a double somersault and then from kick off, picked it up and ran forward again then pinged it home from 40 yards for a second, but you've probably already guessed that he didn't. 

Turton is in the action again at the other end. McGeady is cutting inside, Turton is scampering back, shadowing, Several players have stepped over in this game, but Mcgeady is another level, his feet, a blur, his body one way then the other, like a jack in the box swaying wildly, Turton is standing up, but Mcgeady isn't showing him the ball and then, with almost no backlift he chips it, shapes it, it's curling, spinning, rising and then dropping and going in... But it doesn't - it hits the base of the post, rolls across the goal, there's a challenge and the ref blows for a free kick. 

Maxwell hits it long, Simms leaps. There's a moment of hesitation and Sullay reacts quickest, haring after it into the corner, he turns towards goal then shifts it sideways for Garbutt arriving from deep. Garbutt cracks it from a position diagonal to the goal. There's a bit of a crowd in front of Burge and it looks as if it goes off someone, maybe one of  before wrong footing Lee Burge and dribbling home. The announcer gives it to Simms, bt it could have been an own goal or might have gone straight in from Garbutt. Who cares!

Jordan Jones causes more horrors, but Garbutt deflects his shot away. Dougall catches his man for what can surely be his last tackle without another card. Then, Ward strokes it wide to Demi. Demi goes round Macfadzean, who just kicks his feet away. This is a red card. A second yellow surely. I've never seen a more obvious foul. The ref just gives the free kick. Is he feeling that as he's giving Dougall a chance he's got to give the Sunderland man a chance? The difference is, Macfadzean has taken the legs of a player who was set to race into the box, where as Dougall clipped someone in the centre circle. 

McGeady takes the piss again. This lad is a genius. Why the fuck did Sunderland not play him for months? He causes absolute havoc, then stabs it wide, another cross, another corner. From the corner, Maxwell comes and claims brilliantly, but in doing so, kocks over the Viking and then lands squarely on his head. It's not a Blackpool match if Gretarsson isn't suffering. He's treated, he recovers, he goes again and a minute later Wyke elbows him in a challenge and the ref once again doesn't do anything. 

Then again, we somehow get the ball off the line. A ball spirals across from the right, it's headed up in the air, Maxwell goes to get it with O'Nein, he claims, it pops out, O Nein claims it, strikes it towards goal from about six yards out. Ballard throws himself, feet first and makes a stunning block. The Viking goes down again and this time, he's done. Thorniley comes on to replace him. I really like Gretarsson, but I've never seen a player get hurt so frequently, game after game after game. From the corner, Thorniley makes two headers and we escape for now. This is intense. 

Maxwell then makes a smart stop from a backwards flick header from Wyke. Burge makes a similar stop from from Demi after a shot from the edge of the box. Maxwell then tops it, with a terrific and unorthodox stop as Scowen drives low and very hard after a touch back by Stewart, Maxwell, unsighted has to adjust in an instant, and tumble, whilst extending his arms to scoop it away. Quick reactions save us again. 

Demi is done with cramp. I think he's done fine again. Gabriel is on to hare down the right. Sunderland are rampant at the moment. They've bought Ross Stewart on (who is a big galumphing lad with broad shoulders) and he's winning it. We have brief bit of respite. Again the ref seems to think holding Sullay down on the floor is all part of the game, so our attack breaks down. 

We're pinned back. There's lots of crosses, lots of headers. Lots of moving midway through our half and looking for angles. There's very little prospect of us getting forward though I always feel at this point, the best game management (the football expert's term for not 'not fucking it up') is to score again. The ref decides that Thorniley winning a fair header is a disgusting bit of cheating. From the free kick there's more headers, knockdowns and Scowen blasts over the top. Then history repeats as another seemingly well timed challenge is penalised. We complete a clearance, then to rub salt into the wound of the refs decisions, 7 (SEVEN) minutes of injury time is called. 

My ifollow fucks me about again in injury time. From what I do see, Jimmy Husband and Ethan Robson come on, there's a lot of free kicks and there's tension but there's no real chances. That's probably what football experts call game management. Finally, the whistle blows and we've fucking done it. 


That was a really good game and a really good win. Sunderland, such is the nature of the modern football fan and the required reaction to a defeat will probably consider their performance complete shite and we'll probably feel like we've played like utter champions. Neither is true. The game swung on the base of a post and an unsighted keeper making a mistake or getting a deflection. There was little to pick between the sides. 

I felt nervous for 90 minutes because Sunderland had quality. We played brilliantly at the back and we responded to that quality with some superb defending. Again, Ballard was brilliant, Maxwell had an excellent game, the defence as a whole were strong, including Thorniley when he came on, a difficult job to slot into an established game like that and get to its pace immediately, which he did. The front players ran and ran and I thought Simms had some touches today he simply wouldn't have had a month ago. He looked out of place not so long ago, today, whether or not he got the goal, he looked like he knew what he was doing most of the time. 

If the Lincoln game was a result didn't reflect the game, then this balances that feeling of injustice out. If I was Sunderland, I'd feel a bit flat. They didn't particularly deserve to lose but it was a game where both sides had a go and it felt like a goal would come sooner or later. For most of the game it was quite hard to tell who was on top. Strangely, for what felt like such a good game, there weren't so many chances and for all the decent stuff on display, it was won by a goal that was either a mistake or a bit of luck. The one really good effort on goal didn't go in. Football is like that. 

Who cares. We're on a roll again. 




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