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Finlay’s Report: “How worried are you about Sunderland’s current predicament?”

RR’s junior journo Finlay Anderson is back with his report of Sunderland’s latest game, and ponders just how worried our supporters should be about the club’s current predicament.

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

Pressure is beginning to mount on the Sunderland boss, Phil Parkinson, after his side played out a goalless draw against his former side Bolton Wanderers.

Throughout the match, there were chants of “We want Parky out” and “You’re getting sacked in the morning” from the Sunderland faithful.

There were plenty of chances for both sides, but with some brilliant goalkeeping and some bad shooting, the match ended with no goals.

After dropping to their lowest place in the club’s history last weekend, Boxing Day represented new lows for the Black Cats as they slipped even further down the league table to 12th, while Bolton gained another point, but they are still 14 points off escaping from the relegation zone.

The Team...

Phil Parkinson made three changes to the side that drew 1-1 against Blackpool in the Black Cats’ last match. Jordan Willis returned from the injury that left him out of the draw against the Tangerines, with Laurens de Bock dropping to the bench. George Dobson was sent off against Simon Grayson’s side, so was given a one match suspension, meaning captain Grant Leadbitter replaced him in midfield. Gooch was given twenty minutes in the last match, and was started on Boxing Day by Parkinson.

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

First Half Action

Due to this game being the final game before the new year, Sunderland continued their long-standing tradition to hold a period of silence before the match.

When the match began, both teams were matching each other at both ends of the pitch and despite being bottom of the table, Bolton created themselves some brilliant opportunities. With just over ten minutes gone, Ronan Darcy was centimetres away from hammering the Trotters into the lead. From Joe Dodoo’s cross on the byline on the right wing, it fell perfectly for Darcy, who took one stab at it, but it just rose over the bar.

As the home team, Sunderland posed a threat when they attacked from set-pieces. This time, Grant Leadbitter’s corner from the left pin-pointed Wyke, whose header against the ground was tipped over the bar by Remi Matthews.

Not long after, from one end to another, Bolton were almost rewarded for a swift counter-attack from the Sunderland penalty area. The Black Cats did have a penalty appeal when the ball looked to have struck the arm of Josh Earl, but the referee waved play-on and he carried it forward and then fed Joe Dodoo. Dodoo then threaded the ball through to Ronan Darcy, whose shot was chested away by Jon McLaughlin.

Sunderland thought that they should have been one goal ahead when a cross into the penalty area from the left was looking as if it was dropping into the gloves of Remi Matthews, but Tom Flanagan nodded the ball into the back of the net before it could fall into the goalkeeper’s gloves. Meanwhile, it was ruled out for a foul on the goalkeeper by Tom Flanagan, leaving the Sunderland fans furious.

Alim Ozturk almost made the most costly mistake when the ball was lobbed up-field, where Ozturk was looking as if he was safely going to deposit it back to Jon McLaughlin, but his pass back was short and cut out by Daryl Murphy. He touched the ball past an on-rushing McLaughlin, who was then stranded. The former Sunderland striker gave it to Luke Murphy, who dribbled the ball further into the penalty area and then pulled the trigger, but it was saved by Jon McLaughlin.

Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Second Half Action

After the half time interval Sunderland came out as the more stronger team but didn’t look convincing. The closest they came, early on in the second half, was through Luke O’Nien. Watmore cut the ball back after Hume’s overlap, and it eventually rolled through to O’Nien, who lashed his right boot at it - but his attempt rocketed narrowly wide of the left post.

Minutes after the hour mark Phil Parkinson made his first change when he brought off Duncan Watmore, who was replaced by Chris Maguire.

After being at fault for Gillingham’s goal in a first round FA Cup tie in November, Jon McLaughlin was criticised for his goalkeeping, but the Sunderland fans were more than happy with his goalkeeping on Boxing Day. Thibaud Verlinden attracted Jon McLaughlin a few inches off his line and then crossed it into the penalty area, where Daryl Murphy was waiting. His header was somehow clawed off the goal line by Jon McLaughlin.

With 73 minutes on the clock, Parkinson was forced into a second change when Tom Flanagan limped off with what looked like a hamstring injury, so Laurens de Bock replaced him. Only six minutes after that, he made his final roll of the dice when he brought on Marc McNulty and gave Lynden Gooch a rest.

As the clock ticked down into five minutes of added time, substitute Marc McNulty wasn’t far away from scoring the winner. Hume’s cross from the left was cleared, but only to McNulty, who, from inside the penalty area, attempted to curl a shot into the top right corner. McNulty’s effort was unfortunately palmed away by the Bolton goalkeeper.

When the referee Ross Joyce blew his full time whistle, the match ended with a chorus of boos, with the game ending goalless.

Sunderland v Bolton Wanderers - Sky Bet League One Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Finlay’s Verdict....

How worried are you about Sunderland’s current predicament?

Boxing Day signified a new low for this historic club and it was the second time within a month that the Sunderland fans had been calling for Parkinson’s head.

For me, our defence massively worries me. Playing five at the back at home against the league’s bottom side shouldn’t have been done by the manager. It should have been a more attacking side to entice the fans going to the game on Boxing Day.

Bolton do provide attacking threat and we saw that at the University of Bolton Stadium under Jack Ross in mid-September, but we didn’t need three central-defenders. One positive that we can take from our defensive performance today was the clean sheet that we gained. Some may say that we should be keeping clean sheets against teams at the bottom of the table, but in current weeks, a clean sheet is something to build on.

Although we were unable to score, I am not as worried with our attack as I am the defence, but I am still slightly troubled. The fact that we had all of our attacking options available - apart from McGeady - and the forwards chosen by Parkinson couldn’t break the deadlock does worry me, but I am hoping that with confidence, this can be easily changed.

We have to pick our heads up as on Sunday we take on Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium. I would be surprised if George Dobson doesn’t come straight back into the side after coming back from his suspension and replacing Grant Leadbitter in midfield. Also, if either Duncan Watmore or Lynden Gooch don’t have the energy in the tank for another game in quick succession, it would be an easy swap for Parkinson. Hopefully, in our last game of 2019, we can start the turn things around and pick up points.

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