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FINLAY’S REPORT: Refs have been rubbish - but that doesn’t detract from Sunderland’s super start

A weekend off from league action has offered an opportunity to reflect on the season so far - and whilst we’ve hit a few bumps in the road, Sunderland have still had an enjoyable start to life in the third tier.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

A week’s break has possibly come at a welcome time for the Lads.

Saturday’s match against Blackpool at the Stadium of Light was postponed after three of Jack Ross’ men were called up for international duty (Jon McLaughlin to Scotland, Tom Flanagan to Northern Ireland and Bryan Oviedo to Costa Rica) - this lead to a successful appeal from Sunderland to have the game called off.

Supporters of the club will argue that it is a welcome break for the Lads but some will compete that it is a bad time to have a week off. With all of the injuries that the boss has, it is a good time for a week off schedule as it can give them more time to work on bringing them back to full strength heading into a busy few weeks. Also, we had four games in the space of ten days so it must be nice for the squad to relax for a week as they have earned it.

That said, you could see it as an unnecessary week out of football - it would have came on the back of some positive results, and whilst we would have had players missing we were just starting to see some real strong bonds and partnerships forming between players all over the pitch.

PA Images via Getty Images

Our first real break of the season has offered me and my fellow supporters a proper chance to reflect on the opening two months of the season, and to look back at who stood out.

We’re just beginning to get to grips with the aggression of League One. In the majority of our opening matches I felt we were purposely targeted aggressively on the pitch and, due to the limited physicality of the players that we have available to us, we weren’t always able to combat that effectively and, as such, we’d concede silly goals in games we really should have been winning.

The Peterborough game at the Stadium of Light was, in my opinion, a prime example of this. In the first half, we played attacking football and we got our reward when Josh Maja opened the scoring. Then, in the second 45, the Posh knew how to play against us and we were tormented and they managed to creep back in and in the end, they managed to take a point from the game.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

This all said, it almost feels as though we’ve had poor refereeing go against us in the majority of games which hasn’t helped at all.

I understand that they’re are only human and make honest mistakes - it happens at every level of the game and whilst we’re lower down the pyramid, even Champions League and World Cup-standard officials are prone to error. But, that said, the referees have to be consistent - more often than not you’ll see similar types of challenges given varying levels of disciplinary action, and that leads to anger and confusion in the stands from fans who just want to see the game played out in an honest and fair manner.

Those are merely gripes, though, and none of it can detract from the fact we’re enjoying watching the lads play again. In particular I’ve loved watching the man who I believe has been our player of the season so far, Chris Maguire. He’s unrelenting, talented and committed - the type of player that fans absolutely love to watch.

Hopefully, the international break hasn’t had a negative effect on the momentum of the team and we can take all three points from the New Meadow on Saturday when we face Shrewsbury Town - now we’re over a quarter of the way through the season, it’s time to move into second gear and kick on.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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