SAFC 1-2 Notts County (FAC3)

Cupping Hell, what a load of crap that was from the boys in Red & White. Everbody repeat after three... one, two, three... "We're concentrating on the league"... "We're concentrating on the league"... "We're concentrating on the league"... It's all we can do to console ourselves...

A much changed team for Sunderland, as everyone expected. Notable introduction was the return from Sheffield United of Andy Reid who started on the left hand side of midfield. A strong start up front for the lads with Gyan (not on a winter break as many reported) partnering Darren Bent.

A typically slow Sunderland start was punished early. Angeleri & Reid conspired to make a complete hash of things on the left for a Notts corner. From Davies’ hanging corner a crowd of bodies clatter into Mignolet in the Sunderland goal, and the ball trundles in. Craig Westcarr claiming the final touch, but we’ll have to see on MOTD later.

Sunderland continued to be lax for large parts of the first half, allowing Notts County to be comfortably on top. It didn’t take long for the lads to get into panic-mode and start hitting long balls, very disappointing from SAFC, but credit to Notts for defending resolutely. Nelson in the Notts goal barely tested.

It took until the 20 minute mark for SAFC to get anything going when Gyan kept the ball in play; however Angeleri could only find Reid who hit his cross well wide. Sadly that was SAFC’s best of the first quarter as Notts looked comfortable and perhaps most likely to get the next goal, piling on corner after corner.

It took a while, but SAFC did get more into the game, culminating with Reid bumbling through the Magpies defence, but his shot just looped over the bar.

With SAFC coming back into things it became a ‘real cup tie’ to use a huge cliché. The ever dangerous Davies for Notts hitting a free-kick which Edwards connected with, but luckily it flashed past Mignolet's post and wide. A real let off for Sunderland.

As the half-time whistle came. Notts County deservedly led, and gave their fantastic travelling support everything to cheer about. At the break I couldn’t help but think how some commentators accuse teams of ‘not getting out of second gear’... After that half, I hoped SAFC to get up to second gear!

Hoping the second half started with the players given a rocket up their rear ends, I thought that might be the case when Reid did well down the left and earned a corner which came to nothing, followed shortly by Richardson putting a ball in which Malbranque sent wide, and lastly Bent miss-controlling Angeleri’s ball.

After that it petered out a bit. End to end, a few corners, but a distinct lack of goalmouth action, which was fine for the SAFC defence, but worrying at the other end. That forced Bruce into ringing changes we all wanted at the 45. Elmohamady & Henderson on for Riveros & Colback who were both uninspiring when given their big chance.

The subs made an instant impact for SAFC as they began to look the better team for a period. A string of corners intertwined with Elmohamady putting in two dangerous crosses. Malbranque fired over from 18 yards, and a glorious chance for Bent was headed wide by our leading scorer. Finally we began to show some signs of life.

In the 70th minute the ball comes to Bent couldn’t control a relatively simple pass from Gyan and another chance goes begging, and we just looked increasingly desperate. Bardsley comes on for Angeleri, shame that’s the best sub we can offer, although I’d rather have brought on young Adam Reed into midfield, at least there is a ‘wildcard’ element there, but Bruce knows best and opted for Bardinho.

Cross after cross came in for SAFC, but nobody wanted to test the keeper. Reid & Elmo putting in good balls from the flanks, but Bent seemed determined to allow Nelson the clean sheet.

And then in the 75th minute, the inevitable comes. Having been toothless in front of goal, boo boy Lee Hughes shows SAFC how to finish. Mignolet blocking at the first attempt, after he ghosted past Da Silva, Hughes quickest to react and finished very well from a tight angle. Notts 2-0 up, deservedly so having been the better team for large parts of the game, and SAFC completely rubbish.

In the 80th minute, a penalty was awarded for Sunderland, and a potential life line with hope we could salvage some pride. Notts couldn’t have any complaints at all. Ravenhill with a very clumsy challenge, and Darren Bent fired it high and right into the net.

You’d have thought that would give SAFC the confidence to test Notts a bit more, but any sort of onslaught lay dormant as they reverted to the same as much of the second half with various people, putting varying degrees of poor crosses in with no proper danger for Notts County.

Ratings:

22 Mignolet – 6/10 – Picked the wrong day to be shaky. Looked his age and experience today.
03 Richardson – 6/10 – Going to have to be better next week.
08 Malbranque – 6/10 – Typically Steed, a bit of creation, but nowhere near enough.
11 Bent – 5/10 – Despite the goal, largely poor. Can’t control a ball at all recently which is a worry.
12 Angeleri – 5/10 – Got forward a fair bit, but didn’t do much. Can’t see much of a future for him.
14 Da Silva – 5/10 – The sooner he’s sold the better.
16 Riveros – 5/10 – Given a big chance, and didn’t look the classy World Cup player we saw on TV.
20 Reid – 6/10 – Plenty of decent crosses, and arguably our best player on a shocking day.
25 Colback – 5/10 – Another given a big chance. He can go back to Ipswich if he wants.
29 Ferdinand – 6/10 – Captain for the day, not a lot wrong, bit eager to hoof though.
33 Gyan – 5/10 – Started his ‘winter break’ early I think.

Subs:

02 Bardsley – 6/10 – Nothing wrong, but when you’re down, don’t bring on a defender.
10 Henderson – 6/10 – Wanted to take the game by the neck but couldn’t assert himself.
27 Elmohamady – 7/10 – A series of dangerous crosses, infinitely more attack than anyone else did.

Overall, we can’t argue with the result. As I await Steve Bruce’s after match email, I pray he doesn’t make excuses about injuries etc. There’s no excuse at all for that performance. Notts County completely out played us, and deservedly won and got into the next round of the cup. The loud and lively 3000 or so who came up from Notts will be delighted.

Steve Bruce has a hell of a lot of work to do in the week leading up to the match against Newcastle next week. What is it about Sunderland this season and utterly dismal displays against Magpies?

I’m off to somehow convince myself we’re concentrating on the league. And at least nobody got injured.

Keep the faith everyone; we really have to at times like this.

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