Damian Brown says...
In the most cautious way - if ain’t broke don’t fix it.
It would have been easy for Phil Parkinson to bite his nails and fret over the bump in the road that was Portsmouth some weeks ago, but he clearly has more resilience than that, as well as a seemingly unshakeable faith in his team to deliver the goods.
It’s good to see a manager stick to his guns and wake up one day to find out it’s actually working, as opposed to spiralling further and further beyond his control to the point where he’s no longer the man looked to for a solution.
Having said that, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to defend the contributions of Charlie Wyke in this setup. While his role has at times been clear to see, games like that against Oxford serve to highlight just what’s missing from our frontman; it isn’t a pretty sight.
Considering the time given over to (oh so carefully) bringing Lafferty up to match fitness and ensuring he’s deployed where he can be most effective, one would hope it’s about time he gets a bit more than a handful of minutes on the pitch.
Granted, at Oxford we never looked like we had the match completely under our control, and so his inclusion from the bench can’t be viewed as part of the preparation plan at a time where he didn’t need to do more than get his heart pumping, but his lack of minutes at this stage - when Wyke is not only demonstrably lacking confidence but energy following consistent selections - raises questions.
If Lafferty isn’t viewed as a player that can play the role Wyke is in but with a bit more dynamism, it would require a formation change to bring him in, say, alongside his counterpart. I don’t envy the manager that conundrum, all things considered.
Parkinson’s decision to include Josh Scowen in the 58th minute was a commendable one, given Gooch was having an off-day and Oxford were running rampant through the midfield, peppering a goal that was stalwartly defended by both the back line and the ‘keeper, might I add. Scowen’s influence on the game was almost instant and the see-saw balanced out, eventually in our favour. Another selection dilemma for Parkinson no doubt, but a good one to ponder over.
Beyond little tweaks made during the game I couldn’t say that, other than the striker problem (and it is a big problem), anything needs to change. The players have gelled together and the manager’s words are falling on eager ears. Effort and intent have been rewarded with a well earned points haul and there’s nothing to suggest they can’t keep that same standard going ‘til season’s end.
Some huge games are ahead and some good teams are hungry to take a bite out of Sunderland’s promotion charge, and the Lads have shown just how capable they are, but we’ll need a fit and firing striker to ensure we put them all down.
Craig Davies says...
I’m so pleased for Parkinson and the team.
Victories come in many guises and this was a hard fought and at times, backs-against-the-wall win that showed the grit, commitment and heart which most Sunderland fans view as absolute pre-requisites of any performance.
Jon McLaughlin is such a steady presence in the net and I’m sure his place between the sticks creates a sense of reassurance for his defence. The feeling must be mutual as the lads at the back seem solid and well organised. Willis was the pick against Oxford with an athletic display of some composure, but Flanagan and Wright played their parts too.
Hume and O’Nien lacked the usual dynamism running forwards, but we’re tenacious and despite both having shaky moments they were always confident enough to push through those times of intense pressure and perform respectably.
Dobson and Power were hardworking and showed maturity. Gooch had an off-day but he’s been excellent recently, so I can’t really complain.
Overall in the last ten games, we have worked, toiled and sometimes really ground out what has become a consistent run, making us the form team of the league.
Charlie Wyke has played his part in that and despite his lack of confidence, quality and goals he deserves some credit for being part of such a run of consistency. But if Lafferty is fit, this is the only potential change I would make.
Despite Wyke’s huffing and puffing, we need our striker to actually strike. Lafferty must now show his worth and have a good run of games to build that chemistry with the first eleven.
Parkinson has shown that consistency in his team sheet has been a successful formula, and has surprised fans with the overall turnaround, but Scowen and Lafferty are knocking at the door - it will be interesting to see how wide Parkinson opens it.
Sam Blakey says...
Saturday’s 1-0 win at Oxford showed me that no only do we have a set way of playing now, but we are also available to adapt our plan game-by-game.
We saw another explosive first half on Tuesday night at home to Rochdale, going 3-0 up towards the break, but a 1-0 win with a solid defensive display away from home is just as satisfying. While Oxford put us under pressure in the second half our resilience was superb, from Jon McLaughlin commanding his area to Jordan Willis having an unbelievable game in defence.
The Lads feel and look like much more of a team, rather than individuals, more than we ever have since being relegated to this division in my opinion. I’m not going to pretend that over the past few weeks I haven’t questioned Parkinson’s decision to keep the same eleven despite the fixture pile-up, but he’s proven me wrong by the way the team is continuing to perform, and they don’t appear to be struggling from fatigue.
The only negative I took from Saturday’s display is that we still appear to be in need of a compotent striker. I think we all know that Charlie Wyke isn’t going to score every week, however he has kept his place in the team due to his hold up play, but I would argue that even that has dropped off recently. I would like to see Kyle Lafferty handed a place from the start of a match to prove he can be the striker we are after, but I expect that Parky will retain his faith in the man who he’s chosen to lead the line pretty much ever since he arrived.
As things stand we are the form team of the division, and while we need to be careful not to get too ahead of ourselves, if we keep this up there is no reason why we can’t achieve promotion. Ha’way the lads!