I had nowt else better to do today so I thought I’d put the spare time to good (??!) use and jot a few thoughts down on the proverbial paper... that, and Gav was wondering who was writing the ITHICS effort this week.
The fans have come in for rightful praise in the last two games.
Firstly, over 2,600 of them made the 670-mile, 11-hour round trip (according to Google Maps) to Portsmouth, three days before Christmas, to witness another refereeing calamity. Then, on Boxing Day, more than 46,000 turned up to see an easy win over Bradford, where the refereeing error favoured us this time.
Amazing feats by our fans - the Bradford crowd set a League One record and was the highest third-tier crowd since the Sheffield derby in 1979.
Social media went into overload when we lost only our second game of the season at Portsmouth. Some fans launched into Jack Ross, which seemed a bit harsh.
The loss is put into perspective by the fact that Portsmouth went on to lose their Boxing Day game to Gillingham, and our win against Bradford regains the advantage we will have should we gain maximum points in our two games in hand.
Connor Bromley, the host of the Roker Rapport Podcast, came up with an intriguing stat over the Christmas period. Only four teams have won their next game after playing us this season - Charlton, Shrewsbury, Wycombe and Bristol Rovers.
Of the teams competing with us at the top of the league, Portsmouth, Peterborough, Barnsley and Luton all lost their next games.
Though Charlton have now crept into the play-off places, it perhaps shows how teams have raised their games when playing us. Those early season results against Charlton and Luton look very good now.
To those wringing their hands after our reverse at Portsmouth, we are the team with the least defeats in the division (two); have the fourth meanest defence (and are only two goals from conceding the least); we are the second highest scorers in the division and have the second highest goal difference.
Of the 22 sides Sunderland have played this season (including Accrington) only four of them have managed to win their next league fixture, and 15 have lost their next league game!— Connor Bromley (@ConnorBromley) December 26, 2018
Just goes to show much teams up their game against us as they are knackered for their next game.
The team we are second to is Luton, who are the form team of the division. Let’s hope we have the strength in depth to overtake them in the second half of the season.
Commentators were asking Jack Ross if he was worried about the standard of the performance against Bradford. He responded (rightly, in my view) that he thought we had been comfortable. The team never needed to get out of second gear and rarely seemed threatened, even though we survived the ball crossing the line to deny Bradford what would have been a fortuitous equaliser. The referee has since apologised to the Bradford team.
Thank goodness we don’t have goal-line technology in this division.
The team looked well at ease and were able to cope with the Bradford histrionics.
Two of the defining the features of this league has been the atrocious standard of officiating and the profligacy of finishing - hopefully the former evens itself out over the season, and the latter we can put to our advantage.