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Talking Points: Is it time that we started expecting more from Sunderland’s £3m man Will Grigg?

Sunderland paid big money for Will Grigg in the hope he’d deliver match-winning performances - is it time we expected more from him at a time when The Lads need their big players to step it up and take ownership for the final few games?

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The Subs...

My only real concern with yesterday - the result aside, obviously - was the decision to take off Lewis Morgan for Lynden Gooch. More often than not I think Ross gets it right with his substitutions, but I’m a little baffled by why he opted to remove one of Sunderland’s best players on the day when we were still chasing the game.

Gooch, rather predictably, tried really hard but frustrated the life out of supporters each and every time one of his mazy runs forward resulted in him running into brick walls.

I sympathise somewhat with Gooch - he really does give it his all, but something is lacking right now. It could be the fact he’s ventured into fatherhood recently, it could be that he’s just suffering from a lack of confidence - I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something has changed since he started the season like a house on fire.

Not that I think this particular decision cost us the three points, because it didn’t. But up to the point he was taken off, Morgan was arguably Sunderland’s most effective attacking player. Whilst he’s not always been great since arriving in January, I feel he’s improved a lot in recent weeks and yesterday he had the beating of his man on the right hand side time after time.

I won’t read too much into Chris Maguire’s contributions - ultimately, he’s returned from an injury that should have been a season-ender and just getting back out on the grass yesterday is a bonus for him.

That said, the same excuse can’t be made for Will Grigg. Grigg was signed to replace and perhaps even better the contributions of Josh Maja in January, and whilst he’s scored some goals his performances - certainly recently - have been sorely lacking in my view.

I’ve been patient, but perhaps it’s time we started expecting more from him. The club paid a lot of money for him in the hope he’d give match-winning performances, and those have been few and far between.

Grigg needs to know now that more is needed from him. He might be carrying a knock and he might be suffering somewhat from the good form of Charlie Wyke, but he’s the main man in that forward line and ultimately we need to start seeing results from him between now and the end of the season - whether that be in our final fixture against Southend, or if we end up in the play-offs.

He needs to back himself to succeed and take some ownership and the main marksman in this side - if he can do that and give this team some leadership from the front, I have no doubt that he’ll produce some better performances.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Our Luck...

I think more often than not you make your own luck, but I can’t help feeling hard done to after yesterday’s result. We all know we should have defended better at the death but we didn’t, and Godden’s strike from range was a once-in-a-game finish. It just so happens that Peterborough’s toothless attack opted to wait until the match was almost over before trying to have a proper go at us - a devastating punch to the gut of Sunderland fans everywhere.

In the first half we were completely on top, and I counted at least ten times where our wide players drifted past the Peterborough full-backs with ease. Our final product wasn’t good enough and our opponents managed to nick the ball away just as we were about to get shots in on goal on more than a handful of occasions - had just one of those chances fell to a Sunderland player I think we’d be sat talking about a really good performance and three points.

But, hindsight is wonderful and the fact of the matter is that we just didn’t do enough on the day, and we only have ourselves to blame. How we respond to the crushing disappointment of this result will surely define how our season ends.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

The Worry...

Which brings me on to my final point. Our fate is now in the hands of the Gods - or, rather, Barnsley FC, who are now the inhabitants of the much-sought after second place and have relatively poor opposition in Blackpool and Bristol Rovers to face in their final two games.

The worry from Sunderland supporters right now is twofold - one, that we’ve blown numerous chances to ensure we make second place our own, and two, that the pressure of being the big club in the play-offs will not only be too much for us, but won’t be taken seriously enough having ‘missed out’ on automatic promotion.

That will torment us until all is said and done. Not knowing where Sunderland’s fate will lead is absolutely killing me - I just want the season to be over and to be free of the stress for a month or so, whatever the case may be!

I know people want to lay into the players, the manager and the owners but all I’ll say is that the best course of action right now in my opinion is to try - as hard as that might be - and remain calm about it all. Whether we’ve blown it or not we don’t know yet, and until we do I think we need to hold off with the inquest into what went wrong.

Until we know where our fate lies the players and manager need our continued support, both in and out of the stands. Whilst we’re all feeling deflated, we know that at the very least we’ll get a second crack at promotion through the play-offs - a scenario that nobody really wants but, ultimately, it’s better than missing out altogether.

Like I said earlier this morning when talking to ALS editor Martyn McFadden, ordinarily I’d think we’ve blown it... but this is Sunderland. Does anything surprise us anymore?

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