Off we went on yet another Wembley trail, and Carlisle came across the A69 to Wearside and gave us a bit of a fright as we made a mess of defending on a few occasions. Overcoming an early setback, goals from Maguire (2), Hume, and Wyke had us looking comfortable before we got pegged back to 4-3. Things were eventually made certain after a largely dominant display thanks to Diamond’s last-minute strike as he capped a fine display of wing-backery.
The last few days have seen the birthdays of, in my opinion, the finest two centre-halves our club has employed in my lifetime. On Sunday, Charlie Hurley turned 84, and a day later Dave Watson turned 74. Even with that ten year age difference, a chance piece of scouting in the late 1960s might have brought Dave to Roker a few years before he actually arrived, and he could have partnered The King – although he’d have had to dislodge Colin Todd to do so. Fanciful thinking, but you can’t help imagining such “if only” situations. Mind, on his debut the day after his 21st birthday, Charlie was part of a defence that leaked seven against Blackpool, with the man himself hoofing a last-minute clearance into the face of Ernie Taylor and thus in off the bar for the seventh. Dave Watson, on the other hand, scored at the right end on his debut in a 1-1 draw at Watford in December 1971 – from his original position as a centre forward. History lesson and reminiscences over.
Back to the present day, and the cup of cups, otherwise known as the EFL Trophy. A chance for Will Grigg to shine his shooting boots, or it would have been had he not managed to get injured and be off for a scan, I’d have thought, along with chances for Dan Neil and Jack Diamond – and there’d be changes at the back, with Willis having taken a whack or two at the weekend and Flanagan, McLaughlin, and Xhemajli apparently on international duty.
Wright Taylor O’Nien
Diamond Power Neil Dobson Hume
A bit of an experimental line-up, it terms of personnel if not shape, and Max Power, captain for the night despite the continued presence of Wright, set things in motion as we attacked the Roker End. Apparently, it was a bit breezy in the ground, but no more than the usual draughts bothered my living room. With Diamond quickly settling into his wingback role, he won us a corner on the right after only 30 seconds, which Maguire contrived to drop onto the roof of the net. By this time we’d worked out that O’Nien was the left of a three-man defence with Brandon Taylor on the right and Wright in the middle – at least one of them had experience in his position. More good work by Diamond helped Power get in a shot from the right of the box which was parried at the near post and rebounded off Wyke for a goal kick, and Carlisle realised that young Jack was a proper menace, and put in a few hefty challenges without doing any damage.
With five minutes gone, Taylor played a loose pass in the centre, and the visitors got into our half for the first time, bursting into the box and seeing Matthews rush out and splatter their attacker. Penalty, pretty obviously, which was struck firmly by Allesandra beyond Matthews’s despairing right hand. It was obviously far too early to panic in terms of shape or personnel, as we’d camped in their half so far, and we continued to feed Diamond and he continued to pelt down the right.
What looked like a foul on Wyke on the edge of the area saw Carlisle break again, this time drawing a good save from Matthews, who was happy to collect O’Nien’s diving header as the move was ended. We cleared it, and it was worked to Power who fired over the top before Taylor was a bit lax and allowed the visitors to win a corner on our left. It went deep, a template for all their future dead balls, and was headed back across with Maguire hoofing it clear. Neil broke nicely but was fouled a couple of yards to the right of the box for a free which Maguire saw cleared, but we brought it back down the right for Diamond to get to the line and cut it back to near the penalty spot , from where Power volleyed wide of the front post. Clearly fancying a goal, Max tried his luck again, this time from distance but bringing comfy save from the visiting keeper.
We allowed Carlisle down the north end, and they won a couple of consecutive corners, both of which followed the established pattern of firing it beyond the back post, but we defended them well enough. When we got it back down the other end, we won a free about twenty yards out on the right of the box, and just as we were expecting Maguire to float it to the back post, he shot for the near. The ball hit the wall’s left –hand man on the right shoulder, or cheek, and flew across the goal and in. Nice deflection, but if you don’t shoot you don’t score, and we deserved to be level on the balance and quality of play.
Diamond continued to be a nuisance down the right, and also when he ran through the middle only to be halted as he got near the box. When he next forayed down the wing, he got a bang on the nose that needed the application of some cold water and glue – it would have been a real shame if he’d had to go off after we in our armchairs (‘cos that’s where we sit these days) have been banging on about giving the Lad a chance. A wee spell of Cumbrian pressure was ended with a good Hume tackle (thankfully added to his game this term) at the expense of a corner, and a good block by Max on the other side at the expense of another. We soon put paid to that nonsense by getting hold of the ball again and putting together some nice passing which moved the ball out to the left. Maguire slotted through what, in the days before pocket calculators, they used to call a slide-rule pass to Hume, who held off his marker and slotted it across the keeper and in. Nicely done, no more than we deserved, and with ten minutes to the break, plenty of time to add to that.
