How Have We Fared?
March, for me, has been probably the most frustrating month so far this season.
We've only played three times due to reasons out of our control and in the trio of games that we have played, we've dropped points from winning positions. It has been tough to take.
March started with a midweek fixture against struggling Crystal Palace. Having taken a well deserved lead into half time following Dame N'Doye's strike we managed to combust rather quickly, as two Connor Wickham goals meant we looked set to lose in a game we really needed to take something from. Luckily for us, a rather pissed off Fabio Borini saved us with an outrageous strike right at the death to ensure we took at least a point - not bad when you consider how close we were to a loss.
Then, in the commencing weekend, we traveled to the south coast to take on Ronald Koeman's Southampton and, despite an outstanding performance which saw Jermain Defoe score with just five minutes left on the clock, we fell apart once again and conceded a goal with virtually the last kick of the game. Having been so close to taking all three points we were once again left feeling frustrated that we weren't capable of seeing out a victory that we had most definitely earned.
One thing we didn't need after the disappointment at the St Mary's was a two week break, but that is what we got - and, much like in the Palace and Southampton games, we threw away a lead at Newcastle and only left the derby fixture with a point, despite leading the game until the eighty-third minute.
Jermain Defoe continued his fine goalscoring form with a volley just before half time, and Sunderland were good value for their lead having been by far the better side for the opening forty-five minutes. After the break, though, Sam Allardyce's side came out to defend their lead and it proved costly, as after much pressure we finally conceded through an Alexander Mitrovic header late in the game.
All in all we took three points from a possible nine - worryingly, however, we were in the position to take the maximum potential haul from those games and threw away our lead in all of them. Though we appear tough to beat, we are clearly weak minded when it comes to holding on.
Who Were The Reader's Picks?
After each game we post a player ratings article and at the end we ask our readers to vote on who they think the man of the match was.
Fabio Borini's late equaliser was enough to see him take the man of the match award against Crystal Palace, and it was fair enough. Fabio was clearly out to prove a point to his manager having not played a great deal recently and you saw every bit of his anger burst out when he smashed home a fantastic goal right at the death. Fabio took home a 44% share of the votes and just pipped Jan Kirchhoff, who also played fantastically against Alan Pardew's side.
Speaking of Kirchhoff, he was the main man away at Southampton, earning 379 votes - a massive 44% overall cut - and he again ran away with the poll after the Newcastle match, collecting 58% of the overall votes, collecting 592 in total.
Who Has Had A Bad Month?
It has been a bad month once again for Senegalese striker Dame N'Doye, who earned an average rating of 3.6 last month. We're beginning to see a pattern in N'Doye's performances through our polls and ratings - he's struggled massively to impress since arriving in January and nothing we've seen thus far indicates that is likely to change. Despite scoring against Crystal Palace he was very poor and the decision to allow Steven Fletcher to leave for Marseille now looks a rather foolish one when you consider just how bad his replacement is.
It's also been a month to forget for John O'Shea, who has been unusually poor across all three games he's featured in this month. O'Shea was injured early on in the Crystal Palace game, and then against Southampton and Newcastle he was introduced as a substitute and played his part in the goals we conceded to throw the lead in both fixtures. His overall rating for March is a lowly four - we're sure he'll bounce back though, as in February you might remember he was one of our top performers.
Who Has Had A Good Month?
Vito Mannone and Lamine Kone have had fairly decent showings this month and both men have achieved an average score of seven - Mannone's contributions away at Southampton deserve credit, whilst Kone has proven he's one of our best players on a weekly basis since arriving from Lorient in January.
Fabio Borini has seen a huge upturn in form earn him an average of 7.6 - his goal against Crystal Palace meant he started in the away games at Southampton and Newcastle and in both he was one of our hardest working players. If Sunderland are to survive this year, we'll need Fabio to bring the goods on a weekly basis.
Player Of The Month - Jan Kirchhoff - 8
This is a result that should surprise nobody. Kirchhoff was unlucky not to win our POTM for February and had he not went off early against Manchester United I think he will have probably pipped Lamine Kone.
Starting in front of the back four, Kirchhoff has been our best performer throughout March and you could probably attribute the way our team seem to fall apart to his fitness issues - as soon as Kirchhoff leaves the pitch, we fold like a pack of cards.
It's remarkable just how important Kirchhoff has become to Sunderland, and it's very easy to see just why he was a player for Bayern Munich. Kirchhoff was playing in front of the back four for Schalke against Real Madrid in the Champions League last season and it should shock nobody that he's been able to churn out consistently brilliant performances since taking up that role in our side since January.
I called Lamine Kone a bargain last month, but in comparison to the fee paid to get Jan Kirchhoff to Sunderland I don't think any Premier League club did any better business in the winter transfer window. He's class - lets just try and get him to finish a full game. We might start turning these draws into wins if we do.