Sunderland’s travelling support were not rewarded for their effort in making a long midweek trip south this evening, watching on as their team were easily brushed aside by fellow strugglers Birmingham City in what was a crucial game down at the bottom.
The first half was about as bad as it's been this season - and I’ve said that far more than I would liked since we entered the Championship.
Our game plan from the off was strange. Instead of playing ten yards further forward and on the front foot - like we did against Hull - we sat deep and continually played long, and looked like we had no real idea what we were supposed to be doing.
The communication right throughout the team was poor, and Birmingham targetted us in the air with success, with Sam Gallagher dominating our defenders.
The Blues eventually broke through, and it was a poor goal which came down our left. David Davis escaped the Sunderland defence and shot straight at Robbin Ruiter’s near post, with the shot trickling past the hapless Dutchman into the net - incredibly poor by the Sunderland ‘keeper.
This gave Birmingham the impetus and they came at us continually, and we really had no answer for what they threw at our way.
Birmingham's renewed persistance was soon rewarded and they got their second. With Lamine Kone slumped in a heap on the half way line, the home side again broke down our right and the cross was converted by the head of Jeremy Boga.
Sunderland went into half time 2-0 down, and in truth it probably should have been more.
The second half started much like the first - and Sunderland’s experienced players were atrocious once again for Birmingham’s third.
A weak attempt to clear the ball from Robbin Ruiter and some poor positioning from Lamine Kone led to a ball being passed across our box and into an empty net by Sam Gallagher.
The only shining light in the first hour or so were Sunderland’s youngsters, who at least tried to be positive and use the ball well - but, unfortunately for them the players around them were terrible and couldn’t string two passes together.
By the time changes were made we were 3-0 down and it was too late - it was clear to everyone that we needed to bring fresh legs on at half time, but we didn’t, and by the time Kazenga LuaLua came on the game was already well over.
Aiden McGeady was a positive influence and brought out the best in Bryan Oviedo, who had a great chance of getting one back after backheeling an effort towards goal in the 79th minute that David Stockdale managed to deflect onto the post.
With the pressure off Sunderland could play a bit, and Kazenga Lua Lua’s positivity led to us getting one back. A ball across from the right fell to Bryan Oviedo, who finished well to make it 3-1 with just minutes left on the clock.
We kept plugging away, and after winning us a free kick Aiden McGeady went close with an effort which curled beautifully over the wall.
Despite the late rally it wasn’t good enough in a game that we really needed to win, with a combination of poor tactics, decision-making and bad individual performances costing us the result.
Robbin Ruiter, 1/10: Giving him a one is generous - he was shocking for their first and third. He’s costing us too many sloppy goals, and signing Lonergan might not be a bad idea.
Bryan Oviedo, 6/10: Poor in the first half but was a positive attacking influence in the second and took his goal well.
Jake Clarke-Salter, 4/10: Struggled with the constant long balls from Birmingham and his passing was sloppy.
Lamine Kone, 2/10: Not the calming presence down the middle that John O’Shea has been recently. Wandered all over the place was had no discipline when it came to holding his position.
Tyias Browning, 6/10: Was probably the better of our three central defenders. Felt sorry for him having to constantly cover for Kone.
Adam Matthews, 5/10: Didn’t offer us enough going forward.
Ethan Robson, 6/10: What’s he supposed to do when most of the play goes over his head and his central midfield partner can’t pass five yards?
Lee Cattermole, 2/10: Not great. Looked off the pace and when he did have the ball he didn’t use it well enough.
George Honeyman, 6/10: Tried to force openings but was occasionally sloppy in possession.
Joel Asoro, 6/10: What he did do was quite impressive, but our supply was poor.
Josh Maja, 6/10: Some neat touches but not as lively as against Hull. Felt for him as there was nothing in the way of creativity behind him before he went off.
(SUB) Kazenga LuaLua, 6/10: Game was well over by the time he came on, but was really bright and did well.
(SUB) Aiden McGeady, 6/10: See above - thought we looked loads better going forward with him on the pitch.
(SUB) Lynden Gooch, 5/10: Had no time to make an impact.
Man of the Match: Bryan Oviedo.