Sunderland put in a poor performance tonight in the FA Cup, losing for only the third time this season - the second cup defeat on home soil.
Deep down I’m not sure that Jack Ross will care too much, even if he doesn’t admit it publicly - with Bolton waiting in the next round, the lack of a finance boosting glamour tie means Sunderland can now focus on the two competitions they stand a chance of winning.
But, that doesn’t deride from how bad we were tonight - lessons will have been learned about some of his squad players, who really struggled to prove themselves in front of a home crowd.
Sunderland started the game brightly and applied pressure to the Walsall back line from the off.
The first half-chance of the game fell to Jerome Sinclair, who failed to finish off a good move when his tame effort was easily gathered by the keeper in the seventh minute.
The pressure continued and with Duncan Watmore’s pace causing issues, Sunderland always threatened to cause their opponents problems.
Walsall had their own chances too, but some indecisiveness in their attack meant Sunderland weren’t really tested by their League One counterparts.
Sunderland’s standout player in the opening half an hour was Bryan Oviedo, who was a constant outlet on the left side whilst also performing some fantastic last ditch defending.
Walsall’s best chance of the half came five minutes before the break, when a long ball forward played in their striker who beat Tom Flanagan for pace, but they couldn’t finish it off when it seemed it was easier to score - a fantastic save from Jon McLaughlin kept Sunderland on levels terms.
The second half started much like the first one, with both teams enjoying their own spells of pressure whilst also being wasteful in possession.
Sunderland gave it a good go and came close with an effort from Duncan Watmore, who turned well on the edge of the box before firing well over the bar.
Then, Walsall put themselves ahead with a great goal - a strike from range by Liam Kinsella, who sent a rocket flying beyond Jon McLaughlin and into the net.
Jack Ross reacted by making two changes - Maja and Cattermole for Sinclair and McGeouch - in a bid to rescue the tie and be positive.
And the lads tried to respond, failing to level proceedings when Chris Maguire played Duncan Watmore in just inside the box, but his curling effort was headed wide and out for a corner.
Walsall were happy to sit back after scoring and, to the frustration of the home crowd, they struggled to take advantage of the time on the ball they were being afforded.
Sunderland were sloppy, indecisive and poor all over the park, which meant it was relatively easy to defend against us once our opponents had the lead.
Jon McLaughlin, 7/10: Made a fabulous save in the first half when Walsall looked certain to score, and really couldn’t have done a thing about Liam Kinsella’s wonderful strike.
Bryan Oviedo, 7/10: Comfortably the best player in the opening 45. He was a threat at both ends of the pitch and made some great last ditch tackles to keep the scores down.
Jack Baldwin, 5/10: His passing was off again and the pacey Walsall forward gave him issues.
Tom Flanagan, 5/10: Got battered for pace in the first half when Walsall should have scored, but did alright otherwise. That central defensive pairing doesn’t convince me though.
Luke O’Nien, 5/10: Did okay considering he was out of position.
Dylan McGeouch, 6/10: Did a good job in front of the defence and did the simple stuff well. Was sacrificed when we went behind as we had to be more attacking.
Max Power, 6/10: Quick getting the ball out of his feet but never really ‘ran the show’ like we know he can.
George Honeyman, 6/10: Closed down well and always offered us a threat going forward.
Chris Maguire, 5/10: Not as effective as he usually is but still looked to be creative in attacking areas.
Duncan Watmore, 6/10: Worked very hard but didn’t think we always played to his strengths. Still appears to have his pace, though, which is positive.
Jerome Sinclair, 3/10: Very poor and wasteful. Wish he’d just focus on doing the simple things well. His worst performance to date.
(SUB) Josh Maja, 5/10: Some neat touches aside, he offered little.
(SUB) Lee Cattermole, 4/10: Looked very, very rusty.
(SUB) Bali Mumba, 6/10: Got involved and tried to be positive on the ball.
Man of the Match: Bryan Oviedo.