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Finlay’s Verdict: Plenty to be happy about - were Sunderland saving their legs for Oxford?

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“How happy are you that Sunderland were able to control the match in the second half of the game against Rochdale on Tuesday evening?” asks RR’s junior reporter Finlay Anderson in his assessment of our latest win.

Sunderland v Rochdale - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Pre-match, Sunderland v Rochdale was billed as what could be a big game in the League One promotion race. With Coventry and Portsmouth battling each other in a heavyweight clash at St. Andrews and Rotherham being absent from action, having been meant to be playing Bury, this was Sunderland’s chance to stake their claim for automatic promotion.

And my word, did they deliver - well, in the first half anyway.

The Black Cats blew the Dale away within the first 34 minutes. The amount of time Rochdale spent in the final third would be close to zero, and didn’t have a shot on target until the 58 minute, and still they only managed two shots in the entire 90 minutes, one on target.

In the second half, it can be argued why the Black Cats weren’t on their top game, but in truth, it didn’t really matter. With two matches in the space of four days, Parkinson stuck with the same side, so maybe a bit of fatigue was creeping in. Perhaps, they were mindful of an important trip to Oxford United coming up on Saturday.

On the whole, though, the hosts did brilliantly to control the game to their speed and limit the amount of time the visitors spent on the ball. In the little chances that the Black Cats did create in the second half, they did their best to trouble the Rochdale goal.

Sunderland v Rochdale - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

We saw three of the Deadline Day signings on show in the match on Tuesday night, and on the whole, they look like promising individuals.

Bailey Wright had another good solid defensive performance and like against Ipswich, almost got on the scoresheet for his first goal in a Sunderland shirt. Antoine Semenyo appeared for around 20 minutes, and the pace of the game and the feet-up nature of the game didn’t suit his style of play. The one burst of optimism that we saw from him was when he linked with Watmore and Wyke for O’Nien’s effort in the second half, and hopefully the loanee can be useful in the business end of the season.

Next up, we face a trip to Oxford to take on Karl Robinson’s team on Saturday afternoon.

There may be changes from Tuesday night, but Parkinson may stick with the same side that won 3-0 against Rochdale. Oxford have only won once in the league in 2020 and will be looking to create a second against the Black Cats on Saturday.

I would think that Chris Maguire will be able to start after being replaced with a dead leg on Tuesday night, but if he isn’t able to, maybe Watmore or Semenyo will be able to slot straight into his place.

You would expect all of the teams around Sunderland to pick up three points on Saturday, so the Lads must find something to pick up three points on the road.