What a difference McLaughlin makes
Honestly, how good was Jon McLaughlin yet again last night? Crucial saves, a commanding presence, and a calming influence of the back four sitting just ahead of him - simply superb.
The former Hearts stopper was a little hesitant at times during the opening exchanges of the current campaign, but the manner in which he is beginning to dominate his area is helping us to win games means that he is quickly becoming a crucial component of Jack Ross’ winning side.
Think back to twelve months ago as our season was slowly unwinding. Goalkeeping error after goalkeeping error cost us serious points and ultimately aided in our fall from the Championship. Conversely, now we have our man between the sticks to thank for a decent haul of points already - last night included.
McLaughlin’s form is a huge boost as we search for a swift return back up the leagues; it was great to see him bag a clean sheet last night - he thoroughly deserves it.
Sunderland’s defence are starting to look formidable
It wasn’t only Jon McLaughlin that impressed last night; the rest of Sunderland’s defence were also thoroughly impressive in preventing Doncaster from scoring.
That clean sheet might not seem like a massive deal, but Doncaster have managed to score eight goals in their last three games across all competitions, and actually managed thirty-two shots on goal in their three all draw with Gillingham at the weekend, with thirteen shots on target. Gillingham in the other hand managed three shots the entire game - football really is a funny old game.
Tom Flanagan and Jack Baldwin were great once again, while Adam Matthews and Reece James were very solid. If we are going to put together a promotion push this season, then a solid defence will be absolutely vital.
And although many have pointed to our defence as a potential Achilles’ heel, Sunderland actually have the joint second best defence in the league.
If we can continue to improve defensively, finding more clean sheets in the process, this season could be an exceptional one.
Dylan McGeouch beginning to find his feet
There was an interesting segment on this week’s Roker Rapport podcast where this week’s guest, Phil Smith of the Sunderland Echo, made some astute points about what exactly Dylan McGeouch brings to Jack Ross’ side, and why he is such an important player in our team.
McGeouch’s ability to maintain possession is critical to Sunderland’s style of play, and while all present on this week’s podcast noted they would like to see the former Hibs man be a little more expansive and bold in his play, they also agreed that he helps prevent teams from pressuring us into silly errors.
His ability to keep the ball moving, and to release pressure with deft passes, movement, and flashes of skill, are critical to this Sunderland side. He should not be expected to split defences open, for that is the job of Sunderland’s attacking quartet; however, last night his tidy performance was just what was needed in order to nullify Doncaster’s game.
He helps to shield the defence and allows Lee Cattermole more freedom to roam; last night was arguably his best performance in a red and white shirt to date, and as Sunderland continue to grow in confidence, it’s fair to say that the man from Glasgow could well flourish in this exciting side.
How good is King Maguire?
Has there ever been a Sunderland player that the Mackem faithful have taken to so quickly? Chris Maguire is a total wind-up merchant, a nightmare to players and fans alike, and an absolute magician with the ball at his feet - watching him in a red and white shirt is simply a joy.
Maguire is a little too consistent to be labeled as ‘mercurial’, but his talents are definitely prodigious; the way in which he torments opposition defences with his skill and accuracy of passing is an asset to this side.
Maguire is exactly what I thought Aiden McGeady would be for us last season, and if he keeps up this form, then the goals will continue to flow. He has already contributed three goals and four assists this season; he is really helping make Sunderland’s attack incredibly potent, and what’s more he can play anywhere across the front four.
Oh, by the way, did you know we signed him on a free? From a club in Bury whose fans said that he was rubbish? Haha!
Sunderland are grinding out wins in tough games
There are so many cliches regarding the form of champions, but Sunderland emerged from a difficult game, against a decent side, away from home, after an average performance, with maximum points.
Jack Ross has really instilled a winning mentality into this Sunderland side, and it’s the first time in what feels like forever where we can beat any given team we go up against. It felt like that under Peter Reid, and to a certain extent under Roy Keane. The fact Jack Ross is even being mentioned in the same breath as those two former manager suggests he’s doing something very right.
Upcoming games against mid-table Southend, and relegation scrapping Plymouth give Ross’ side a chance to chalk up another six points, and who would bet against them? Even without our main striker this evening we found a way to get a goal and hold on to the win.
Sunderland have found some momentum, so now it’s time to keep it going as we continue to find ways to win.
Ha’way the Lads!
TABLE: Here's the updated Sky Bet League One table.— Sky Bet League One (@SkyBetLeagueOne) October 23, 2018
12 unbeaten at home for @LutonTown sees them into the play-off spots, @officialpompey remain top, while @SunderlandAFC keep the pressure on the top two.
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