Inability to start well hindering us
I know that I’m stating the obvious here, and that Jack Ross and his players are more than aware that something needs to change, but until we get over this issue with not being able to start games well there will rightly be questions around our ability to pick up the amount of wins you need to gain promotion from this league.
It’s not through lack of effort, because the players are clearly giving their all both in training and games, but for whatever reason opposition teams have worked out how to score against us early in games - and we simply have to put a stop to it.
We’re particularly poor when defending set pieces, and Jack Ross rightly said after the game that it is that which is our biggest concern right now.
Perhaps the lack of height and physicality in the side that Ross picks from the start of games is what is harming us - in the last two or three games it has been the introduction of ‘bigger’ players from the bench that have ultimately made us more solid, and more potent at either end of the pitch.
When the Sunderland manager brought Tom Flanagan, Jerome Sinclair and Charlie Wyke on in the second half we appeared to grow a few feet in more than one sense. If we’d had these players on from the start, would we have conceded such a sloppy goal from a corner? I’m going to guess probably not, and that gives the manager something to think about.
Ultimately we’ll be more imposing in games against difficult opposition if we can match them physically, and going forward we probably need to work out a way where we can get our stronger and bigger players into the team.
Kids are grabbing the brass ring
I remarked to a few mates before the game that I felt that not only did Denver Hume deserve to start, but Josh Maja should too - albeit with the remit that they had to go out and take their chances.
And, to be fair to both, they did.
Hume in particular was brilliant, and didn’t look out of place in defence. His deliveries from out wide were largely accurate and he looked comfortable when defending in one-on-one situations, so he can be proud that he gave it his best effort and actually contributed at both ends of the pitch throughout the entirety of the ninety minutes.
Maja managed to grab another goal again, and whilst his all-round performance wasn’t very good he has became the one man in our squad that we can depend upon to score when we’re not really getting a foothold in a game. Had he not done that you’d be talking about him maybe dropping out of the team when we go to Burton, but for as long as he’s putting them in the back of the net he’s going to be one of the first names on the team-sheet.
Ultimately what it means is that we’ve not just got a deep squad of players, but healthy competition in every position. Charlie Wyke was signed to be our star striker in the summer but to the credit of Josh Maja, he’ll not become a regular fixture from the start of games until there’s an opening in the team.
Maguire under pressure?
I’m a big Chris Maguire fan and think he offers us a lot, but with the now-fit Jerome Sinclair breathing down his neck he really needed to play well yesterday.
Sadly, he didn’t. Maguire was very much involved, as he always is, but his end product was lacking, and he was the first player to be hooked in the second half - just five minutes after play resumed.
As I’ve noted already in this article, the physicality and athleticism that the introduction of Sinclair brought was notable, and it was notable on Tuesday too against Stoke. Fact is, we look far more threatening with him on the pitch and I reckon that players like Sinclair can be the difference between taking one point or three from games like the one we played yesterday.
Food for thought for Jack Ross - he must surely be considering how he can freshen up his attack line ahead of the game next week at Burton, with the potential for dropping Chris Maguire for the first time this season likely to be at the forefront of his mind.