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Finlay’s Report: Sunderland have lost three on the bounce away from home - it’s not good enough!

Sunderland may well be targeting automatic promotion this season, but unless our terrible away form in the league is addressed we won’t be considered by anyone as serious contenders at the top of the table.

Shrewsbury Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

Sunderland lost their third successive away League One match on Saturday, going down by one goal to nil at the hands of Sam Ricketts’ Shrewsbury Town.

Scotland striker Jason Cummings netted the only goal of the game, but the Black Cats can’t complain that they didn’t have the chances as the visitors struck the woodwork three times, unable to break down a solid Shrewsbury backline.

The Team...

Phil Parkinson made one change to the side that thrashed Tranmere Rovers 5-0 at the Stadium of Light. Lynden Gooch twisted his ankle in the second half of the game on Tuesday night, so Aiden McGeady replaced him in the starting eleven after missing out in midweek due to a suspension.

Lee Burge was given a third successive appearance in goal ahead of Jon McLaughlin, with Will Grigg keeping his place up top after scoring his first league goal on Tuesday. Chris Maguire and Aiden McGeady were the only two players that started on Saturday and began last season’s 2-0 victory against Shrewsbury at New Meadow last October.

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

First Half Action

The visitors began the match with a high tempo and almost took an early lead at New Meadow. Hume played the ball to McGeady, who was inside the penalty area. Unfortunately for the Black Cats, his first-time shot was launched over the bar.

Despite arguably being the better team in the opening stages of the match, Sunderland fell behind in the 22nd minute via the game’s first shot on target. Josh Laurent dribbled his way deep into the penalty area on the left and cut the ball back to Jason Cummings, who stabbed it past a frozen Lee Burge and into the bottom left corner.

Later on in the first half, Sunderland hit the woodwork when Grigg turned inside the 18-yard box and fed Chris Maguire, whose right-footed effort from just outside the area cannoned off the inside of the left post and away from danger for the Shrews.

Shrewsbury Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

Second Half Action

At the beginning of the second half Jon McLaughlin replaced Lee Burge, who was later confirmed to be suffering with a thigh strain.

The Lads began the half well, creating chance after chance, and came closer to drawing level when Maguire’s shot from just outside the penalty area was kept out by Max O’Leary in the Shrewsbury goal.

On the hour mark Phil Parkinson made his second change when Duncan Watmore was replaced by Marc McNulty, with Sunderland diverting to a 4-4-2 formation.

Aiden McGeady produced a brilliant opportunity for Will Grigg to equalise for the Black Cats when he fizzed a cross across the face of the Shrewsbury goal, but the Sunderland forward couldn’t connect with it. Then, McGeady had a chance himself to level the match for the visitors when a cross to the far post from the left found the Irish international. He came streaming in at the back post, but lashed the ball over the bar in front of the travelling Sunderland fans.

Luke O’Nien scored in last season’s 2-0 victory against Shrewsbury at New Meadow and his header was diverted onto the post by Max O’Leary in the Shrewsbury goal - it felt that no matter what we did, the ball just wasn’t going to hit the back of the net.

Parky made his final roll of the dice when he brought on Benji Kimpioka in place of Will Grigg as the Black Cats looked for an equaliser - and we came close, hitting the woodwork for the third time in the game when McGeady teed up Power from around 25 yards out, but his shot rocketed off the crossbar. It wasn’t to be, and despite Sunderland’s best efforts it was ANOTHER defeat away from home - a rather concerning rate for a team who are apparently targetting automatic promotion.

Shrewsbury Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images

Finlay’s Verdict...

Sunderland just seemed to have no luck in front of goal on Saturday. We created some brilliant chances for our attacking players like Maguire, Grigg and McGeady, but they couldn’t apply the finish, and we left Shropshire without a win and without a goal.

Whilst I would totally agree that McGeady brings experience and quality to the side, he doesn’t produce it on a regular basis, something that we need at this current moment. On Tuesday we won 5-0 without him in our side, yet on Saturday McGeady slowed the game down and hampered us defensively. If Gooch is available for the next league match next week then he should come straight back in - I thought that what I saw of Gooch on Tuesday was promising, and probably the best performance that we’ve seen from him all season.

Despite not having the best of spells to welcome him into his role as the new Sunderland manager, you’d expect that Phil Parkinson knows the ins and outs of this league and dealing with the demanding schedule that the fixture list throws up.

I’m hoping that in the coming weeks Parkinson is able to balance things out - we only have one week in November where we don’t have a match on a Tuesday, due to the EFL Trophy and rearranged League One matches.

We have another game around the corner on Tuesday night, with a place in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals up for grabs when we play Oxford United at the Kassam Stadium. One League One side will be in the last eight of the prestigious competition and our in-form opponents will be well up for the game, especially on the back of savagely dumping West Ham United out in the last round.

It’ll be interesting to see how Parkinson approaches this competition. I think he’ll make a number of changes to the team, and give a chance to players who haven’t been in the picture yet since he arrived at the club.

Do Sunderland really need the distraction of a cup run when their league form is so indifferent? It’s impossible to say, but had we taken three points at the weekend I’m sure we’d all be feeling a lot more relaxed about Tuesday’s cup tie than we are right now.

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