Yesterday afternoon’s 2-0 away win at League One strugglers Shrewsbury proved to be a great day the office for Sunderland, and in particular for our manager Jack Ross.
The Black Cats were inspired by three second half substitutes as Ross was brave enough to take off top scorer Josh Maja when the match stood at 0-0.
Lynden Gooch was the clear man of the match after setting up both goals. The American’s pace and direct running was exactly what we were missing throughout the first half. Furthermore, George Honeyman added energy in the midfield and was always available to receive the ball - he did not give it away. Luke O’Nein played his usual work-horse role, placing constant pressure on the opposition, and was rewarded with a very well taken goal.
You could see the delight on his face when he scored and that is exactly what the fans want to see: pride in wearing the shirt.
The importance of Gooch
Before the game I was glad to see Aiden McGeady get a start, but once again the Irishman was a figure of frustration. He was careless on the ball and his crossing was poor, and once the players went in at the half time break it felt pretty obvious that he should be one of the players to make way when substitutions stsrt being made.
Chris Maguire and Jerome Sinclair worked tirelessly, but it was clear as day that we were lacking someone who could run at pace with the ball, bringing the team forward at speed.
The one wide player we have (other than the injured Duncan Watmore) who can attack defenders In this way is Lynden Gooch - he is, quite simply, vital to our team.
Within five minutes of coming on he had assisted our opener, whipping in a dangerous cross, before his direct running allowed him to assist Luke O’Nien to kill the game off.
With Gooch’s contract coming to an end next July, it is vital a new deal is signed before January so we can hang onto him and continue our push for promotion.
Good to be back out there with the lads and get another big win away from home! ⚪️ pic.twitter.com/V6JtbN2Atv— Lynden Gooch (@LyndenGooch) October 20, 2018
A Clean Sheet… Finally!
Although we have only been defeated once, yesterday’s clean sheet was only our second of the campaign after 13 games.
That’s not a very satisfying statistic for the lads, but I do think it’s something which will change for the better for us. Our defence appeared solid and sensible bar the odd minor scare yesterday, and with a consistent run of games together our defenders will only get better as a unit.
In truth, Shrewsbury never really looked like scoring, and Sunderland’s goal now will be to pick up clean sheets on a more consistent basis.
In Jon McLaughlin it seems we have a reliable keeper who provides confidence to the back four. Tom Flanagan has been a welcome addition, and is a much better suited partner for Baldwin than Glenn Loovens and Alim Ozturk.
Furthermore, the improved form of Lee Cattermole has helped massively - he looks a sure starter each week playing the way he is, adding much needed protection in front of the defence.
If we can keep this defence together consistently, our results will undoubtedly improve - here’s hoping none of them pick up any daft injuries before Tuesday night!
Should we worry about Maja?
The simple answer is no.
It’s always intriguing when you take off a forward when you need a goal but, bar one half chance, Maja really was starved of service. It’s an ongoing debate amongst fans over whether he does enough off the ball - some argue he should win more headers and hold the ball up more.
That said, his goal scoring record speaks for itself and there is no need to worry just because he had one poor game.
I think the decision to bring Josh off was correct. It is important to avoid creating complacency in the squad and when Sinclair was offering more, it would have been wrong to take him off just because of Maja’s superior goal scoring record.
The only worry we should have is the lack of depth up front. With Charlie Wyke out injured, Maja and Sinclair are our only two senior strikers - with teenager Benji Kimpioka featuring on the bench.
Should any of those suffer injury, we could find it difficult during the busy Christmas fixture period.