Q: Ahead of this weekend, what do you think Sunderland need to do in order to secure a positive result against Bolton?
Phil West says...
In order for us to take three points from what will definitely be a highly-charged game against a newly-invigorated Bolton team, we need to combine physicality and aggression with some sharper attacking play, and a mindset that says, ‘we are NOT sitting back, and we ARE going to kill off this game if we get a chance.’
If the draw against Rotherham brought one thing into brutally sharp focus once again, it is that a one-goal deficit is never going to be enough. The phrase ‘sit back and defend’ should be banished from the training ground, the team bus, and the changing room. There ARE goals in our team, and Saturday would be an ideal time to show that.
In terms of personnel, I wouldn’t advocate too many changes, if at all, because, as we saw in the early stages against Rotherham, when we click, we can play some good football.
Marc McNulty should remain the focal point of our attack, and the Dobson/McGeough midfield axis, I believe, should remain intact. And if Grant Leadbitter doesn’t start, the captaincy ought to be awarded to Jordan Willis, a man who I believe is well-suited to the role. Let Aiden McGeady concentrate on what he does best, ripping through defences and creating opportunities for others. He’ll have a point to prove, following Tuesday night’s penalty miss.
Our attitude, in all areas of the field, must be hard-nosed and ruthless on Saturday. We cannot afford to shirk tackles, and we must be relentless in our closing down and pressing. As for Jack Ross? He needs to place 100% trust in his players, and to hold his nerve, tactically, if the game gets tight. If we’re up against it, let’s not resort to silly, aimless long balls, or allow ourselves to get dragged out of position defensively. Composure will be needed from everyone, because we know that Bolton will enjoy some threatening periods themselves.
There’s pressure on this game, and everyone will know it. The team should use that pressure to bring the best out of themselves, and not to crumble if the game is proving to be a slog. We’ve rebounded from one disappointing draw this season, against Ipswich, and now we simply must repeat the formula, because another winning run certainly needs to be constructed. Another game so soon after an underwhelming draw is what we need, and it’s a game we can certainly win.
Sean Brown says...
Not panic. We all know how much pressure will be on the Lads (for this game in particular) given that other teams have been putting a substantial amount of pressure on the nets at the “University of Bolton stadium” since the season began. Personally, I fear that just being Sunderland (I don’t mean this in any overly negative way... but Sunlun aye) may mean the team won’t actually do what we would all want them to.
Despite the fact Bolton may look to many like easy pickings right now, when you look at their most recent performance they appear to be attempting to address the problems they’ve seen for some time, as they managed to grind out a result and keep a clean sheet against an Oxford side that frustrated us at the beginning of the season.
For us, Tuesday night’s draw at home against a side that put 6 past the Trotters just this Saturday gone may not mean as much as we all think either. We certainly can’t go into the game with the assumption we’ll absolutely destroy them, but in reality we certainly shouldn’t approach this game with any real trepidation.
I think a sprinkling of intelligent distribution could help a great deal, but that’s a little obvious. Ross and the team has a plan of attack and I’d not like to make the assumption that it’ll be anything different to what we’ve seen so far. Hopefully, if we do suffer a setback of any kind, the Lads can collect themselves and not let their heads drop like Tuesday night following McGeady’s failure to convert.
If we can spread the opening 20 minutes or so of the Rotherham performance into the full 90 on Saturday, we should be able to overcome this Bolton side easily, but if we try for a short period and start to worry about the implications of a goal or decision going against us, we may well cause ourselves more problems than the opposition ever could.
Phil Butler says...
I guess the answer depends on what you see as a positive result.
To win, Sunderland probably need to turn up and not do anything stupid - remain calm, focused and get the job done. Bolton shouldn’t be capable of troubling any team in the top half of this division, so to win the game should require minimum effort.
However, I’m not sure many would class a 1-0 win as a “positive result”, and I’m sure there’ll be many critical of any scoreline with under 5 goals, or where Sunderland can’t keep a clean sheet.
Again, due to Bolton’s lack of quality, this shouldn’t be too much of an ask, but focus, concentration and ruthlessness are all required if Sunderland are to boost their goal difference and secure their first clean sheet of the season.
If they fail to achieve either of these two goals, many wouldn’t see it as a positive result.