Jekyll & Hyde Performance
Sunderland’s first half display yesterday afternoon was nothing short of brilliant. Slick passing and good movement across the entire pitch meant that Pompey struggled to gain any kind of traction whatsoever during the opening forty-five.
However, after the break, Sunderland looked a shadow of their former selves. The intensity and accuracy of the passing simply vanished in the second half, and it’s difficult to fathom why, or how, that happened.
Perhaps Pompey’s tactical tweaks made the difference? Perhaps the Lads simply eased off the gas? Ultimately, Sunderland’s Jeykll & Hyde performance cost them the chance of a morale-boosting win, and a chance of silverware.
That being said, credit is certainly due for the Lads’ character in clawing an equaliser at the end of extra-time, but fans were left wondering as to what could have been if Sunderland had managed to replicate their first-half showing in the second.
Fans Question Subs
After the final Pompey spot kick was dispatched and the contest was put to bed, fans on social media began to point to Sunderland’s substitutions as a quizzical chapter of the game.
The substitutions were as follows: Gooch for Morgan on 72 mins, Power for Grigg on 76 mins, Hume for James on 87 mins, and Wyke for Leadbitter in the first half of extra-time.
Gooch replacing Morgan was a pretty straightforward swap, especially considering Sunderland needed extra legs to combat Pompey’s resurgence. However, the change that has seemingly drawn the ire of many fans was the decision to remove Sunderland’s only recognised forward on the pitch in place of a central midfielder.
Ross did seem keen to bring Wyke on earlier, but James’ injury prevented that from happening. Ultimately, Sunderland played around twenty minutes of football without a recognised striker on the pitch, and for some fans that decision is seen as a blunder.
Time to Focus on the League
Max Power spoke after the game and argued that the Lads will need to use this pain as motivation for the league’s remaining nine games.
Sunderland currently sit in fourth place, six points behind second-placed Barnsley with three games in hand. A run of wins in this final stretch of the campaign could well end with automatic promotion.
The Lads need to dust themselves down and ensure that the season ends with success. Winning a trophy would have been nice, but promotion into the Championship is far more crucial to our long-term plans and hopes for continued success.
This Wednesday the Lads travel down to Accrington; they need to bounce back with a victory in order to ensure we hold our destiny in our own hands.
'It takes a lot to walk up and take a penalty. We're all gutted but we've got to use the pain from this as motivation in our remaining nine league games to ensure we achieve promotion'— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) March 31, 2019
Watch @mp_1825's post-match interview https://t.co/it1kai82vL#SAFC pic.twitter.com/56N18Iy1zQ
How Class are Sunderland Fans?
Looking through social media on Saturday night, it was difficult not to feel quite emotional as tens of thousands of Sunderland fans descended upon the capital.
It’s emotional because in a world where communities seem to be shrinking and individualism seems to be the norm, Sunderland’s fans seem to fly in the face of that. We’re kind, proud, tribal, and fiercely loyal. We’re this weird counter-culture that focuses on tradition, community spirit, and passion.
Factor in all the years of absolute crap that we’ve endured and this weekend was a great occasion to show everyone else who we are as a people.
I couldn’t be more proud to be a Mackem.
Recovered from last night?— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) March 31, 2019
Check out our Trafalgar Square takeover video https://t.co/i06mjJsjMn
#WontBeHomeForTea #SAFC pic.twitter.com/7X5YOdkkzb