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2 Up, 2 Down: We sort the diamonds from the fakes after Sunderland’s win at Oldham

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After Sunderland recorded their first victory in over a month, we asked our panel what was hot and what was not as we progress to round three of the Papa John’s trophy. Let us know if you agree!


Kelvin Beattie says:

Two down...
We conceded another preventable goal. We left lots of room in midfield for their scorer to advance and Wright might have got out a bit quicker.

I also counted eleven crosses into their box that were half decent and we have to improve our conversion rate, so it’s encouraging to hear what Johnson is saying on this.

Two up...
Diamond played well. At the moment, as a young player, he is risky as he will lose the ball or make the wrong decision and maybe cut inside when he shouldn’t, but we need to test his capacity to learn by giving him playing time.

Also, Patterson had a good game in goal. Very few errors I can think of, a couple of confident takes and a very good one handed fist away when he was on the deck.

Overall, I would say Scowen, Leadbitter and Grigg earned honourable mentions, while Geads continued to look dangerous and got a bit more playing time.

Oldham Athletic v Sunderland: Papa John’s Trophy
Jack Diamond
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Philip Butler says:

Two up...
We got an important win. After opting to take charge for the visit of Wigan on Saturday, it was important for Lee Johnson to get his first win as the new gaffer to bounce back from the weekend’s disappointment.

When most look back at Saturday’s match they will accept that we should really see the former Bristol City manager’s reign as beginning against Oldham, and it was important for him to get a win in his first ‘proper’ match in charge.

My second positive was that we got a goal from a set piece. Josh Scowen’s set-piece delivery was lacklustre on Saturday, so it was refreshing to see the reliable Grant Leadbitter cross for the former Barnsley man to head home.

Two down...
Bailey Wright. I’m not sure who the shaky, cautious and unassured defender masquerading as Bailey Wright is, but if they could return the centre back that held our defence together at the start of the season that would be great.

As for another negative... erm... the weather didn’t look great did it?

Sunderland v Burton Albion - Sky Bet League One
Bailey Wright
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Getty Images

Rich Speight says:

Two up...
Will Grigg is my first positive from the night. He’s starting to look a little more like the player we though we were signing almost two years ago. I was impressed with his movement, the quality of his passing and particularly his crossing from inside the box in the second half, which should have resulted in at least one goal.

He looks like he might just enjoy a style of play that has more coming through the middle of the pitch, and playing in a proper front three leaves him less isolated. More of this please Mr Grigg.

Then we have Lee Johnson’s comments to the media after the game. When I was growing up, my dad always said that I “talk a good game” (as opposed to having any great ability on the pitch), and I’m pretty sure Gary Johnson said the same of his progeny (although clearly his son had significantly more ability than I).

Nevertheless, in his two post-match interviews so far the new gaffer has managed to identify many of the issues that fans everywhere have been getting so frustrated about and he seems determined to put things right.

Sunderland v Milton Keynes Dons - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light
Will Grigg
Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

This is just the start of what will hopefully be a long and sustained period of improvement, driven by innovative training and progressive tactics.

Two down...
On to the negatives. We’re still not clinical enough in front of goal. If the team was firing on all cylinders we would surely have comprehensively won a game that we had almost complete control of.

The pitch wasn’t the best, and the opposition made life very difficult for us, but if we’re to push on in the League and progress in the Trophy, a lot more of those half chances need to be converted.

Lastly, the mix up around Sanderson’s eligibility for this fixture due to being cup tied, which saw him named as a starter at 5pm only to be replaced with Tom Flanagan soon after. It points to the fact that the behind the scenes set up is still not being right at the club.

It’s disruptive to the head coach’s preparations, and can’t help the players in implementing plans one little bit. There are key appointments to be made, and Johnson hasn’t got his feet under the table yet, but this is the kind of last-minute administrative issue that really needs to be eradicated and the lessons fully learned.

Oldham Athletic v Sunderland: Papa John’s Trophy
Lee Johnson
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Paul Fletcher says:

Two up...
We didn’t panic when we went a goal down. Against Wigan, I thought we bottled it as soon as we conceded. From that point, we never looked like we had any belief that we would win the game and that was reflected in the indecisive play and lack of composure in key areas.

Against Oldham there was a marked difference – we never looked like we would lose. This could be down to the fact that we were playing a mid-table League Two team in the Papa John’s Trophy. Or could it be down to a new manager with better tactics instilling a bit of belief in the team. Time will tell.

Although Will Grigg didn’t score, which was disappointing for him and for everyone who wants to see him do well, I thought he had a good game. He worked really hard off the ball, his movement in the final third was good and he made a lot more useful contributions on the ball than we’ve been accustomed to seeing.

Oldham Athletic v Sunderland: Papa John’s Trophy
Chris Maguire and Will Grigg celebrate Sunderland’s first goal at Boundary Park
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Even though he was substituted just before the winning goal was scored, he created that goal by chasing hard, putting their defender under pressure, taking the ball off him and winning the free kick. I was disappointed to see him taken off but I’m hoping that was just Johnson wanting to save his legs for another start on Saturday. He needs a run of games.

Two down...
Bailey Wright isn’t right. Up until a few weeks ago, I think that the majority of us would have had his name down as the first one on the team sheet. During our great defensive run at the start of the season, he was immense.

Defending in League One seemed too easy for him. Over the last few games, mistakes have crept into his game and he doesn’t seem like the same player. Granted, there are mitigating circumstances. First, he has to get used to playing in a completely different formation under a completely different manager – a switch from a back five under Parkinson to the back four favoured by Johnson.

Sunderland v Mansfield Town: Emirates FA Cup First Round
Dion Sanderson
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Second, instead of playing in a settled team, he’s had to adjust to changes in personnel alongside him a result of the injuries to Willis, O’Nien and Hume. Third, he’s played a lot of football – arguably too much for a man with his injury record. He’s played in all but 13 minutes of our 15 league games this season, which shows just how indispensable he’s been. If we’re going to do anything this season, we need Bailey Wright back at his best.

Dion Sanderson being named in the starting line-up when he was cup tied was embarrassing. It’s something you’d expect to happen in Sunday League but it shouldn’t happen at Sunderland. It’s just another reminder of how much the standards have fallen everywhere in the club.

You can’t really blame Speakman and Johnson for the oversight as they’ve barely set foot in the door. They must be realising that they’ve got a big job on their hands to get this club to raise its standards both on and off the field.