Dear Roker Report,
I don’t think there’s any doubt that we are not a good side, bar the second half against Charlton and the first half against Scunthorpe (who were crap) we haven’t played well. The 4-1 win at Gillingham didn’t tell the story of the game. I think we hit four shots on target and they all went in while Gillingham squandered numerous chances. Away at Wimbledon we were battered and managed to win. Can’t really complain when we aren’t playing well and winning games because you think well when we do start playing well, we’ll be flying.
But, as I find is usually the case with Sunderland it goes the other way, things get worse. At home to Oxford we were played off the park for most of the game and managed to scrape a draw. Then Fleetwood, where I genuinely thought our first defeat would come - and it should have. They took the lead, missed a pen and missed enough chances to score four. Another poor performance by us. Although we did press late on and could possibly have won it.
After those two home games it was clear to see that a defeat was on the horizon. Although I wasn’t expecting it yesterday as I thought we would scrape a point. But no. We were dominated for large parts of the game again. We can’t get control of games, teams regularly play better football than us and I think we still have too many weak links.
The jury is out on the goalkeeper for me. Almost cost us the game against Fleetwood in the dying moments when the ball squirmed through his legs but he’s certainly not the worst I’ve seen.
Loovens I don’t trust at all.
There’s problems at right back too, and I don’t think we know how to set up in midfield. Teams regularly just waltz around us and up top; Maja is clearly a good player, but what I’ve seen of Wyke so far hasn’t impressed me - bar his goal with his first touch he’s offered nothing, although in his defence he’s barely played.
And I really don’t get that Maguire. I know you lot at RR have heaped praise on him, but I’m yet to see it. Admittedly, I haven’t been away from home - where I believe his best performances have been - and he scored a great goal against Burton, but what I’ve seen at home I have not been impressed with him one bit.
I don’t want to be too pessimistic but I think as a Sunderland fan that’s now ingrained in me. I like the manager, he’s intelligent and articulate, and as with any Sunderland manager - or player for that matter - I hope it works out.
We’re still in a strong position in the league and it’s early days but I feel things must improve fast or we will be in League One a lot longer than we hoped.
Ed’s Note [JN]: I can’t disagree much, our performances haven’t been great bar a few games and during certain spates in others. However, I think you are somewhat harsh pointing out a few individually. It is early in the season and we have had a lot of injuries, which has hindered the progress of quite a few first-teamers.
Ross has impressed me with his ability to change a game mid-way through, but over the last month he has been tactically outwitted in most games. The squad is quite young and inexperienced, as is Ross himself - I think it will come with time.
A lot of our problems are due to a lack of team cohesion and not defending as a unit. However, our sheer inability to defend set pieces and balls into the box is a massive, massive worry. The squad - in my view - contain among the best quality in the league, but we aren’t the best League One side. By that, I mean we do not have a squad suited to League One football, for we are troubled by physicality and direct balls into the mixer.
We leave far too many players free and not enough players in defensive positions are carrying out their simple duties.
This being said, it is just the first defeat of the season and hopefully Ross can use this to finally rid the side of the same mistakes which have plagued us over the last month.
Dear Roker Report,
Like a lot of people, Donald included, I was expecting the lads to win at Burton - not only a crunch game, but to capitalise on a solid start to the season.
Instead of being just off the top we are now grouped with a lot of other teams and, had results not been kind, we’d be further down the table.
I fully agree with Gav. I don’t know what it is with some coaches why they don’t like to act on what sports writers and fans are saying. Why is that?
It’s the same mentality where they can’t give credit when it’s due and that comes down to sports psychology and player management.
Hume and Flanagan were overlooked for one jet-lagged player and another out of form. They were then sat in a dugout watching those chosen over them under-perform.
There’s an art to getting the best out of people and that’s not it. Small wonder players are lost to the game or give up.
We still can’t defend set pieces and Beadling was let go, we still can’t score goals and Molyneux was leased out.
Talking psychology; maybe it’s a tough call bearing in mind his love for the Mackems, but giving the captain’s armband to a relatively inexperienced player Honeyman - who is both short in stature and limited in natural ability - and expecting him to boss seasoned professionals around on the pitch is a bit odd.
And where’s Ross with his substitutions? Another reminder of Grayson who couldn’t seem to read a game. I always think coaches should get above ground level, to see properly.
Ross may well come good, but he must learn how to get the best out his players, there’s plenty to choose from.
As fans have pointed out: we’re making the same mistakes. If the team is flat is that too much energy expended in warming up? Is it the captain not motivating his players?
Given Cattermole’s performance in central defence later on in the Burton game, maybe he should be given the captain’s role again and drive the team from there? It would allow us to get more athleticism and intelligence into attacking positions in order to feed the strikers.
Talking of strikers, where is the menace? What’s with these tame shots and headers, where’s the intent? Ross should have the whole team practicing shooting and heading under pressure, every session.
Instead of winning games 3-0, 4-0 we’re losing against teams used to home crowds of 3,000.
Donald has been respectful when talking about Ross, but he must have thought on the terraces at Burton whether he’s made the right choice. He couldn’t buy Eastleigh out of the National league in 5 seasons, so the aftermath of the Burton game is no - we are not on track. The coach has got a lot to do with that, and Donald chose him.
The support is there, the administration seems to be there and the squad is enough. What we need is a manager who can get the best out of his players and read and react to a game.
Ross stated the lads were very poor in the first half at Burton. Well as the manager do something about it instead of taking the fight out of players sitting them on the bench and as Gav pointed out bring on substitutions when the mood is gone.
Not the way to build confidence and morale, that’s for sure.
Ed’s Note [JN]: Ross’ substitutions before Saturday have been bang-on. He changed the game and got results in every other barring Burton.
He reads and reacts within games very well, it is his biggest asset. Easily. Maguire and McGeady were brought on and we almost got another draw after going behind.
I do have issues with Ross, however. It is the way in which we start games that is the worry. I do agree with your point regarding the full-backs, and his team selection and tactics recently has been poor and plain wrong.
Mind, I never want to see Cattermole in central defence ever again. He only did well as Burton sat back and didn’t attack at all for the last twenty.
Of course, it is easy to say in hindsight, but Nigel Clough and Karl Robinson both changed their sides from the outset to counter us and deserved the results achieved. I have to wonder how much research is carried out on how sides line-up.
Hopefully this can be the shot to the arm that we need in order to progress farther and cut out the same, silly mistakes and slow starts.