A head injury suffered by captain George Honeyman, added to the suspension to Lee Cattermole and injuries to Denver Hume, Glenn Loovens and Lynden Gooch from Saturday meant that Jack Ross was forced to make five changes to the side that started at the Ricoh Arena. Adam Matthews and Bryan Oviedo came into the defence, Max Power and Aiden McGeady into midfield, and Jerome Sinclair up front.
These changes also meant a change of shape as Sunderland lined up in an unorthodox 4-4-2/4-3-2-1 formation. Jon McLaughlin continued his good form in goal with Matthews, Tom Flanagan, Jack Baldwin and Bryan Oviedo operating across the back four. Power, captain in the absence of Honeyman, accompanied Dylan McGeouch in the middle of the park. These two were flanked by Chris Maguire on the right and McGeady on the left. Josh Maja had some support up front in the shape of Sinclair.
Second-placed Peterborough made three changes following their two-all home draw against Blackpool on Saturday afternoon. Mark O’Hara, Callum Cooke and Jason Cummings came in for Marcus Maddison, Jamie Walker and Matt Godden.
The Posh lined up in a 4-4-2 formation; one that they have played throughout their good start to the season. Aaron Chapman started in goal with Jason Naismith, Rhys Bennett, Ryan Tafazolli and Colin Daniel in defence. Captain Alex Woodyard played as the deepest midfielder alongside Cooke. On the right, O’Hara was more defensive than Siriki Dembele on the left. Former Newcastle striker Ivan Toney started up front alongside Jason Cummings.
Sinclair provided the support that Maja has been lacking
Although he may have only been in the side due to George Honeyman’s late injury, Jerome Sinclair has made himself undroppable ahead of a trip to Valley Parade after a fine performance on Tuesday night.
Throughout the game Sinclair was a handful for Peterborough’s defenders and used his physical attributes to great effect - something which Josh Maja could learn from the Watford loanee. We were all aware of his pace, but against The Posh it was coupled with the right kind of aggression as he put in a complete performance - the only downside being his miss in the first half.
Sinclair not only performed well himself but his inclusion also benefits the players around him - especially Maja. The two young strikers seemingly complement each other perfectly and the main weaknesses of Maja’s game, his hold up play and running in behind, are the strengths of Sinclair’s.
His goal was well deserved and summed up his performance as he showed great desire and skill to turn the defender and then finish whilst off balance.
Although he hasn’t played many games in a Sunderland shirt, his loan move will start to be seen as a good piece of business by Sunderland if he performs like he did against Peterborough on a regular basis.
I still have no idea how he did that. pic.twitter.com/y0M1tDnGNl— Roker Report (@RokerReport) October 3, 2018
Max Power is Sunderland’s keystone
In the first half it was clear to see how much Sunderland have missed Max Power during his suspension. The captain for the night put in a complete midfield performance in the first half and was one of the key reasons that Jack Ross’ men were able to dominate a team that are unbeaten this season.
Power gave Sunderland a bit of everything - he collected the ball deep, he played long balls out wide to keep width to Sunderland’s play, he drifted wide as McGeady drifted inside to offer passing options to Oviedo.
The importance of Power is on par with, if not surpasses that of Paddy McNair last season. We are simply a much better team with him in it. Let’s hope the difference between the two is that Power doesn’t want to move anytime soon.
McLaughlin must wondering what he’s got to do for another clean sheet
Whilst Sunderland were brilliant going forward on Tuesday night, they were sloppy at the back. However, one person back there who can’t take any of the blame for this is the goalkeeper, Jon McLaughlin.
McLaughlin looked shaky from corners and free kicks into the box earlier in the season, but over the past month or so he has been almost faultless - and the game against The Posh was not exception. The Scotland international made a number of good saves prior to Oviedo’s sending off which kept Sunderland ahead and, I suspect the Costa Rican is the reason he doesn’t have a clean sheet to show for it.
For all of McLaughlin’s brilliance, the defending for Peterborough’s goals was unacceptable from a side that is seeking promotion. The second goal especially was too easy for the visitors, Marcus Maddison’s ball in between Baldwin and James to Toney was far too simple from a defensive point of view; especially when Sunderland should have been looking to dig in and hold onto their recently re-acquired lead.
Tom Flanagan looks like a much worse player at centre back compared to the solid performances we saw when he came into the side at right full back - Jack Ross much be hoping that Glenn Loovens’ injury doesn’t keep the former Sheffield Wednesday captain out for too long.
Overall, It was refreshing to see Jack Ross correct the mistakes he made the last time he used a 4-4-2 formation, against Burton, and is good to have a manager who isn’t bound to his favoured formation - a criticism which was often levelled at Chris Coleman last season.
Despite being forced to settle for a draw the game showed that Sunderland still deserve to be one of the favourites for promotion. They were a level above Peterborough in the first half and if they had finished their chances, Oviedo’s sending off wouldn’t have cost his side two points.