Three league games, two defeats.
Phil Parkinson’s ‘dead cat’ effect has been more of a twitch than a bounce. The Tranmere result was extremely encouraging – a thumping win, a clean sheet, five different scorers, and one of them being Will Grigg.
However, the two away defeats tell a more realistic tale of where we stand this season. Comprehensively outplayed by Wycombe is a phrase I never want to use again; and whereas we sounded unlucky at Shrewsbury, we still lost without scoring.
Of course, Phil Parkinson has had zero time to make an impact, so I am not criticising him for where the club now finds itself – the lowest ebb in our 139-year history. He is trying a more attacking approach than Jack Ross was prepared to and that may make a difference, although it’s hard to see sustained improvement unless we use the January window to bring in a striker who can score.
Time and time again we hear that our play in the last third of the pitch wasn’t quite good enough; and at the same time we concede stupid goals.
Should we lose all hope? Well off the pace for promotion, should we shrug and accept that we finish mid-table this year? Perhaps a cup run will console us; or we can smile ruefully at our neighbours as they both slide to relegation; perhaps next year we might aim for the play-offs, depending on who comes down from the Championship?
No. It’s too early to throw in the towel.
This is a tight division and there are loads of points to play for.
Parkinson should be aiming to improve every area of the team by 5-10% and that will help us start finding form. The next 8-10 games are crucial. If we can put a run together we will start moving up the table, confidence will return, and we will be set up for some positive moves in January.
I actually cannot contemplate the alternative. A Sunderland side that can’t even fight for promotion from League One – it just doesn’t bear thinking about.