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Two Up, Two Down: The good, the bad & the... indifferent from Sunderland’s draw with The Wombles

Alright, we knar that losing eight players to COVID hoyed a spanner in the works, but what were the positives and the negatives that we can take from Sunderland’s performance against Wimbledon?

Sunderland v AFC Wimbledon - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Kelvin Beattie says...

Two Up

Dion Sanderson showed us what a strong speedy defender he is. Strong in the tackle and reliable with his distribution, he generally coped well with their very lively striker and looked like he could form a central defensive partnership with Wright. It was a performance that surely at the very least gives him another go next game.

I am assuming here that given the COVID-19 situation and the number of first team regulars absent, that a decision has been taken by the club to play the game and not take the risk of sanctions (points) by the EFL that might arise from their investigation.

The positive from this are our new manager (to steal All Black speak) will have been in the “learning pit” from the moment this situation became apparent. He will have learnt something about individual players, the “team”, his backroom and himself and the club administration/ backroom. He may also have learnt something about us the fans if he goes on social media. A steep and rapid “learning pit” - I hope he benefits from it.

Two Down

McFadzean saved his worst performance in his short Sunderland career for this game. We definitely looked unbalanced and awkward down the left-hand side in the first half, and McFadzean looked vulnerable every time the Dons’ forward came at him, ultimately leading to the penalty. He also looked slow and ponderous in possession. Often either losing the ball or stepping inside and playing a “man and ball” pass to a colleague - a bad night for him. Hopefully, there are more good days to come.

Wimbledon came and played on the break. Packed defence then rapid attack when possible. They might have scored 3 or 4. We had neither the wit nor the options to break them down, they played well, we did not.

At times, we reverted to slow and ineffective back passing. There seemed to be a lack of movement/ options and a lack of confidence to try the offensive pass. Embleton cut a frustrated figure as his attempts often came to nought, and he was clearly moved further back but to no great effect in the 2nd half in fact he looked as frustrated as Grigg upon his substitution. I would love both these players to click, find their mojo and do the business.

One I am pretty sure will get more chances under this manager, the other may be on borrowed time. Diamond was given neither the space nor the quality ball to impact as he did last Saturday and I would hope is learning from this.

All things considered we might consider this a point gained, with an honourable mentions for Lee Burge, who made a couple of good saves and whose handling and distribution from hand was solid all game. Also Leadbitter who tried all game and even took the risk of taking players on and releasing a forward pass or two. Wright took his goal well and had a steady night alongside his new partner Sanderson.

Sunderland v AFC Wimbledon - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Chris Wynn says...

Two Up

It might include two players, but my first plus point of the night was the positivity of jack Diamond and Elliot Embleton. Both players had a sense of urgency and wanted the ball which at times are attributes we have lacked as a side this season.

They always offered themselves and made sure they were available for a pass and even when we went behind, they didn’t hide and still went looking for it. In the case of Embleton it was also encouraging to see him begin to dictate play, although I’d prefer that he took on the possession further up the pitch if he manages to cement his place in the side.

Dion Sanderson also took an opportunity to show what he can do, and looked like he had been playing there all season. The on-loan Wolves defender looked composed on the ball and over the course of the game seemed to be the one from the back who had the most possession.

His athleticism and pace also came in handy once or twice as AFC Wimbledon’s ability to catch us on the break put us under pressure at times, which was especially vital due to the performances of our full-backs alongside him.

Two Down

Ignoring the situation off the pitch and focusing on matters on the pitch, I think Grant Leadbitter has gone off the boil in recent weeks. I don’t know if this is down to the change in tactics and formation, or if he is simply in need of a rest.

He was caught in possession too many times and in the first half it resulted in the Dons starting a dangerous attack. His form earlier in the season highlighted how important Leadbitter is when he’s in good form and hopefully we see him get back to his best.

Finally, although I singled out Sanderson for praise, the last two games have exposed us defensively more than we’ve seen so far this season. Even though the result at Lincoln was fantastic, we could have easily been two-down before Leadbitter stuck away the penalty.

Against AFC Wimbledon, they again had their chances and with better finishing maybe should have found themselves out of sight to claim all three points. This could be a result of reverting to a back-four as opposed to the three, or it could be that in Lee Johnson committing more players in the attacking third leaves us more exposed, and it’s a calculated risk. It will be interesting to see if we can find a balance in the new year.

Sunderland v AFC Wimbledon - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Reece Davies says...

Two Up

I agree with Kelvin, Sanderson did very well last night - he sat alongside Bailey Wright, and they did look safe as a pair. He’s athletic, can link play through the thirds well and gets us out of trouble with his pace. Does seem like he could be very similar to a fully fit Jordan Willis.

Jack Diamond and Elliot Embleton. Although there is still room for improvement, these boys are proving they are very important to the team moving forward. Diamond was our driving force yesterday and looked to be our most creative player for the most part. Embleton grew in the 2nd half and in a deeper role, began to dictate play. With a good run of games, these boys are going to grow in confidence and experience which should see them make fewer mistakes with the learning curve they’re going through.

Two Down

Defensive f**k ups. We’re being punished on a game by game basis for decision-making you would expect to see down the local park at half 10 on a Sunday. McFadzean gets done too easily by their winger and must make the foul earlier or not at all. We can’t continue to leak goes in this manner if we’re going to pull ourselves up the league.

George Dobson. What do you do with a problem like him? I just don’t see what the lad brings to this team. He gets caught on the ball, makes runs that seemingly are in to all the wrong areas, and it’s beyond me how he is at this level. There is supposed to be rapid progress by players of his age, yes there are times when progress may be slower, but he has not developed at this club, and he is stealing a shirt in my opinion.

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