Team Selection - Baffling
With Marc Wilson, Lamine Kone and Tyias Browning all unavailable for this game, surely it was an opportune moment to give a young up-and-comer - like Tom Beadling - their chance in the starting eleven to prove themselves as a first-team player, right?
Lining up alongside John O’Shea in the centre of defence was... Billy Jones.
I’ve no idea either.
I decided to take a quick look back over the games that Jones has played so far this season and he’s played around the same amount of time as a centre half as he has as a right back. Something tells me Grayson actually believes that Jones can play there - and that’s worrying.
I disagree with the decision to start Duncan Watmore - something that I argued about before the game here - and I think we actually wasted the forward’s usefulness in not saving his legs for later in the game.
I also didn’t understand why we started the match with two holding midfielders again. It has been clear for months that Didier Ndong and Lee Cattermole cannot play well together, and whilst in the past we’ve certainly had a lack of options in that position, the same cannot be said about this game. With Jonny Williams back and fit it made no sense not to start him, particularly as he’s quite clearly our best central midfielder.
Though I actually like George Honeyman, I think that Callum McManaman should have played in his place from the start of the match. We really had to do everything to ensure we took all three points from this game and we would have given ourselves a much better chance of doing so if we had started with one of our better players out wide.
Verdict: Many questionable decisions again. He doesn’t help himself.
Tactics - Negative, dull, uninspiring
As I mentioned in the previous section, I don’t understand the thinking behind playing two holding midfielders - particularly when you’re the home side, playing ‘poor’ opposition, and you’re desperate for a win. To me, it shows Grayson has zero confidence in the ability of himself and the players, and that’s incredibly concerning.
In the first half we tried to go back-to-front very quickly, and it had minimal success. Duncan Watmore was a nuisence to the QPR back-line but they had clearly done their homework and knew exactly what was coming, which meant that Sunderland found it difficult to create chances as the opposition defenders cleared their lines over and over again in order to ensure Watmore didn’t catch them making mistakes.
In the second period we went out a goal down and it meant that we simply had no choice but to drive forward, and as we’re a side short on confidence we struggled to harm QPR, who remained resilient throughout. Had it not been for some individual brilliance from Aiden McGeady again we’d have been sat talking about yet another agonising defeat in which we found it difficult to break down a fairly poor side.
Verdict: Not good enough, I’m afraid. Two holding midfielders at home?!
Substitutions - Mixed Bag
The change at half time up front was a commendable one, and was perhaps the first piece of decision-making made by Grayson in ages that I can give a nod to. James Vaughan was terrible in the first half, a performance capped off by the fact it was his man on the corner that scored the QPR goal.
Just before the hour mark we introduced Jonny Williams for George Honeyman, and guess what - we actually looked alright once we had someone on the pitch that can actually pass a ball. That change should have been made at the break, and it should have been Lee Cattermole that made way, but I can’t complain too much I suppose.
The final switch of the match was Callum McManaman for Duncan Watmore, another player that should have perhaps started the game. McManaman is one of our strongest players and when he’s fit he should be starting, particularly at home when his trickery and width can come in useful.
Verdict: Grayson shot himself in the foot not starting Williams & McManaman.
Post-Match Comments - *Sigh*
My fellow Roker Reporter James Henchard did a fantastic job of breaking down what Simon Grayson had to say after the game here on the site in this piece yesterday, so I’ll keep this section short and sweet and instead will point you towards what James had to say about it all.
Simon Grayson isn’t a fantastic orator and he struggles sometimes to come across in the manner he would likely prefer, and it’s something I’m noticing more and more each week. He’s obligated to speak to the press after each game, and when we’re not winning there’s obviously a microscope placed over every single word that leaves his mouth.
I struggled when listening to what Grayson had to say, and it wasn’t just the words that he was speaking that I had difficulty with but his overall demeanour about what he had witnessed. I know he’s got to appear positive in front of the cameras, but he’s sending the wrong message to the fans because we can see with our own eyes the problems that the players are encountering.
I instead preferred to hear from Aiden McGeady, who was very concise and blunt about where Sunderland are at right now.
Verdict: We need to see a firmer approach from Grayson going forward. Whatever he might say, the fact is that this just isn’t good enough anymore - stop sugar-coating it.