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Finlay’s Report: Saturday’s performance was poor - the players need to turn up against Tranmere!

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RR’s junior journo Finlay Anderson is back with his breakdown of Saturday’s performance - and he thinks that Tuesday night’s game against Tranmere is a ‘must-win’ for Sunderland. Do you agree?

Rochdale v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

The Team...

Phil Parkinson made five changes to the last side that Jack Ross named in his last league match against Lincoln City at Sincil Bank. One thing that had been identified at the start of the season was Jon McLaughlin’s inability to seemingly keep a clean sheet in the league, and he was replaced with Lee Burge, who had been in goal for Sunderland’s three Carabao Cup ties against Accrington Stanley, Burnley and Sheffield United.

Denver Hume came in at left-back, with Laurens de Bock not making the matchday squad. Also, Duncan Watmore made his first league start of the season after scoring in the Leasing.com Trophy group stage match against Grimsby.

Wycombe Wanderers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

First Half Action

Around a week ago both Gareth Ainsworth and Phil Parkinson had been reportedly battling it out for the role as Sunderland boss and now, in Parky’s first game in charge of the Black Cats, both Ainsworth and the new Sunderland boss were facing each other for three points for their respective teams.

Sunderland had one of the first shots on target with less than ten minutes gone at Adams Park. Duncan Watmore managed to give the ball to McGeady, who was just over twenty yards out - his first-time shot curled just over the bar of Allsop’s goal.

The Black Cats were unlucky not to have taken the lead when Hume’s cross from the left found Wyke in space inside the penalty area and his header was wrestled away by the Wycombe goalkeeper, but Wyke was in an offside position.

From the resulting free-kick, Allsop arrowed the ball up field and Lynch allowed the knock-on to make its way through to Burge, but Wheeler got to the ball as Lynch let it go. The Wycombe man fell to the floor in claims that he was tripped by Lynch inside the penalty area, but no penalty was given.

Joe Jacobson was close to giving the hosts the lead when his free-kick from around twenty yards out was violently pushed away from danger by Lee Burge.

Just before the half hour mark, Jacobson played a part as Wycombe took the lead. The full-back chipped the ball into the penalty area from a free kick on the left to Adebayo Akinfenwa, who nodded it down the Charles. The 31-year-old centre-back then lashed the ball into the top right corner from a matter of yards out.

Wycombe Wanderers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Second Half Action

At half time Phil Parkinson made his first substitution as the Sunderland manager, taking off the injured Charlie Wyke for Will Grigg.

Sunderland created some space for a clear-cut opportunity after 56 minutes at Adams Park. Hume’s cross from the left found Conor McLaughlin after the Wycombe players missed the ball, but unfortunately the right back fired the ball miles wide of the left post.

Minutes after the hour mark, Parkinson made his second change when Chris Maguire was brought on in the place of Duncan Watmore then, in an attempt to take something from the match, he made his final change when he replaced Grant Leadbitter with Marc McNulty, with Aiden McGeady being given the captain’s armband for the remainder of the game.

Wycombe almost sealed the three points when Adebayo Akinfenwa’s header from close range was nodded wide of the post. And as the clock ticked down, McGeady picked up his fifth yellow card of the season in League One which therefore means that the winger will miss Tuesday night’s home match against Tranmere Rovers.

In the six minutes of added time, McGeady was millimetres from equalising for the Black Cats - he dribbled the ball around the onrushing Wycombe players and took a shot, but his ferocious effect was pushed onto the bar.

The game ended 1-0 to Wycombe - a nightmare start for Parkinson as Sunderland boss.

Sunderland Unveil New Manager Phil Parkinson Photo by Sunderland AFC/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Finlay’s Verdict...

There were a few shocks before the match in relation to the starting eleven that Parkinson chose. Before the international break under Jack Ross, Jon McLaughlin hadn’t kept a clean sheet in League One and had been at fault for some of the goals that we had conceded, including Tyler Walker’s first goal in Ross’ last match in charge. As such, McLaughlin was replaced by Lee Burge - an unassuming yet slightly surprising decision, given that McLaughlin has been such a huge player for Sunderland since he arrived.

I was also shocked by no Chris Maguire, Marc McNulty or Lynden Gooch in the team that began the game. Whilst our bench was quite strong, this didn’t help the first half performance when they were absent from the match.

The way that we conceded the goal was poor. Firstly, the free kick was quite soft for me, and then we let Akinfenwa easily nod the ball down to Charles, who somehow was able to fire the ball past four or five players in red and white from less than ten yards out.

Charlie Wyke came off at half time and after that, we lacked an aerial threat up top to hold up the ball. In the first half the majority of the balls were being brought down by Wyke, but the attacking midfielders - O’Nien, Watmore and McGeady - weren’t anywhere within a five yard radius of him. Then, in the end, we didn’t really trouble their backline in a push to find an equaliser, apart from Aiden McGeady’s effort that hit the crossbar.

In Sunderland’s time in League One I haven’t said it that often that our games are must-win matches, but in my opinion Tuesday night’s match against Tranmere is a must-win for the team after two successive league defeats.

McGeady will be unavailable after picking up his fifth yellow card on Saturday. I think that Maguire has to come back into the side, as I thought before the international break he was one of our stand out players.

Despite only having a couple of days to prepare for Tuesday night, Phil Parkinson has to motivate his squad well in the hope that we can perform and produce the first win since he arrived at the club.