As far as I'm concerned Grayson selected the strongest team possible when you consider the injuries in the squad. On paper, and individually, most of those players are capable of of dominating Nottingham Forest. Minor observations of match fitness and the incredibly busy fixture we go in to should be kept in mind, and so his selection can't really be faulted.
Verdict: As good as it's going to get, bar McGeady and Watmore.
Again, substitutions seem to be something that Grayson struggles with. Other than the forced change of substituting the injured Grabban for perennial struggler James Vaughan, Grayson took his sweet time effecting changes during the game. Legs were tiring by the end of the first half, and the lowliest of tacticians could see that we needed to sustain energy in the game if we were going to come away with anything at all.
Gooch was the logical replacement in midfield as Mcmanaman tired, and it's indicative of our lack of depth that the battling young American is the most likely of our bench to make an impact. It's unfortunate for him that he's in this melting pot right now. The final substitution though – that's what I want to talk about.
At 1-0 down and with just minutes left on the clock, Simon Grayson took off an albeit struggling Lee Cattermole, and opted to defend our defeat by bringing on a right back in Billy Jones. Yes, nothing spells imminent victory like conceding goals with five defenders and then bringing on a sixth at the death.
These are schoolboy levels of error. I will never understand the supposed tactical fineries that inspire a decision like that.
Verdict: Poorly timed. Misguided.
It’s probably the most frustrating result that we’ve had because we didn’t deserve to lose that game tonight, without a shadow of a doubt. I thought the players responded from Saturday, they showed a lot of bravery with and without the ball; they were confident, so it is a kick in the teeth when you lose a game like that.
“We didn’t get the breaks when we needed things to fall in the 18-yard box, and then the one mistake that we made throughout the whole of the night, we got punished for. When you’re in a run of losing games, that can happen, and it happened tonight.
This is perhaps the most cliché of clichés and the truth is that it's nonsense. The location of a falling ball isn't dictated by luck, it involves trajectory and momentum. It may seem a lot to you and I for a man to kick a ball and place it wherever he pleases on the pitch, but believe it or not that's what we pay these men to do, and they've been doing it since they could walk. Winners know that luck is a small thing, losers believe that it's a substitute for training and composure. Poor excuse, and one that sticks in my craw.
I think they are more disappointed than they have been recently because they know that they didn’t deserve that tonight. I’ve just told them that they need to stay positive and take the positives out of the game.
There were some good individual performances, the players didn’t go missing, they didn’t not want to get on the ball, they tried to make things happen. We didn’t have to defend too much because we were the dominant team, but when things are going against you, they go against you.
This is, for the most part, true. We can't watch that team of individuals and bemoan a lack of effort on their part, and there were indeed some good individual performances (from Williams, most notably) but a team is only as good as the sum of it's parts. Effort is all well and good but it's the least we expect, and by itself it does not bring results.
The supporters were critical of the team on Saturday because they didn’t see the effort and commitment that they want and deserve, but tonight they stayed right with the team until the 90-odd minute. That’s a credit to them.
The problem is that when you are in these kind of positions, sometimes the breaks don’t go your way. But it can change very quickly and I’m confident that it will with this group of players. I’ve just seen the table, and a win at the weekend could take us up to halfway in the division. That’s how tight it can be. The season isn’t based on seven games, it is 46 games.
We’ve had key players missing, we’ll get them back, and that will make us a better squad with more strength in depth.
The truth is that while many of the supporters did stay until the final whistle, they do so with hope that change will come, and that hope is waning fast. The other important point to note, that Grayson doesn't make for obvious reasons, is that the stadium was half-empty and in truth if it had been attended by the sorry souls that can't stomach it we'd have seen another mass exodus before ninety minutes. Only the diehard fans are going now, and that group will dwindle further with anything less than an immediate turnaround in our fortunes.
This might as well have come from a script. It hit's all the markers expected of the fallout from a disappointing loss to a mediocre team. Grayson is no wordsmith, and the only reason he doesn't sound like a parrot yet is because the season has really only just begun. As time goes on and points continue to fall by the wayside, we'll find these conversations become a lot shorter, and with mounting fan pressure will come the defensiveness that we know and love in a Sunderland manager.
Verdict: Guarded, with a dose of faux optimism.