It has been yet another eventful week in the life of our football club. An awful performance last Saturday at home to Sheffield United has been followed by two matches that typify exactly where we are at the moment.
During both the defeat to Forest and our draw away at Hull, if anything, we were certainly the architects of our own downfall. Forest never came close to carving out a chance of their own on Tuesday night, yet through Ty Browning's mistake, we managed to do that for them, ultimately losing the game and dropping a point in the process. Let's be honest, at the KCOM we went in at the break 1-0 up marginally the better side. Hull were dire in that first half. They hardly tested Robbin Ruiter and Sunderland looked relatively comfortable. For me, there lies one major problem.
The longer we kept hold of our lead after the break, the more defensively vulnerable we looked. There is either a genuine fear factor in this side to be able to protect a lead or conserve a point, or we simply don't have the mental attributes or decision-making ability to be able to see out a result. We sat far too deep far too early, allowing Hull to impose themselves on the game and take full control. It was almost a case of when, not if, they would find an equalizer. Whatever the causes are, our lack of game management is hugely apparent, and we cannot exactly blame that upon a squad devoid of experienced personnel.
For the second time in only a few days we've thrown points away and been done by a former player. First Daryl Murphy, followed by David Meyler. For me it has left something of a sour taste in the mouth. What the repercussions of this generous distribution of points to other sides in the league will be remains to be seen, but a quick glance at the league table tells you that we sit 21st in the table with six points from eight games, when in reality, if we'd shown a wee bit more nous and defensive discipline this week, we'd be at least five places higher with three more points on the board, which is extremely frustrating. Some would look to yesterday and see a point gained, and I myself would have taken a draw if offered one beforehand, but when you lead a game with eight minutes remaining on the clock, you've got to be brave enough to see it out.
We have at least stopped the rot in terms of league defeats, so one positive to take is that it is at last something to build on. It was also nice to see James Vaughan finally get off the mark in Sunderland colours. Whether it is sheer frustration at chucking away another two league points, or a culmination of lots of other things swirling around the club at the moment - including the mood of the supporters and the animosity towards messrs Bain and Short - I cannot help but feel that on a personal level I am beginning to lose my patience already. The reality has set in this week that we could well indeed have to prepare ourselves for another season of struggle at the bottom of a league table, as hard as that is to stomach, and as the games start to tick by, the more apparent it seems.
After Tuesday evening, I did not want to sit and pick out the flaws of individual players, and that remains the case now. What I do think is worth a mention, though, is the substitutions that Simon Grayson made yesterday.
Firstly, I want to clarify, that I, like most of our supporters, remain fully behind the manager. If I am to be a little critical, Grayson's changes at Hull certainly highlighted the significant lack of strength and depth at Sunderland currently. I get that making a change around the 70-75 minute mark is primarily to introduce fresh legs.
The fact that he waited so long tells you that even the manager himself was certainly hesitant in changing his personnel. Take Jack Rodwell as an example. Booked seconds after entering the field of play. Billy Jones in an advanced wide-right berth, and Lynden Gooch not introduced until the 88th minute. I'd really like to see Gooch given a little more game time, his energy and work rate are qualities that we need in our side. Just look at the impact Callum McManaman has made since joining. Substitutions and tactical changes are supposed to influence the team in a positive manner, yet all three of ours yesterday had a detrimental effect on the remaining fifteen minutes of play.
Grayson was criticized earlier in the season for not making a single change on the opening night against Derby. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and maybe refraining from rolling the dice yesterday may have been a better option once again - who knows. What was apparent was the lack of positive impact our changes made on proceedings, and it doesn't take intelligence of genius proportions to know that the lack of a third striking option is going to have a huge bearing on results from now until January.
We go to Everton on Wednesday, then we return to league action with a home game against Cardiff, followed by trips away to Ipswich and Preston. At the end of this month, we'll be a quarter of the way through the season, so maybe then we will be in a better position to judge just exactly where we are heading in this division. If we can use a point at Hull as a springboard to put together a little run of results, then all of a sudden things can quickly change. We have to ensure that happens. A huge fortnight awaits.