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2 Up, 2 Down: The good, the bad and the own goals from Sunderland’s victory v Crewe Alexandra

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After Sunderland go six unbeaten in League One this season we again ask our panel for positives and negatives following the midweek victory at home to Crewe Alexandra!

Sunderland v Crewe Alexandra - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Philip West says...

One huge positive from tonight’s game was further evidence that we are a genuinely efficient, and ever-improving, defensive team.

With the supreme Bailey Wright marshalling and cajoling, and the ridiculously versatile Luke O’Nien doing an admirable job as a stand-in central defender, another clean sheet was achieved and Lee Burge was able to go about his business with minimal fuss. That is extremely encouraging, given our defensive struggles in recent seasons.

Another positive was an excellent display from Lynden Gooch, who showed his qualities in both attack, with some driving runs and excellent passing, and defence, as he tracked back and showed some really good discipline.

If the American can really pin down some good form and play like we all know he can, it gives us a fantastic outlet from out wide, and of course, he can chip in with goals too!

On the other side of the coin, our wastefulness in front of goal was too glaring to overlook tonight. We passed up numerous chances to make the scoreline a lot more comfortable, and although Charlie Wyke turned in a decent performance, our lack of a cold, lethal finisher was highlighted again.

In the upcoming games, that could make a major difference to our fortunes. At the moment, we’re edging games, and that’s absolutely fine, but it could be more comfortable at times, so that’s something we’ll need to be aware of.

Another minor gripe was a little bit of visible anxiety that we showed, particularly in the final twenty minutes. We seemed to retreat into our shell, rather than standing completely firm and ensuring that the prospect of an equaliser was completely eradicated.

Again, perhaps that’s understandable, but savvy game management is always key, and at home, you’d always be looking to hold your nerve and sprint to the finish line, rather than stagger over the line. But, in fairness to the team, we did hold our nerve despite the narrow margin, and ultimately, that’s what counts.

Sunderland v Crewe Alexandra - Sky Bet League One
Lynden Gooch impressed for Sunderland against Crewe at the Stadium of Light
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Phil Butler says...

Grant Leadbitter - so, when are we building the statue?!

The man who bleeds red and white in the middle of the park is rolling back the years this season and is showing the kind of quality, mainly on the ball but also off it, which makes him head and shoulders above league one level.

Also, credit to Phil Parkinson, the Sunderland manager was probably five poor results away from his position being untenable at the start of this season. But with Sunderland unbeaten this season, and yet to concede a goal from open play - even without two of his starting centre defenders. This just shows how successful Chris Wilder’s former teammate has been at implementing a similar 3-5-2 system that worked wonders for Wilder at Sheffield United.

A negative would be George Dobson, and unlike many other Sunderland fans I actually rate Dobson as a fairly useful defensive midfielder at League One level. However, he’s probably the main man to miss out from Sunderland’s switch to a three man midfield, mainly due to Leadbitter’s renaissance.

He’s not good enough going forward to play one or the box-to-box roles, nor does he have the passing ability required to dictate play from the base of midfield. If Sunderland keep playing a 3-5-2 he may actually be best suited to a wide centre back role, where he’s completely untested. Baring injury, Dobson is well down the pecking order.

A final concern would be that, if Phil Parkinson is looking to Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United for inspiration, Sunderland are in need of their Billy Sharp. Charlie Wyke was again involved in Sunderland’s goal - putting enough pressure on the defender to force the own goal, but he’s never going to score 15 goals a season. Without a striker who can, there’ll be more nervous endings to come this season.

Sunderland v Crewe Alexandra - Sky Bet League One
Charlie Wyke
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Malcolm Dugdale says...

Let’s start with the negatives, and my first one would be levelled at the manager and our subs. We were 1-0 up and dominating the game with Maguire and Leadbitter running the midfield at a canter. Did we switch things up by introducing the likes of Diamond or Grigg, to vary the attack and keep their defence challenged? No.

We took off Maguire and replaced him with a way less effective O’Brien. We missed a trick today, and although Maguire got 20 minutes rest ahead of the clash with Portsmouth (who we know he loves to hate), but we lost our edge pressing up front, and looked way less dominant with “the king” off the field. We took too many risks holding onto our slim lead and our subs need to make a positive impact.

My second concern is shared with others in that we should have won 4-0 or so, with Wright, Power, Gooch and Maguire all missing good chances. We simply have to get more clinical, as we won’t always get three points from an own goal, even one that we would have scored if they had not put it in for us.

On to the positives, once again I cannot roll out enough superlatives to relay the total rinsing of a lesson that our man Grant gave their midfield tonight. He was everywhere and everything we needed, blocking shots in our box, turning defence to attack with pristine long passes or patient build up as suited. He gave a defensive midfielder master class from start to finish. All that, and he was probably ten years older than most on the pitch. If Maguire is the King, Leadbitter is the Emperor.

The final positive works in conjunction with the negatives. We created stacks of chances tonight and though we spawned many, if we keep creating like that and continue to dominate games as we are, we only need to adjust in small ways and we will be a very hard side to beat, and also to out score.

Another good day at the office but plenty room to improve, but there are still forty games to do that with, so plenty time to go too.

Sunderland v Crewe Alexandra - Sky Bet League One
Grant Leadbitter
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Gary Engel says...

A one-nil home win may still be unspectacular in the grand scheme of things but slow and steady wins the race - we all hope that is the case come May.

Well, even if in front of goal we are not proving that exciting. A fifth consecutive clean sheet is certainly an impressive stat and defensively a firm base to build on especially given the necessary reshuffle at the back. With Wright at the centre marshalling things, we look good from a defensive perspective, with the cool, wise head of Leadbitter ahead of them proving a consistent performer in that new role.

It's pleasing to see another win obviously, but I’m more positive about the unbeaten start, without getting carried away. We’ve managed similar feats in the last two seasons without it ultimately paying dividends. But even if it's not quite how we imagine Sunderland playing and crave a side that blows the opposition away, Parkinson seems to have built a team to play how he wants and feels can prove successful at this level.

Sunderland v Crewe Alexandra - Sky Bet League One
Charlie Wyke celebrates scoring Sunderland’s winning goal against Crewe at the Stadium of Light
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

What continues to concern many of us however, is a clear lack of firepower. On paper we are creating chance after chance but manage only the one, with two strikers, Grigg and Graham, warming the bench that would be most League One sides first choice forwards. It’s a baffling scenario, why are our strikers so lacklustre in front of goal? It does seem as though Parkinson is placing his trust currently with Maguire and possibly (goals-wise) the best of a bad bunch Charlie Wyke.

Final negative, along similar lines really our inability to kill games. Again, down to our lack of goals and therefore as we continue the season we will be awaiting the fourth officials confirmation of added time with some apprehension. We appear to know how to ‘manage’ the final few minutes of matches to see them out. But at times are we going to do that from the moment we go in front in games, let’s hope not!