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Finlay’s Report: 3 at the back didn’t work last week - why did Sunderland bother with it again?!

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“Jack Ross stuck with playing three at the back, which didn’t work last week, so I don’t understand why he expected it to work against a better side in Ipswich” says RR’s junior reporter Finlay Anderson.

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

Sunderland drew 1-1 for the second time in a row, this time away to Ipswich at Portman Road.

The Black Cats fell behind in the first 15 minutes on the road this season when Luke Garbutt was somehow able to manoeuvre his way through the penalty area and fire the ball into the back of the net from a tight angle.

In a more positive second half, brilliant work by Marc McNulty on the left helped set up Lynden Gooch, who scored his second goal in the second game of the season.

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

The Team...

Jack Ross made two changes to the side that drew 1-1 against Oxford United in the opening game of the League One season last Saturday. Sunderland fans were questioning the manager’s team selection after the Oxford game, with O’Nien and McGeady being left out, but they both came back into the starting 11 for the trip to Portman Road. Elliot Embleton and Will Grigg dropped out, with McGeady taking the captain’s armband.

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

First Half: Another Terrible Start Leads To Change In Formation!

After a sloppy start it didn’t take Ipswich long to take the lead in one of the worst ways possible for the Black Cats. Luke Garbutt was able to pick the ball up outside the penalty area on the right and managed to waltz his way through to the by-line. Despite Flanagan’s lack of ability to win the ball back, the Ipswich midfielder was able to curve the ball under Jon McLaughlin and into the back of the net from an impossibly tight angle.

Throughout the first half, Ipswich had a number of penalty appeals waved away, but had much more attacking intent than the Black Cats.

Shortly after, Jack Ross changed his formation to the 4-2-3-1 that he played so much of the last campaign with. Conor McLaughlin moved to the right-back, while O’Nien moved to a more attacking position behind Marc McNulty.

The goalscorer, Garbutt, had a chance just before there was 35 minutes on the clock when his shot from just outside of the penalty area was spilled by McLaughlin, but the visitors just about managed to clear the danger.

Ipswich nearly doubled their advantage when Conor McLaughlin made a huge mistake by stepping on the ball and gifting it to Jackson. He played the ball to Judge, who crafted a simple one-two and curled a shot into the gloves of Jon McLaughlin.

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

Second Half: SAFC Equalise After More Positive Second 45

Sunderland made a half time substitution as Chris Maguire came onto the Portman Road field with Denver Hume being replaced. This meant that Conor McLaughlin switched to left-back with Luke O’Nien slotting in the right-back position.

As the second half progressed, there were more positive signs for the Black Cats, as they had more play in the Ipswich half and were beginning to add pressure to the Ipswich backline.

And that pressure paid off with 64 minutes on the clock. Maguire lobbed the ball up field and McNulty chased and chased and chased and managed to keep it in play after Chambers was looking to see it out for a goal kick. He played the ball across to Gooch, who was in acres of space and was able to fire it home to equalise.

Jack Ross made his second change of the match with Will Grigg coming on for Aiden McGeady, who handed the captain’s armband to Tom Flanagan.

Sunderland’s defence was bolstered when Alim Ozturk came out for his first appearance of the season, as he replaced Jordan Willis.

After the 90 minutes were up, the fourth official added three additional minutes to see if either one of the two sides would claim a winner.

After the three minutes were up, the score was still the same with the match ending Ipswich Town 1-1 Sunderland AFC.


Finlay’s Verdict...

Normally, I would be fairly happy with a 1-1 draw against Ipswich Town at Portman Road, but in the terms of the match and the start to the season, we needed to claim all three points and didn’t.

Before kick-off I expected at least five changes to the side that drew 1-1 against Oxford United, as last week the formation we played was all wrong and the personnel was as well. Then, I read the team news one hour before kick-off and found out that Ross has only made two changes. He stuck with playing three at the back, which didn’t work last week, so I don’t understand why he expected it to work against a better side in Ipswich.

Throughout the match we changed the formation three times. In the first half, when we were playing three at the back, we were absolutely shocking. We then concede via Luke Garbutt somehow making his way in the penalty area without anyone really challenging him. I know defenders don’t want to make a rash challenge and give away a penalty, but at least try to win the ball!

Next week, when we face Portsmouth in our next league match, we HAVE to go back to playing a flat back four because a quality team like Pompey will easily pull us apart and hammer us. I think Chris Maguire starting is a MUST because you could see the impact he made when he was brought on at half time at Portman Road.

In our next game though, we face Accrington Stanley in the first round of the Carabao Cup, where I would be more than happy for Jack Ross to experiment with his squad as we need to focus solely on the league. Although some fans don’t want to be in the cups, we still need to go out and win the game of football that lies ahead on Tuesday night, and that will be Jack Ross’ intention.