Sunderland maintained their unbeaten start to the season by claiming a battling draw at in-form Swansea City. You could also say that the we are still looking for our first league win of the season, of course, but we are 'glass half full' kinda guys around here.
Here is what we made of it.
What The Gaffer Said
Martin O'Neill seemed to have some mixed feelings after seeing his side earn a credible draw in South Wales. He told safc.com:
When Swansea went down to 10 men I thought that might have been our opportunity to apply a little bit more pressure but unfortunately we weren’t able to do that.
We didn’t cause them any problems inside their penalty area for the last 10-15 minutes.
Swansea are a fine footballing team and when we look back on the match we’ll be able to pick out some things that we should have done better.
It’s our second league game and it was only Steven Fletcher’s first and even though he’s lacking fitness I thought he did exceptionally well.
Stephane Sessegnon is in the same boat and I don’t think you can afford to have that many players playing in the Barclays Premier League that aren’t fully fit.
That fitness will come over the next couple of weeks - and then it should be fun.
So delighted we returned home with something from a ground that looks like it may be a tricky hunting ground for visiting teams, clearly frustrated that his team didn't seize the initiative with the man advantage, and looking forward to the attack gelling together.
Seems to just about sum up the feelings of most of us. (MG)
A Proper Striker!
The summer pursuit of Steven Fletcher was certainly protracted and it would be fair to say that for many the jury was very much out on the Scotsman. Not so sure there are many dissenting voices tonight, however.
The former Wolves man is a little short on match fitness and was pretty much feeding off scraps for the whole game, but he still walked away with two goals that any striker would be proud of. The first was a piece of genuine quality finishing and to peel off on the blind-side of his marker for the second showed dastardly clever penalty-box movement.
There is little question that last season that was a game that Sunderland would have lost. They'd have just been worn down by Swansea and been unable to get any kind of breakthrough themselves. When Ashley Williams made his mistake with the back pass, Nicklas Bendtner would have probably been stood out on the left wing somewhere still dreamily admiring a pass be made seven minutes earlier and cursing his misfortune that pretty passes can not be framed, signed, and hung up on walls of art galleries.
On this evidence, Fletcher was certainly worth both the wait and the money. (MG)
Catts A Miss
This was a game that really highlighted the importance of Lee Cattermole to Sunderland. OK, he isn't the most disciplined footballer in the world, and neither is he the most gifted. But he is certainly hugely underrated, not just as a player but as a leader too.
For all his limitations he provides the defence with some real protection with his positional play in front of them. It isn't always eye catching, but it is important. He is also an on-pitch leader and it is difficult to envisage the side dropping quite as deep as it did in the second half with Cattermole on the pitch to push his teammates out a little.
For all there is some real competition for the two central midfield spots this season, it is starting to look less a question of who fills the two spots and more like one of who partners the captain in there. As ugly as his game can be at times, we struggle without him. (MG)
Seb Larsson Is The New Kieran Richardson
No, he's not sodding off to Fulham. He is, however, the latest occupant of the 'shouldn't-be-playing-in-central-midfield' role at Sunderland. Larsson's qualities with a dead ball are well known and he's a hugely likeable character, but this isn't enough to warrant his continued selection if his performances show no sign of improvement.
It wasn't that Larsson did anything especially bad yesterday, it was more that he was entirely anonymous - a feat that is difficult to achieve in central midfield, unless you're Tommy Miller. Larsson is not robust enough when defending nor pacey enough to join counter-attacks, leaving him in a kind of wilderness in between.
On a post-match talk show last night, former defender Gary Bennett wondered whether Sunderland can afford to play all three of Sessegnon, McClean and Johnson when travelling away. If Martin O'Neill ponders this too, Larsson could well see himself moved back out to the wing, where he can probably do a job away from home. What is certain though, is that - like Richardson before him - he is unsuited to a role in central midfield. (CW)
Failing To Take Advantage
There was obviously disappointment when we took the lead twice and failed to hold on to it, but perhaps more disappointingly than that was when Chico Flores was sent off for his dangerous 'tackle' on Louis Saha, it was disheartening to see that we didn't really go for the win again.
For the twenty minutes that the defender was absent Swansea continued to pass the ball around better and look more of a threat. If you'd just started watching you'd have thought we were the ones who were a man down.
Perhaps there was a legitimate excuse such as tiredness or the new players in new positions not being on the same wavelength yet, but still, I'd have liked to see us go for a bit more. (SW)