Did Jack Ross get it wrong?
Dylan McGeouch had looked really good since coming back into the side in absence of Lee Cattermole, but his omission from Saturday’s team raised more than a few eyebrows.
Max Power has been off the boil for a couple of weeks and, as much as we love Catts, he just hasn’t been that great since returning from injury a month or so ago. Ross’ decision to drop the former Hibee, McGeouch, was not only a poor decision but also unjust.
With George Honeyman injured, we miss his energy in the middle of the park, so there’s even an argument you could push Luke O’Nien further forward with Adam Matthews now fully fit - I just didn’t understand Ross’ choice of a midfield two at all.
I felt that Ross’ subs were particularly poor and sent the wrong message. Even debutant Jimmy Dunne mentioned it in his post-match interview when he commented:
We had it in our minds that the objective was to see out that 1-0 - and maybe that’s not the best way to play.
He had a point.
Taking off Josh Maja and opting for Duncan Watmore sent out the signal that we’d aim to sit back and hit it long to him, hoping to catch them on the break - another error that you could argue cost us the two extra points.
We’re short on numbers in more than one position
It seems we’ve been banging on about needing a big centre half and a striker for weeks doesn’t it? Whilst Jimmy Dunne seems to fill one void, it’s yet to be seen who that elusive striker will be.
Is that the only position we need to strengthen, though? Not on Saturday’s evidence.
It’s becoming increasingly evident that none of our midfielders have the strength, height or athleticism we require in order to dominate opposition midfielders. We need a midfielder who can dictate the game and put his foot on the ball.
It’s far too easy for middle of the road teams to bypass our midfield by simply being taller and/or stronger. This is hampering our ability to hold onto leads, and needs to be addressed.
We’re far too predictable in the final third too. Aiden McGeady, Lynden Gooch and Chris Maguire are all very similar players and it seems to take an eternity for them to play the ball in - and not one of them can take a corner! Josh Maja was feeding largely on scraps.
Individually, they all offer the team something, but I simply don’t think they work in a front three. The problem? There are no other options to select from.
So whilst we definitely need a striker, we are crying out for a midfielder who can take games by the scruff of them neck and we need a winger that offers something different to the predictable trio we currently have.
McLaughlin is our most important player
Another week, another man of the match display from our Scottish goalkeeper.
Whilst Josh Maja gets all the headlines after notching his sixteenth goal of the campaign, I think McLaughlin has a huge case for being our most important player. This past weekend Scunthorpe managed to swing in cross after cross after cross, but the big man was brilliant in the way in which he dominated his penalty area.
Not only did McLaughlin command his box magnificently, but he made some fantastic saves from George Thomas and Lee Novak; if it wasn’t for Adam Hammill’s wonder-strike at the end, he would have won us three points which we, admittedly, wouldn’t have deserved.
He’s been my player of the season so far and is proving the best signing we’ve made for a few seasons - and all on a free transfer.
Jimmy Dunne was steady
New loan signing Jimmy Dunne was thrust into the heart of Sunderland’s defence after Jack Baldwin was forced to sit out due to illness, and the Burnley man didn’t let anyone down with his opening performance.
He had tough opponents in the shape of the experienced Lee Novak and in-form Kyle Wooton, yet won more than half of his aerial battles.
Whilst he didn’t have an absolute stormer of a debut and was ultimately part of a side that once more failed to keep a clean sheet, he did look like he is a capable of being the tall, powerful centre back we’ve been needing for a while.
Hopefully the more he plays and gets a feel for the team, the more we see the best of the 21-year-old.