Quick Kicks: Thoughts And Reaction From Sunderland 1-1 Norwich City

Michael Regan

Another soul-sapping afternoon following Sunderland ended up with what could very well prove to be a costly 1-1 draw with 10-man Norwich. Suppose we'd better talk about it and stuff...

What The Gaffer Said

It was a very frustrating game, particularly in the second half.

We should have created more, but we were unable to and suffered the consequences.

I've not had chance to watch any of the replays back of the penalty and sending off, but the referee had a job to do and he's made those decisions.

We've really got to improve on our set-pieces; I've said that before. They are a vitally important part of the game.

Craig [Gardner] did very well with the spot-kick.

He was also very good getting forward in the game - I thought the delay in taking the penalty might have been disturbing but he stuck it away brilliantly.

We frustratingly gave the ball away when we were in decent positions - we were left trying to force issues that just didn't exist and suffered the consequences.

You can find it to be difficult playing against teams with 10 men when they've got something to hold onto, but we should have done better.

We've got a fortnight before our next game with a number of players going away on international duty. We'll regroup when they get back and focus on our last eight games.

I do actually have a degree of sympathy for O'Neill after this one. He was probably as depressed and disappointed with the performance as the rest of us.

Fair play to him for not hiding and coming out and admitting it was nowhere near good enough. I am often asked why I still back him and the reason is simple - I think he knows exactly what is required and given time he will address it.

Sadly, we can't afford to have our attention on the future too much and I think O'Neill has been guilty of just that. It's going to be a real scrap now to avoid relegation and given the officials essentially handed us this one on a golden platter, that is not in the least bit acceptable.

The Mangane Farce

The whole Kader Mangane situation has pretty much been a mystery from day one. Yesterday, it became a farce.

The former Rennes man hasn't played a single second in a Sunderland shirt since his move two months ago, and now he has dropped from the teamsheet entirely having failed to even make the bench.

O'Neill has frequently cited a lack of fitness for his exclusion but it just doesn't wash. Danny Graham hasn't been fit since he signed, yet he has been involved in every game and started most of them. In fact he didn't train all week with an injury but still made the starting line-up. Alfred N'Diaye was seriously struggling for match fitness following his move but played immediately and stayed in the side. The same can be said of Adam Johnson last summer. Titus Bramble hasn't looked even remotely fit for about two years and stays heavily involved in the first team.

Clearly, it is simply a case of O'Neill not rating the Senegalese stopper, and if that is indeed the situation then you'd have to say that the club's money could and should have been spent considerably more responsibly.

Four-Four-Flop

In the first half of the season when things were dour yet relatively solid, a staggering amount of fans cried for just about the only thing that could make things worse - 4-4-2. Inexplicably, Martin O'Neill agreed and the finger has been predictably on the self-destruct button since.

Both Danny Graham and Steven Fletcher are happier alone and seem to spend all their time butting heads fighting for the same space. Stephane Sessegnon and Adam Johnson have been laden down with the kind of defensive responsibility with which neither are equipped to cope leading to the full backs being exposed and too easily overloaded.

The central midfield of (seemingly) Seb Larsson and someone else who couldn't dominate a game with an attacker dropping in to help at the start of the season has not magically become able to dominate a game without it. Meanwhile, the player brought in to add the mobility and strength to solve that particular problem has been dropped for a diminutive Mr Nice Guy.

This system is the very last one that this squad should be playing and it's time people - O'Neill included - started to accept it. More strikers does not equate to more attacking and it never has.

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