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Talking Points: Sunderland 0-1 Mansfield - struggling for positives!

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“Playing Power and Dobson reminds me of when England played Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips in front of three central defenders - where is the manager expecting the forward penetration to come from?” says Matty Crichton.

Image by Sunderland AFC.

Sunderland were knocked out of the FA Cup in the first round for the second successive season, after losing 1-0 to struggling League Two side Mansfield Town.

Danny Graham hit both the post and the crossbar in the first half, before on-loan Charlton midfielder George Lapslie put the Stags 1-0 up.

The victory was Mansfield’s first competitive win in nine months, in front of newly appointed manager Nigel Clough who watched from the stands at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland v Mansfield Town: Emirates FA Cup First Round
Dion Sanderson was beaten to the ball by George Lapslie for Mansfield’s goal.
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Phil Parkinson’s shocking cup record at Sunderland

Since Phil Parkinson was appointed as manager of Sunderland, he has overseen our two all-time worst FA Cup exits, losing in the first round to both Gillingham and Mansfield.

In addition to this, Parkinson suffered embarrassing defeats to Scunthorpe and Leicester Under-21s last season in the EFL Trophy.

Overall, in the nine cup matches Parkinson has managed Sunderland have won just two, a frustrating record when you consider his predecessor Jack Ross knocked out Premier League sides Burnley and Sheffield United, as well as achieving a cup final run in the EFL Trophy.

I acknowledge that some supporters may be of careless of the FA Cup, but it provides the club with an opportunity to earn much needed prize money, plus winning football matches breeds confidence within the squad.

For supporters like myself who paid a highly overpriced £10 to watch Saturday’s match, it is highly frustrating to see such an embarrassing defeat brushed under the carpet because it is a cup match.

For me it is about standards. You cannot accept losing to a club struggling in an inferior league in a competitive fixture - a football club should strive to win every fixture they play.

Losing to a side that has not won a match all season whilst fielding a strong team to me simply is not good enough, Parkinson should not avoid criticism simply because it was in a different competition some deem meaningless.

Sunderland v Mansfield Town: Emirates FA Cup First Round
Sunderland failed to win a match in either the Carabao Cup or FA Cup this season.
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

McFadzean appears to be credible cover

One of the few positives from Saturday was the debut man of the match performance from left-wingback Callum McFadzean.

The 26-year-old should have had an early assist when his cross was headed against the crossbar by Danny Graham.

He does not appear the quickest, but he displayed excellent footwork to force a low save from Stech and did deliver some dangerous crosses throughout the match.

On a free transfer, it seems the club have produced a sensible piece of business in signing the ex-Plymouth man, as we now no longer have to shoehorn Gooch or Diamond into a position they’re less comfortable in.

Following Hume’s brilliant start to the season, it is unlikely McFadzean will break into the first-team, but should Hume ever suffer an injury or face suspension, it would appear we now possess dependable cover.

Sunderland v Mansfield Town: Emirates FA Cup First Round
McFadzean has won promotion from League Two in the past two consecutive seasons with Bury and Plymouth.
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Will Power and Dobson break back into the first team?

In a match where only McFadzean, Conor McLaughlin and Jack Diamond came out with praise, the two players which massively let Sunderland down were captain Max Power and George Dobson.

They both were frustratingly negative, constantly passing sideways or backwards and ultimately failing to create anything.

They weren’t helped by Chris Maguire’s failure to turn up, but everything positive Sunderland did came from out wide, and every time the ball was central there was no forward pass fired in or any creative spark.

Max Power has looked a shadow of the box-to-box player we saw when he first signed for Sunderland in 2018, he certainly is not playing like someone who knows their contract is up at the end of the season.

For George Dobson, his naive red card on the first day of the season appears to have shot his confidence, Saturday’s performance combined with his terrible display away at Rochdale surely places him low in Parkinson’s selection choices.

Even substitute Elliott Embleton instantly added more positivity and at least attempted some positive passes.

Playing Power and Dobson reminds me of when England played Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips in front of three central defenders - where is the manager expecting the forward penetration to come from?

Considering the duo were unmovable in Parkinson’s midfield last season, neither look likely of regaining their places anytime soon.

Sunderland v Mansfield Town: Emirates FA Cup First Round
George Dobson has started just two league games this season.
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Lack of goals & Danny Graham Déjà Vu

I have frequently discussed Sunderland’s lack of conversion going forward, and unfortunately for Phil Parkinson’s team there was no red card or penalty to save them on Saturday.

Despite dominating possession, Sunderland managed just four shots on target and in truth only gave Mansfield goalie Steph one proper save to make from McFadzean’s low drive.

It is becoming a repetitive issue as since Sunderland lost their run of not conceding from open play, we have looked vulnerable defensively.

When teams do score against us, we then are struggling to create clear-cut chances to score goals which was crystal clear on Saturday.

Having said that, with the few chances we do create, you need your strikers to score them and unfortunately Danny Graham has let Sunderland down with that so far since he returned.

His close-range miss combined with the easy chances he missed against Charlton have started to produce Déjà Vu in my mind.

It is highly frustrating as I would argue Graham has the best movement of any Sunderland striker, but that is completely meaningless if the ball doesn't end up in the net.

With Graham and O’Brien failing to score their chances alongside a confidence shot Will Grigg, Sunderland are heavy relying on Charlie Wyke to produce a purple patch in front of goal.

Are we going to have another Danny Graham situation where he simply cannot score goals?

Sunderland v Mansfield Town: Emirates FA Cup First Round
Danny Graham has scored just once for Sunderland this season in all competitions.
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images