At times last night Sunderland were simply unplayable; Rochdale just couldn’t cope with the Lads’ movement, pressing, and incisive passing. All credit must go to Phil Parkinson because last night’s performance was one of the best I’ve seen from a Sunderland side in quite some time.
I understand that Rochdale are struggling and that the Lads need to consistently churn out games of this quality moving forward if we are to seal promotion, but last night we looked a terrific side.
The defence was solid once more, our midfield was both tenacious and creative, and our forwards were in good form. This genuinely looks like a side capable of pushing for promotion.
Some of the passing last night was sublime, too. Sweeping diagonals from Willis, Wright, and Flanagan kept Rochdale guessing as Power and Dobson moved the ball with intent when they picked it up in the middle of the park.
The one minor issue still lingering in the background is Charlie Wyke’s struggles in front of goal. That’s not to say Wyke had a poor game; however, I do think he needs to offer more as a goal threat to ensure Sunderland have another dimension to their attack alongside the talented duo of Gooch and Maguire.
The rotation conundrum
It’s difficult to argue with Parkinson’s team selection when the last two games have brought brilliant results, but fans have nervously discussed the need to rotate personnel considering the Lads have played a lot of games since the start of the year.
Obviously, Parkinson’s decision worked wonders last night, but if I had to be critical, I would note that it would have been nice to see Antoine Semenyo, Josh Scowen, and Kyle Lafferty given more game time.
Chris Maguire’s withdrawal through injury (though only a dead leg), highlighted the fragility of Sunderland’s favoured starting xi. A serious injury to Gooch or Maguire would simply be disastrous as they are the heartbeat of all that’s good with this team.
As such, I would have like to have seen some of our new signings given more time on the pitch to get up to speed. The Lads were three goals to the good by half time and Rochdale never looked like scoring. You could argue that this was the perfect chance to give our new men time to bed in during a more comfortable game.
Of course, Parkinson is the gaffer and his decision-making has been the reason why we are now back in the promotion hunt, so I don’t want to be too critical. But the entire squad will need to be ready to fight for the cause, and last night was arguably a good opportunity to give a few Lads minutes under their belt.
Rubbish on the pitch
A couple of months ago, this heading would have been synonymous with the absolute tripe that was being displayed on the pitch. Thankfully, though, this is a different issue.
It’s an ongoing problem, but the swirling eddies of rubbish dancing along the SoL pitch are embarrassing.
I know bins aren’t readily available in the stands, and that some of the rubbish might have swept into the stadium via access points close to the pitch, but something has to be done in order to clean up the inside of the ground ahead of games.
This might be a bit lame to some reading this, but in my opinion a cracking ground with wonderful fans and a team doing the business doesn’t deserve to have rubbish floating so freely on the hallowed turf. It’s a minor issue, but one that is really irritating.
I think fans need to do their part in holding onto plastic bags and wrappers, but get some staff in and around the pitch at half time picking up stray bits of rubbish. Sunderland need to be setting high standards everywhere within the club as we look to find lasting success, and this would be a good example of something small that sets a great example.