Dobson, sitting deeper to allow Power to sit further forward, made a move upfield and fed Diamond, who went on an uncharacteristically jinky run inside, and won us a corner on the right. With our big Lads lining up on the penalty spot in what footballers call the Bus Stop formation, according to Danny Collins, Maguire instead cut it short to Diamond who turned inside and floated it left footed to the back post, where the keeper collected. Three minutes were added, presumably for the shoulder injury that had forced off Walker and allowed Mellish into the fray. More of him later, unfortunately, but as it was the half ended 2-1 to us, and with an impressive game from Diamond while Maguire drifted around pulling the strings and keeping the young'un fed with the ball.
No more changes for the second half, and the visitors certainly looked a bit more organised in stopping the ball getting to Diamond, meaning that Hume saw a bit more of it as we switched play, and as we went through the process of coming to terms with this Carlisle forged a couple of attacks. Once we’d settled, O’Nien started to push forward a bit more, and something promising looked on the cards when he, Maguire, Hume, and Power combined down the left, until Max overhit his ball to Diamond. We then repeated the trick with Power, Hume and Wyke combining on the left to set Denver clear, and his cross was blocked. Carlisle responded by replacing Charters, who’d been a bit of a nuisance without quite looking likely to trouble Matthews, with Bell. Ten minutes into the half we went a bit route one, with Wyke flicking on a long clearance right into the path of Maguire, who held off his marker and placed it neatly past the keeper from the middle of the box. Cool as you like, a lovely finish. Game over?
Diamond’s extra fitness had seen him get back into full-on pest mode down the right, where his impressive turn of pace won us a corner, which Maguire hit to the front post from where Carlisle cleared it – with their break yet again causing problems, only being halted by a Hume foul. As we sought to use the left as well as the right, it got a bit congested in the centre, but we managed to feed O’Nien via Hume, and his cross was met by Maguire near the spot, and, seemingly in slow motion (or did the internet stream slow down?) his header evaded the keeper’s left hand and drifted a foot wide of the far post on the hour. A spell of patient passing in our own half ended when O’Nien rampaged down the left – what had they said to him at half time? - ran inside and laid it to Neil, when perhaps Wyke was better placed, and young Dan’s effort from distance flew over the top. Worth a hit, though. After conceding a corner thanks to a vital Taylor block, we played it forward, and some nice interplay between Hume, O’Nien, and Maguire ended when the keeper couldn’t hold Chris’s shot and Wyke was on hand to poke it home from a few yards out. 68 minutes gone, game surely over.
Carlisle won yet another corner when a shot was blocked, they brought on Guy for Malley, the cross came in and was met by Mellish at the front post – the cheeky beggars had changed their routine – and put in for 4-2. Perhaps the game wasn’t over.
A thumping tackle, of the sort that Hume now seems to enjoy and the fans certainly would have roared their appreciation of, was closely followed by a decent save by Matthews with quarter of an hour to go. Five minutes or so later, O’Brien and Graham replaced Wyke and Neil, and we had a shaky moment when Dobson lost the ball in the centre circle and Carlisle raced forward again – but shot wildly over the top. Allesandra got into our box on the right and laid it back to the edge of the area where Mellish (what did I tell you ?) smashed it high into the net for 4-3. Game most definitely not over, what with a good eight minutes still to go.
Right on the 90 minute mark, and just as the four added minutes were announced, Diamond , who’d just come close to setting up Graham with another speedy run to the by-line and cut back, had his legs taken away out right, and Maguire put in the free, which was headed only partially away. It went back in to Graham, who held it up well before rolling back to the onrushing Diamond, who in turn smashed it into the roof of the net to cap a fine night’s work. Game finally, and most definitely, over. There was still time for Dobson to try his luck with a shot from distance that was more of a danger to the Black Cats Bar that the keeper, then the whistle went, and we go marching on. With Villa’s bairns having let in another three at Fleetwood, without reply, I reckon they’ll not be progressing towards the Twin Towers. I think we might be through, but the rules of this competition are a bit beyond me. I’ll await confirmation in the press.
Anyway, a win’s a win, and Man of the Match? Some nice touches and runs from Dan Neil, the usual cleverness from Maguire, but Diamond shone brightest. Mebbe we have got another wing-back after all.