A Clayton Donaldson brace leaves Sunderland defeated for the third straight Championship fixture, losing at home 2-1 to Sheffield United.
Goals in either half from Donaldson were enough to see off Simon Grayson’s men, who lacked quality throughout in a toothless display. A consolation goal in injury time from Jack Rodwell wasn’t enough to mask another embarrassing Sunderland performance.
The Black Cats are just a point above the relegation zone, with another battle for survival looking likely. It was a third straight game where Sunderland were outclassed tactically and largely hopeless, Grayson and the individual players must do better or Sunderland could be heading for League one.
Sunderland XI: Robin Ruiter, Marc Wilson, Tyias Browning, Lamine Kone (c), Brendan Galloway, Didier Ndong, Jack Rodwell, George Honeyman, Jonny Williams, Lewis Grabban, James Vaughan.
Subs: Jason Steele, John O’Shea, Adam Matthews, Billy Jones, Lynden Gooch, Callum McManaman, Darron Gibson.
Sheffield United XI: Jamal Blackman, Chris Basham, Mark Duffy, Jack O’Connell, Enda Stevens, Paul Coutts, Jake Wright, John Fleck, Kieran Freeman, Billy Sharp (c), Clayton Donaldson.
Subs: Jake Eastwood, George Baldock, John Lundstram, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Daniel Lafferty, Ched Evans, David Brooks.
Sunderland went into half-time trailing after a sorry showing bereft of attacking quality and invention.
After a dull opening 20 minutes, devoid of goal mouth action at either end, United got the crucial opener. Ironically it came after semi-promising Sunderland attack with George Honeyman and Didier Ndong just failing to exchange passes from a corner.
Donaldson raced away on the break, turning Marc Wilson inside out before beating Robin Ruiter at his near post. The Dutchman should have stopped the shot.
Despite three quarters of the game remaining, the Black Cats already looked desperate. Lewis Grabban and Jonny Williams both ending attacks just after the goal, with shots from ridiculous positions.
After a brief Lads rally, the Blades took over the game. Donaldson nearly added a second on the half hour mark, his dipping header was tipped over by Ruiter. The 30 year old back pedalled conceding a corner, but for poor positioning - he would have saved comfortably.
With United comfortably the better team the home crowd became angered at the lack of quality displayed by the Wearsiders. Mark Duffy came closest to making it two, having a curled effort held by Ruiter after Ndong conceded possession cheaply in midfield.
The best first half Mackem move saw Grabban in behind the Sheffield defence, his cross picked out James Vaughan. The ex-Everton man couldn’t open his account, shooting wide with an acrobatic, aerial volley.
Sunderland went in behind at half time for the third game running, second best, not looking capable of scoring.
Half Time: Sunderland 0-1 Sheffield United (Donaldson 21)
Similar to the first half little happened in the first 20 minutes after half time, with both sides lacking the quality to create chances and dictate play.
Sunderland’s best moments came when Williams had possession but the Crystal Palace loanee’s intent continued to be undermined by his poor final ball.
Sunderland looked marginally more threatening after the introduction of Callum McManaman, but United still were comfortable defending Sunderland attacks from wide areas.
The Blades doubled their lead with an embarrassingly simplistic goal. Donaldson ghosted in behind Sunderland’s three static centre backs to race through on goal. The ex Crewe man then took advantage of more awful positioning from Ruiter to curl beyond the hapless stopper.
At 2-0 Sunderland barely threatened with boos, chants of “your not fit to wear the shirt” and “Are you watching Ellis Short” ringing out across the Stadium of Light.
From nowhere, Sunderland did manage a late consolation, Jack Rodwell heading home from close range after a drilled McManaman set piece.
Ultimately it lead to nothing as Sunderland succumbed to a third straight defeat, looking just as tactically limited and short of ability and quality as last season, despite now playing in the league bellow.
A desperately poor display. Sunderland look like a team capable of back to back relegations.
Full Time: Sunderland 1-2 Sheffield United
Robin Ruiter: 3/10 - Poor on both goals, more bad positioning and suspect handling, looks out of his depth.
Marc Wilson: 5/10 - Started well and offers better passing from centre half, ultimately too often second best against Donaldson.
Tyias Browning: 5/10 - Looked awkward and uncomfortable when joining attacks, unsuited to a back three.
Lamine Kone: 6/10 - One of Sunderland’s better performers in an utterly depressing first half, made some crucial defensive interventions.
Brendan Galloway: 4/10 - Unable to manage his nerves, was uncertain throughout, making bad decisions, both with and without the ball.
Jack Rodwell : 4/10 - Failed to impose himself, gave away the ball in bad areas, a bad return to the first team
Dider Ndong: 5/10 - A real disappointment. These are the sort of games he’s expected to dominate, really awful when trying to probe and create.
George Honeyman : 6/10 One of Sunderland’s only decent first half performers, anonymous after the break.
Jonny Williams: 5/10 - Tried to be positive and carried the ball well, however considering his remit to provide creativity, he failed.
James Vaughan: 5/10 Another frustrating game for the Ex-Bury forward, the service he received was poor, but once again he failed to threaten.
Lewis Grabban: 5/10 - Started well, but ultimately couldn’t provide much cutting edge, better than against Barnsley, but only just.
John O’Shea: 5/10 - Defended well mostly, but produced yet more appalling piece of ball-watching for Donaldson’s second. Ball-watching has become a real feature of his game, in the twilight years of his career.
Callum McManaman: 7/10 - Provided an outlet when he came on, increased Sunderland’s purpose in attack, was let down by awful goalkeeping and defending from his teammates.
Lynden Gooch: 5/10 - Not much of a factor in the game, hasn’t been a good impact sub in the Championship.