A Captain’s Performance
Perhaps the biggest take from the performance yesterday down at Port Vale was the display from our captain, George Honeyman, who has - rightly or wrongly - often come in for a bit of stick from sections of the Sunderland support this season.
With Lee Cattermole absent it was up to Honeyman to take up a leadership role in the side without his mate alongside him and, to his credit, he did just that.
His effort was faultless and he ran himself into the ground from start to finish, not only netting a fine goal to open the scoring and always being available for a pass but also putting in some big, brave tackles during periods of the game when we looked under pressure and off the pace.
I know it was against lower league opposition but it was nice to see George put in a really mature performance, because if he can do that more often there’ll be no doubts from anyone regarding his suitability for a regular starting role in the team.
Sign of intent from Ross
I think many of us were slightly surprised by the team that Jack Ross selected - making only one change from the previous game at Plymouth, with Jerome Sinclair coming into the side in place of our top scorer Josh Maja.
It was a sign from the Sunderland manager that not only were we taking our inclusion in the FA Cup very seriously, but that he values the importance of keeping your best team together on the pitch when you have a chance to do so in important games.
Had we not had the Checkatrade Trophy group game with Morecambe to come on Tuesday he might have been more inclined to change his side around more, but regardless of that he fielded as strong a team as he could and that was refreshing.
The result? Well, we got the victory - our seventh straight win in all competitions - and we can now head to Morecambe in a more relaxed manner, with one eye on the far more important league game against Wycombe Wanderers next Saturday afternoon.
One slight negative - toothless up top?
I don’t really mean to nit-pick, particularly since we won, but it was slightly disappointing to see both of our strikers struggle in front of goal against ‘weaker’ opposition.
Josh Maja had a great chance later in the second half which he probably should have converted but ultimately wasn’t able to get a shot away, whilst Jerome Sinclair worked his socks off but never really looked like scoring.
Port Vale were tough and rugged at the back and that certainly didn’t help, but I do wonder about the consistency of our forwards in terms of scoring goals. It’d be unreasonable to keep on expecting our midfielders to bag the lion’s share of the goals every week and in the two games we have this week it’d be comforting to see one or both of Maja and Sinclair net one or two and prove that they are more than capable of leading our line.
It’s a straight shoot-out between the pair and Ross doesn’t seem to know who is his first-choice, so really its up to them to prove why they should be starting over the other as opposed to being rotated game-to-game.
Max is back
It was great to see Max Power back out on the pitch after his lengthy absence from the side due to suspensions accrued through a spate of daft red cards.
He’s head and shoulders above most midfielders at League One level and upon his introduction it was clear to see how influential he is when he’s on the pitch.
I’m hoping he’ll start on Tuesday, have a good game and then regain his place in the side for the Wycombe game, perhaps alongside Lee Cattermole and George Honeyman. I appreciate that Dylan McGeough does his defensive duties well, but I just prefer seeing Power in that midfield, and if he can keep himself from picking up daft red cards he’ll be a real force within our side, particularly over the busy and impending winter period.