Quick Kicks: Thoughts From Sunderland 3-2 FC Groningen

We've got the gaffer's comments and a few more thoughts on today's game with our new feature "Quick Kicks"

Sunderland left it late before snatching a dramatic (well as dramatic as pre-season can get) late win over FC Groningen on Sunday morning to take third place at the 2012 Peace Cup.

It can be difficult to read too much into these kinds of games, but we gave it a go anyway. If you're un aware, this is a new feature we'll be doing after every game from now until we get bored of it.

Here is what we made of it all...

What The Gaffer Said

Speaking after the game to SAFCTV, O'Neill was predictably delighted with Ryan Noble's contribution, as well as hailing the trip as a huge success from a fitness perspective.

Ryan [Noble] was very, very positive. He made a big impact. He tried to get hold of it, he didn't give it away, he played a superb little ball through [for the equalizer], and then his goal was absolutely fantastic.

All in all it has been a good trip. You start to learn about some of the younger players, as well as learning a little bit more about the senior players too.

But all in all in terms a fitness it was excellent. Some of the players who have played both 90 minutes are absolutely exhausted. The conditions are tough, but overall it's been good for us.

That blaze of glory at the end was a great way to finish, and at least it gave the fans who have travelled here with us something to cheer.

It is interesting to note that the first thing O'Neill mentions with Noble's performance is the fact he got hold of it and kept it, with the goal and pass for the equalizer something of an afterthought. That should give everyone a bit of insight as to what kind of forward we can expect the club to be signing this summer. (MG)

The Fullback Question

As well as the attacking area of the side, you would have to expect things to be very different in the full back areas next season.

It would be reasonable to attach considerable blame to the full backs for either goal today. Firstly Craig Gardner was beaten far too easily in the air at the back post for the first, and then Kieran Richardson beaten all ends up for the second goal.

There has been a lot of talk this summer about the 'archetypal O'Neill forward', but it should also be noted that he tends to like his full backs to have height and strength and with good cause. His defensive strategy tends to be funnelling an attack out wide and dominating the middle with a narrow back four, so being able to defend the back post in the air becomes crucial.

It will be interesting to see who gets the nod come September. (MG)

Mostly Lacklustre In Attack, But Little Reason To Worry

Despite the late flurry, it has to be said that Sunderland were mostly poor going forward. Wickham impressed again, although wasn't really helped by the lack of quality and imagination around him.

That probably should have been expected, though. The main creative influences of last season have not travelled and Nicklas Bendtner has of course departed. With McClean, Larsson, and Sessegnon back in the side, as well a new arrival or two, the attacking line-up will likely look completely different once the competitive stuff gets underway. (MG)

Billy To Get A Game? Knott In O'Neill's Eyes

It was interesting that once again Billy Knott was an unused substitute, making his trip to Korea little more than an exercise in training with the first team. Knott himself has said he'd be away on loan again if he didn't get first team football, and across the two games you think he'd have been given an opportunity.

In the 4-3-3 system Martin O'Neill used in both games, it looks as though the left-hand side of the front three would be perfect for him, but it was filled by Kieran Richardson and perhaps more surprisingly Craig Lynch across the two games. Knott could also have been given a game in midfield as despite the assured performances of Colback, Meyler and Cattermole, all three looked short of invention for long periods. (SW)

MUCH More Than Just A Goalscorer?

Ryan Noble is a player - and a kind of player - that has divided opinion for a while amongst Sunderland fans. The question has always been that other than score tap-ins for the reserves, what more can he actually bring to the team? - Well, on this evidence, a lot.

His quite exquisite solo winning goal will grab the headlines, but his hold-up play, patience on the ball, and awareness of what was around him were what got the side the equalizer. He was, without question, Sunderland's matchwinner.

You can't really apply what we saw from Noble to draw any conclusions going forward. We can only really judge him and his performance here in isolation at this point, but it was hugely impressive regardless. He still has everything to prove, but lets hope it is the start of something. (MG)

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