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Finlay’s Report: Sunderland 1-2 Burton - Will this break benefit Phil Parkinson and his troops?

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Better late than never... here’s Finlay Anderson’s review of Sunderland’s loss to Burton on Tuesday. He asks: how will the break in action benefit Phil Parkinson and his troops?

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

Chants of “You’re getting sacked in the morning” and “You’re not fit to wear the shirt” from the home fans at the full time whistle rang around the Stadium of Light after Phil Parkinson’s time at Sunderland took a turn for the worst with a 2-1 defeat against Burton Albion.

Aiden McGeady had given Sunderland the lead from the spot after O’Nien was brought down in the area with less than 20 minutes on the clock. Less than 60 seconds later, the visitors were level when Ryan Edwards was perfectly positioned to meet Lee Burge’s clearance. Then, with 68 minutes on the clock, Liam Boyce gave the Brewers the lead, which they kept hold of and took a vital three points from the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland’s 2-1 defeat leaves them closer to the bottom three than Wycombe at the top of League One, with 13 points separating the Black Cats and MK Dons in 21st and 14 dividing Sunderland and the table-toppers.


The Team...

In my previous article, I asked if Kimpioka had earned himself a place in the starting 11, but unfortunately for Saturday’s hero, he was only chosen for the bench, as Phil Parkinson made two changes to the side that drew 1-1 against Coventry. After picking up his fifth yellow card on Saturday, George Dobson was suspended, so Parkinson went back to two central-midfielders of Power and Leadbitter. On Saturday, Watmore injected pace into the Sunderland side in the final 20 minutes, and was given a chance from the off on Tuesday. The Sunderland manager hinted per-match that O’Nien would be pushed in a more advanced role, and he kept him word by shifting Conor McLaughlin to right-back with Chris Maguire dropping to the bench.


First Half Action

In the opening stages Sunderland were cautious of their opponents - who had beaten them in two of their four meetings, with one sending the Black Cats in the third tier - but the visitors provided a moment of sloppiness and the hosts were handed a spot kick. McGeady’s cross from the left was cleared by John-Joe O’Toole, but it rebounded off Watmore and dropped inside of the penalty area. O’Nien was one of the first to react and got to the ball ahead of O’Toole, who brought him to the ground.

Aiden McGeady stepped up from twelve yards and cannoned the ball into the bottom left corner to score his fourth league goal of the season.

Less than 60 seconds later, the Brewers were back on level terms. Boyce’s neat flick found Kieran Wallace inside of the penalty area, and his shot was punched away by Lee Burge, but he aimed the ball directly into the path of Ryan Edwards, who nodded it into the back of the Sunderland net.

Burton almost made it two not long after when they had Sunderland caught under their spell. Boyce again was at the heart of the visitors’ attacks and dribbled the ball into the penalty area. Lynch was unable to clear his lines and stop the Northern Ireland international from providing himself space to take a shot, which was parried away by Lee Burge.

Just before half time, Sunderland finally got to grips with their opponents since they were dragged back level. Hume made a lengthy run and found himself positioned on the outskirts of the penalty area. He picked out O’Nien, who turned and fired it towards goal, but it was punched away by O’Hara.

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

Second Half Action

The Black Cats had a strong, passionate opening spell to the second half when they provided an onslaught at the visitors. McGeady’s cross from the left targeted O’Nien and found him; the Sunderland attacker’s shot was arrowed against the ground and bounced back up into the gloves of Kieran O’Hara.

This Sunderland pressure wasn’t fulfilled as, eight minutes after the hour mark, Burton took the lead. Scott Fraser carried the ball from the halfway line to around 12 yards outside the penalty area on the left, with a quick, slick counter-attack. Fraser’s teasing ball across the face of goal found Boyce, who poked it past Lee Burge.

Only a few minutes after this, Phil Parkinson’s first decision was to bring on Chris Maguire, for Conor McLaughlin, with Luke O’Nien switching back to a right-back role.

With ten minutes of the match remaining, Parkinson brought on Benji Kimpioka for Grant Leadbitter, with the Sunderland boss having five attacking players on the pitch at the same time.

Despite being one goal ahead, Burton had the better of the later opportunities and probably had the game sealed long before the full time whistle, when David Templeton cut the ball back to Scott Fraser, who hammered it off the crossbar and Joel Lynch volleyed the ball away from danger.

After four minutes of added time, a chorus of boos filled the Stadium of Light as the match ended Sunderland AFC 1-2 Burton Albion.