LITTLE over a week into the season and the fledgling League Two table suggests that Hartlepool United’s clash with Dagenham and Redbridge is already a relegation six-pointer.
Second bottom Pools entertain the only side beneath them in the country tomorrow after a dismal 2-0 home defeat against Bury on Saturday.
At least Bury, like Stevenage on the opening day, are genuine promotion contenders.
Tuesday, on the other hand, is Hartlepool’s first of many cracks at the type of side they should take points from.
A home win and that table will start to take on a more realistic look.
Unless they secure more firepower then Pools will never move beyond the midtable malaise I soon expect them to occupy.
But surely Dagenham after a long journey north from London on a Tuesday night - who comes up with these fixtures? - are there for the taking?
Just witness the Daggers’ defending for Burton Albion’s winning goal on Saturday.
The challenge by the defender supposedly stopping the cross from the right was a disgrace even by the hallowed standards of the Hartlepool Church and District League.
If you haven’t already seen it then it’s worth hunting down on the web.
I’d post the link if I didn’t have more drivel for you to endure below.
SUNDERLAND’S opening day Premier League trip to West Brom was also condemned by certain doom-mongers as an automatic relegation scrap.
Had Gus Poyet’s side not scored a late equaliser through Seb Larsson then I guess the entertaining encounter would have lived up to its billing.
Yet Sunderland’s deserved draw was first evidence of the steady progress I expect them to make this season.
For much of last season the Black Cats would have folded once they had fallen 2-1 behind in the 74th minute.
This time around, however, they survived a couple of nervy moments while regaining their composure before taking their game once more to their hosts and snatching a point.
That said, a good team would have won at the Hawthorns on Saturday and I guess a truer test of how far Sunderland still need to go will come on Sunday when Manchester United arrive at the Stadium of Light.
On second thoughts....
THERE were even encouraging signs for Newcastle United during their annual 2-0 defeat at home to Manchester City 24 hours later.
New signings Daryl Janmaat and Jack Colback were polished in defence and midfield respectively while further up the park fellow new boy Remy Cabella was a constant menace to the champions’ strangely uncertain backline.
The pacey Emmanuel Riviere though was willing if largely unable in the lone centre-forward’s role.
His truer test will come on Saturday against the cumbersome Ron Vlaar and Philippe Senderos when Newcastle face another poor Midlands side, Aston Villa, at Villa Park.
Will Newcastle be struggling down the wrong end of the table with Roy Keane’s, I mean Paul Lambert’s, Villains?
Sunday’s gutsy showing suggests the Magpies have enough about them to ensure they get beat 2-0 at home by City next season as well.
GOOD sides such as Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool proved at the weekend that they know how to play poorly and win.
They also usually know how to turn any dodgy refereeing decisions which go against them into catalysts for victory.
Middlesbrough failed to thrive on such an injustice on Saturday after Albert Adomoah’s acrobatic volley at Leeds United was wrongly ruled out for dangerous play at 0-0.
A competent Boro did not seem to know whether to stick or twist against their disjointed hosts and were ultimately caught out at the other end by keeper Tomas Mejias’s late fumble.
At least Aitor Karanka’s side have an early opportunity to learn from their 1-0 defeat when they face old boy David Wheater’s Bolton Wanderers at the renamed Macron Stadium on Tuesday night.
With Bolton having already conceded seven goals in three games, a more positive attitude against Wheater and his defensive colleagues should produce a maiden Championship away win.
- GAVIN LEDWITH