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Finlay’s Report: Solid win for Sunderland, but forwards need to start producing the goods!

Phil Parkinson’s men picked up a straightforward three points this past weekend, but moving forward we really need to start finishing the opportunities we’re creating!

Sunderland v Southend United - Sky Bet Leauge One Photo by Steven Hadlow/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Team

Phil Parkinson made four changes to the side that lost a narrow penalty shootout to Oxford United on Tuesday night in the Carabao Cup. After missing a spot kick on Tuesday, Will Grigg began the match up top as Parkinson reverted to a 4-2-3-1 formation that the Sunderland fans have become so accustomed to.

Luke O’Nien came back into the squad, but starting the game in a more attacking role, with Conor McLaughlin filling in at right back. After doubts about his role in the squad, Aiden McGeady kept his place in the starting 11.

Before kick-off, it was announced by the club that Lee Butler had taken over from Craig Samson as the club’s goalkeeping coach, and Butler took training with Jon McLaughlin and Anthony Patterson in the pre-match warm-ups for the Black Cats.

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

First Half Action

Right from the off, Sunderland began to build some early momentum, but it was Southend who carved the first opening of the match. A tricky run by Isaac Hutchinson allowed himself some space on the byline inside the penalty area, and a little chip to the back of the area found Bwomono, who unfortunately for the visitors, hit the ball over the top.

Only a few minutes later, a chance came for Sunderland’s Aiden McGeady, when a bit of quality from the Irishman gave him the opportunity just inside the penalty area, but his effort curled wide of the right post.

With 19 minutes on the clock, the Black Cats took the lead through Luke O’Nien, who scored in a third successive home match. This one came when a brilliant cross from the left from Denver Hume picked out O’Nien, who came steaming in to head the ball past Nathan Bishop and into the bottom right corner.

Later in the half, Southend had a very strong penalty appeal waved away by the referee, Trevor Kettle. From a Simon Cox shot, the ball looked to have hit the arm of Joel Lynch, but the referee was having none of the Southend appeals and ordered for the game to carry on.

Sol Campbell’s Southend side were unfortunate not to be on level terms going into the half time break when the ball broke for Brandon Goodship inside the penalty area, but he completely failed to connect with it and the ball rolled away to safety for the hosts.

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

Second Half Action

Minutes after the half time restart, Will Grigg was unlucky not to have doubled the hosts’ advantage. A Conor McLaughlin cross from the right found Grigg, who nodded the ball over the top of the Southend crossbar.

Throughout the first half, Denver Hume produced lots of lengthy skilful runs forward, and one almost profited into a second goal for the Black Cats. From the left wing, he carried the ball past a few yellow shirts and his shot eventually was deflected away for a corner by Joe Shaughnessy.

Aiden McGeady forced a save out of the Southend goalkeeper, when his shot from around 20 yards out, was parried away by the gloves of Nathan Bishop.

Sunderland were knocking on the Southend door a number of times in the second half, and almost broke through when Conor McLaughlin’s cross found Luke O’Nien, who directed the ball into the gloves of Nathan Bishop.

Another effort came shortly after for the Black Cats when Duncan Watmore dribbled the ball convincingly into the penalty area, but his shot didn’t match the build-up, as his attempt was fired wide of the left post.

After four minutes of additional time at the end of the match, Sunderland weren’t able to conjure up any more goals, so the match ended Sunderland AFC 1-0 Southend United.

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

Finlay’s Verdict...

A second three points under Phil Parkinson has lifted the mood slightly amongst the Sunderland fans after Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Southend. But, is only scoring one goal against the league’s second bottom side good enough for a team that wants promotion?

Ipswich were able to put three goals past the Shrimpers in Sol Campbell’s first game in charge, and one game before that, Doncaster netted seven goals past them, so in my opinion, this was a key match that Sunderland should have targeted to increase their goal difference. Our goal difference is currently standing at 6, which is the second lowest in the top 7, so one of Phil Parkinson’s aims has to be to improve this going forward.

On the flip side of that, Sunderland created plenty of chances for themselves, but like recent matches against Shrewsbury and Wycombe Wanderers, we couldn’t add the finishing touch. Hopefully, with three minor matches coming up - two in the Leasing.com Trophy and one in the FA Cup - we are able to improve our finishing so that we can defeat teams comfortably.

Next up, we face our second group stage match in the Leasing.com Trophy against Leicester City’s u21’s at the Stadium of Light. Parkinson has already mentioned that players like Alim Ozturk and Tom Flanagan will get a run out and 90 minutes under their belt, but I don’t expect the new boss to choose any major first team players.

As I have said plenty of times during cup competitions this season, although the EFL Trophy won’t be our priority, everyone who is selected will want to win and prove that they have what it takes to play in the first team.