Credit to the players for a superb second-half fight-back
Sunderland’s second-half reaction was brilliant. Firstly, our desire and confidence to get at Oxford immediately after half-time was outstanding. Then the resilience and last-ditch defending we showed to secure the point when we no longer had the legs to push Oxford back was equally impressive.
Every Mackem should be proud of the way the team fought to maintain our unbeaten run. In a short space of time Jack Ross has created a belief and resilience among our first team players, which starkly contrasts the fragility that defined our past two seasons.
Charlie Wyke also deserves a special mention not just for his goal, but for offering a focal point and launchpad for Sunderland attacks that was sorely missing prior to his introduction.
Jack Baldwin: A Class Above
The more you see of Jack Baldwin the more it becomes a mystery that, at 25, he has never played higher than England’s third tier.
Whilst his technical quality and composure on the ball is instantly identifiable, his toughness and tenacity are now just as evident. The two monstrous tackles he put in down Oxford’s right, late on, are the sort of adrenaline raising clashes that fans live for on Wearside.
His aggressive defending in the second half typified the whole group’s efforts to salvage a point from Saturday’s game despite being a man down for over 70 minutes.
Whilst George Honeyman is Sunderland’s club captain, Baldwin is fast emerging as the leader and player whose example the rest of the squad need to follow.
Jack Ross Must Address Sunderland’s Slow Starts
For the third straight occasion, Sunderland’s start to a game has been rather embarrassing. In our past three matches we’ve had to concede before remembering that two teams play in every football match.
No matter what level of football you’re playing at, you have to earn the right to play and this is something Sunderland have struggled to realise since mauling Scunthorpe United.
Our defenders want too long on the ball, our attackers aren’t closing down quickly enough, and players just aren’t reacting quickly enough at the start of our matches.
It’s a real problem and something Jack Ross must identify quickly. Whether it’s a lack of intensity in our warm-up, arrogance that comes with being unbeaten and substantial betting favourites in League One, or a combination of several factors. Unless Sunderland can match the oppositions aggression from kick-off we won’t be playing in the Championship next season.
Power should have stayed on, but it was still a stupid tackle
Watching live, this writer thought Max Power deserved to walk for his out-of-control tackle midway through the first-half, and wrote as much in Saturday’s report.
Having now seen several replays of the incident I’m willing to admit I was wrong. However, the debate around the red card and referee Martin Heywood’s overall performance seem to have overshadowed Power’s sheer idiocy.
At a crucial point of the game, when Sunderland were trying to establish a foothold in the match and capture momentum, Power’s tackle, whether it was worthy of a red or not, was utterly moronic. If you have to leave the ground to make a tactical foul, you shouldn’t be making that challenge - plain and simple.
Power’s an experienced player, who has won promotion from this league before and should know better than to dive in so recklessly, even if he was unlucky to be dismissed.
The 25-year-old was big enough to apologise for his error on social media and has been brilliant for the Black Cats up until Saturday’s moment of madness. Plus, as Power pointed out on Twitter, this was a first ever sending off for him in men’s football, so we’re unlikely to see a repeat of Lee Cattermole’s early struggles to stay on the pitch in red and white.
Heywood’s scapegoating shouldn’t distract from the fact that Power and Chris Maguire didn’t play with a cool head on Saturday, with Maguire being extremely lucky not to see red himself after running around like a violent headless chicken against his old club.
Moving forward the entire side needs to try and keep it calm when the flow of the game isn’t going in our favour, because teams will try and exploit any sign of weakness we show.