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QUICK KICKS: McLaughlin was tremendous - I love it when Sunderland have a competent goalkeeper

Yesterday’s thrilling draw away to Coventry entailed plenty of talking points both good and bad. How immense was McLaughlin? How exactly does Maja need to improve? And just how many ‘professionals’ could do with taking a leaf out of Gooch’s book?

Sunderland AFC

Jon McLaughlin was tremendous; I love having a competent goalkeeper

While the first half at the Ricoh Arena was a pretty drab affair, with lengthy injury treatments breaking down any momentum built up by either team, the second half was the complete opposite - a thrilling end-to-end contest in which Sunderland or Coventry could’ve potentially emerged victorious, with the respective sides needing individual brilliance to shine through in the form of heroics in order to make the difference.

We could never expect our goalkeeper to step up in such a way last season, but now - in Jon McLaughlin - we have a player perfectly capable of doing so. The former Hearts man produced some superb saves to keep us in the contest as the home side ramped up the pressure toward the game’s conclusion - the likes of which Lee Camp would have most certainly conceded.

I wouldn’t want us to depend on our ‘keeper to constantly to keep us in the games which go down to the wire - but it’s good to know that we can depend on our man between the sticks if he ever needs to rise to the occasion.

Mexico v Scotland - International Friendly Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Getty Images

Josh Maja is a great finisher, but his hold-up play needs to improve

I’m as reluctant as any sane man to criticise a nineteen year old who has netted seven league goals in a division of senior football, but I can’t help but think that Maja needs to do better with the ball at his feet when the context doesn’t involve him taking aim at goal.

In yesterday’s game, there were many moments when Maja was forced off the ball before he even got a foot onto it and seemed to be a frustratingly easy to push over. What’s more, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a performance like this this season, it just so happens that his goal tally overshadows this lack of a key attribute.

If Maja is amid a sequence of attacking movements rather than the final link on the chain, our attacks more often than not come to a halt as he is jostled off the ball. Clinical though he may be as the terminus of offensive motions, we need to see better hold-up play from him if we are to be a more threatening side overall.

Gillingham v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images

Lynden Gooch’s character is exactly the type we should expect from a professional footballer

When Gooch pulled up with a hamstring injury with twenty minutes left to play, it’s safe to say we were all very concerned. Not simply because the nature of that injury typically keeps a player out for six to eight weeks, but because we’d already used up all three of our substitutes and would consequently play on with ten men when Coventry were, at the time, on the front foot.

However, despite the physio’s best efforts to gingerly steer Gooch toward the sidelines, the young American insisted that he play on with his injury. While his mobility was understandably hampered from then on, he ultimately saw the game out and refused to cost his side the disadvantage of being a man down.

This is the type of exemplary attitude which all professional footballers should adhere to. A team is not merely the sum of individual, self-serving parts, but is an entity constituted by members wanting to play for its greater good.

If there’s any such thing as karma, then Lynden won’t be out for too long.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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