This weekend’s draw with Boro was the first Sunderland game I have enjoyed as an overall spectacle for a very long time. Six goals, a good atmosphere, two red cards and a few missed chances - the game had everything you would expect from a kinda/sorta derby.
I loved how the team managed to fight back from adversity in the second half twice to eventually snatch what could very well be an important point. This time, though, we need to build on a 3-3 draw; we followed our comeback draw at Bristol City with a pitiful display against Brentford - this time we need to go to Millwall and get a victory.
One of the few things we all worried about before the Boro game was how Josh Maja would cope with playing up front on his own - and, it turns out, not very well.
I really do not want to sit here and criticise a young player, but under better circumstances I think Maja could have benefited from going out on a loan spell with a League One/Two side in order to develop properly. He clearly has talent, but seems to be hesitant to put himself in a position where he could get hurt.
Mind, I felt when Joel Asoro went up front on his own later in the game he really showed that he is capable of playing in that position. Asoro has pace and fearlessness, which is refreshing to watch as a fan. His celebration for his goal on Saturday was wonderful and you really get the sense that Asoro is cherishing every moment he is on the pitch representing the club.
Asoro certainly is far away from being the finished product, but the lad seems to be improving with each passing week. If we have any aspirations of being good next season then we need to build around players like him irrespective of the division we are in.
Ashley Fletcher and Maja, in my opinion, have not done enough when they have been given chances to play up front - both players have just one league goal this season, and Fletcher’s came in a Middlesbrough shirt. Asoro, however, seems to have snatched his opportunity with both hands - and for me he should play as the sole striker next week at Millwall.
I’ll be interested to see how Coleman sets the side up next week. Williams looked really good on Saturday and deserved his goal. McNair seemed to make a big difference in midfield and we missed his physicality when he went off before halftime - if he is fit then he should start. Kone was also relatively good on Saturday and dealt with the threat of Assombalonga really well.
One area that needs improving drastically, however, is goalkeeping. Lee Camp looks as bad as Jason Steele. Two of the goals that we conceded at the weekend could be attributed to Camp and I am becoming angry that goalkeeping is costing us points in seemingly every game. Here is a radical suggestion - sign a free agent veteran keeper like Shay Given, or give Max Stryjek a chance. I refuse to accept that Camp is the best option at the moment.
Without signing a goalkeeper or getting good performances from one of the players currently in our squad we will not keep clean sheets and subsequently won’t win games. We have scored three goals on five occasions this season and have only won one of them - Norwich away in August.
On this week’s Podcast we are joined by Daily Express/Star journalist Ian Murtagh who has pretty much covered Sunderland for thirty years in the national press. I am excited to hear what he has to say about our current situation and what is going on at the club - especially with the rumours of a takeover being at the forefront of Sunderland news.
As a final note - James Copley and I are now hosting Roker Rapport TV which should be up every Thursday evening. Last week’s episode seemed to go down pretty well and I am really excited about this new venture!