Sunderland won 2-1 away at Oldham last night, advancing to the last sixteen of the EFL Trophy.
Harry Kewell’s men took a surprise lead when Bobby Grant’s long range effort beat Anthony Patterson, but goals from Chris Maguire and Josh Scowen secured Lee Johnson’s first win as Sunderland manager.
Johnson’s men could face any of: Hull, Shrewsbury, Leicester under-21s, Port Vale, Tranmere, Accrington or Fleetwood, for the chance to play in the quarter-finals.
Should Lee Johnson try to win the EFL Trophy?
There is an ongoing debate amongst Sunderland fans as to how seriously Sunderland should take the cup competitions this season, with the EFL Trophy particularly dividing opinion.
On one hand, Sunderland are one of the favourites to win the tournament and with League One being fairly open through inconsistency, there is no reason why the club cannot win the cup.
Winning games breeds confidence amongst the squad and would allow Johnson to create a winning mentality.
More games provide squad players or academy players the chance to play and compete for places, keeping more players involved regularly.
For me, this competition, despite offering low prize money, provides Sunderland with a chance to win something, it is unlikely the club will win the FA or League cup anytime soon, so I would like to see us lift a trophy at Wembley.
On the other hand, there is an argument that advancing to the latter stages of the cup creates a distraction from the league campaign, with Sunderland’s 2019 defeat to Portsmouth proving a highly deflating moment of the season.
However, if Sunderland had won that penalty shoot out, would the players not have been at the peak of confidence and would our results have still declined?
Fixture congestion and injuries will always be a strong counterargument to cup competitions, but personally I would love to see Sunderland win games regularly and win some silverware.
Is Jack Diamond ready to start League One matches?
One of the biggest positives of yesterday’s cup triumph was the man of the match performance from academy graduate Jack Diamond.
Diamond was deployed on the right-wing and was a constant threat through his pace and directness, something Sunderland criminally lack.
He set up Maguire’s equaliser with a dangerous cross - the question that follows is: can Diamond reproduce that performance in a league fixture?
The 20-year-old was never trusted by Phil Parkinson to play league matches, but since Johnson has stressed Sunderland’s need for pace, could Diamond be a player who can thrive under our new manager?
Following Lynden Gooch’s injury, Sunderland do not possess another wide option who can beat players consistently with speed and dribbling.
With Aiden McGeady’s ageing legs and Maguire’s inconsistency, Diamond will be needed in what will be a busy December period if Johnson is to persist with his new 4-3-3 system.
Similarly to Denver Hume, Diamond does need to improve the consistency of his end product, but the more he plays the better he will become and it is clear the potential is there.
Isn’t it great to see what players like Diamond and Josh Scowen can do when they play in their natural positions?
What should Johnson do with Bailey Wright?
A worrying sign from yesterday’s match was another poor performance from the usually reliable Bailey Wright.
Across the past month, the Australian’s performances have been riddled with errors leading to goals, and he has looked a complete polar opposite to the beginning of the season.
Poor clearances against Doncaster and Fleetwood, being out muscled by Wigan’s 19-year-old striker before he scored last week, yesterday he was bailed out of jail by a brilliant Patterson save as you will see in the highlights below.
Is Wright struggling with the amount of games he has played this season on the back of his previous injury issues, or is he just on a poor run of form?
Every Sunderland fan knows Wright is an excellent defender at this level and is capable of much better, plus he was Johnson’s captain at Bristol City, so he will have the support of the manager.
With Willis, Feeney and Xhemajli still out, the only option to drop Wright for is on-loan Wolves defender Dion Sanderson, who is fairly untested in a Sunderland shirt.
Johnson will have to decide if Wright needs a rest, a dropping as a warning to improve, or whether to stick with him in the hope he will return to his best form.
For me, I would not be in favour of dropping Wright for Sanderson, but when Willis and Feeney return to full fitness the club will have to manage his work load, as surely someone who has suffered two serious knee injuries cannot play 55 games in a season?