Maguire proved why it was naive to ignore him
Last night’s man of the match was undoubtedly Chris Maguire, but most fans coming away from the game were left scratching their heads wondering why something so obvious has been ignored for a number of weeks now.
Maguire was rightly taken out of the team after a string of poor performances, but the fact he seems to have been ignored for a number of weeks now whilst other underperforming players have been given their chance time after time does make you wonder why it took us to reach such extreme circumstances before unleashing him in a game which, if it wasn’t for his contributions, we would have lost embarrassingly in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
Sunderland sold Josh Maja in January, and though losing his goals has been tough we spent good money to replace him, but it can’t be forgotten how much of a contribution Chris Maguire made to the team before January rolled around. His own tally of six goals and four assists has been tough to replace too, with only Aiden McGeady contributing regularly from Sunderland’s midfield.
Maguire entered the fray and immediately lifted both the team and the supporters. He was calm, cool, collected and ran the show as Sunderland got themselves out of trouble and back into a game that they looked almost certain to lose.
We’ve seen countless others get chance after chance recently, and I’ve commented before that it seems as though Jack Ross has his favourites in the squad. This clearly has to stop.
Maguire has been an important player all season. Yes, he’s capable of being immensely frustrating, but I firmly believe that he’s a better fit than the more inexperienced players getting opportunities ahead of him.
It’s time to place some faith back in his ability to influence games - if we do, we’ll undoubtedly see the results. His track record since joining the club shows he’s capable.
It was painful watching our defence at times last night, but I have to wonder whether they were helped by the way they had been instructed to play.
Baldwin and Dunne struggled all night - their passing kept putting us under pressure as they attempted to stride forward and play out from the back, they were caught in compromising positions that probably would have gone punished against better sides, they both made a mess of things when we gave away a penalty, and in Baldwin’s case he was lucky not to be sent off in the first half after a string of poor challenges only saw him collect a sole yellow card.
I know this is a moot point, but can you imagine if, say, Alim Ozturk had played as badly as either of them did last night? I certainly don’t think he’d be in the team again for the next match, put it that way.
Reece James struggled too, and he ought to be looking over his shoulder as Denver Hume and Bryan Oviedo return to full fitness. He played two great crosses into the area in the first half but, that aside, I thought he was poor and has been for the last few games at least.
Luke O’Nien is one of my favourite players, but his last two performances at right back haven’t really inspired me as much as some of his showings there earlier in the season.
Ultimately, we have to readdress our defensive situation. Conceding twice at home against a team who hadn’t scored in the six games prior is very poor, and should lead to Ross thinking again about whether he needs to shake things up in defence on Tuesday night.
Jack Ross has to learn quickly
Some supporters are starting to grow frustrated with some of the decisions made by Jack Ross, and I think it’s fair to say that his confusion and frustration over how he puts things right is clear for us all to see.
One thing we can’t accuse him of is not trying to mix things up - his last two squads certainly indicate that he’s willing to try new things - but it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t address the naivity of some of his decisions.
Waiting until the 51st minute to make a change that should have been made at half time was an interesting one. I know you could make the case that introducing Maguire at 2-0 down - when hes angry and eager to put things right - was a smart one, but he was already lined up on the side waiting to come on before Accrington got their second goal.
If the plan was always to change things quickly, surely it made more sense to do that at the break? These are minor gripes, and it’d be unreasonable to expect perfection, but the manager has to learn quickly.
Tuesday’s visit of Gillingham certainly feels like a must-win game, but then the last handful of games have felt this way and we’ve somehow fallen short in each of them.
Indeed, there’s a lot to learn from last night’s experience. Whilst a draw looks a good result considering we were 2-0 down, it was still a failure on our part and unfortunately I can only feel disappointed with the fact we passed up the chance to win a home game against a team desperately out of form. Food for thought.