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Roker Roundtable: Thoughts on Sunderland’s performance in our 1st pre-season game v Gateshead

Ahead of today’s Carlisle game, we asked those of our panel who watched Gateshead match their thoughts were on our first run out since March.

Gateshead v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

What were your thoughts on Sunderland’s performance in our first pre-season friendly at Gateshead?

Will Jones says...

A tale of two halves is a cliché for a reason.

The first half was very hit-and-miss, the players looked fairly fit for the first game against another team. Maguire, Hume and O’Nien looked to make a lot of runs and create space, with Dobson relaying the call, taking it from the defence into the midfield comfortably.

The defence only had a few things to deal with, in which they didn’t seem to very well, one resulting in a goal caused by a mistake from Flanagan, the other forced Burge into an incredible save.

Charlie Wyke looked lost up top and couldn’t create anything, looked 4-5 yards off the pace against a non league team and looked incredibly lethargic, he definitely showed he hadn’t played in 5 months. The only other player who looked off the pace was Grant Leadbitter, he could not keep up and just wasn’t able to cope, relaying most fans thoughts he is not a contender to start any game.

The second half was something else, we started with one change, Arby [Arbenit Xhemajli] coming on for his first taste (and hopefully not last) in a Sunderland top, he played on the left side of the centre back three and looked bright, refused to back out of a challenge, and could pass with both feet.

The youth of Dan Neil and Jack Diamond, both came on to take the left and right wing back roles respectively and both looked incredibly bright and forward thinking. Neil looked to cut inside and find Power or Scowen, two others to come on, whilst Diamond had various interchanges with debutant Aiden O’Brien, who played just off the striker on the right-hand side.

Diamond was able to take it to the byline and whip a fantastic ball in, which was met by the head of Will Grigg to score to take the lead. Grigg stood out all the half, making exceptional runs and being able to hold the ball up, doing so by laying it off to Scowen who could hit the net from about 25 yards to give us a 3-1 lead and finish the game.

Overall, the second half was infinitely better than the first but that, however, could have been the fresh legs against the Gateshead tiring ones.

More to see later today.

Gateshead v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Jack Howe-gingell says...

First off, I’m pleased Will Grigg came on providing a goal and an assist! I’d just wrote an article about the very subject so was pleased to get some response on it. Fair play to him for stepping up, you can only play who you’re up against.

Wyke, on the other hand, once again fluffed his lines. He has proved time and time again that he can’t really be relied upon to lead the line. Largely anonymous and his woeful one-on-one finishing is simply unacceptable for any forward.

It was good to see Diamond get on and impress. Harrogate Town had been delighted with him and his enthusiasm and his form still seems good after returning.

It still seems we lack a bit of quality, though the reinforcements in the second half allayed this a little. Scowen took his goal well and trialist Xhemajli did well, so hopefully he will be considered in the future. New lads Feeney and O’Brien also seemed to cope well.

All in all, I was pleased to see the lads back in action with a win to boot. The first half was pretty poor watching but the second half saw us step up. I’m certainly interested to see how we progress as our friendlies continue on - bring on Carlisle!

Gateshead v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Malcolm Dugdale says...

I concur with the feedback from the other lads in the main.

Stand outs for me in defence were Burge (a couple of good saves), Hume (final ball needs work though), young Neil and the trialist who hit the post, as well as Bailey Wright.

Midfield I thought Dobson did well, as did Embleton before the precautionary sub. O’Nein was quiet but steady, and Scowen did well, finishing nicely off Grigg to wrap it up.

Up front, not great in the first half but encouraging signs from Grigg, Diamond and Maguire.

On the flip side, I agree Wyke was wasteful and poor, and Leadbitter looked leggy, even against such opposition. Flanagan made a silly mistake too which we need to cut out.

A decent first run out which we can hopefully build on through remaining pre-season games, but the high point for me was a fit and scoring/assisting Grigg. What we missed last season were goals, if he gets firing we will be a few places up the league, and if O’Brien and other additions help, who knows the limits.

Gateshead v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

James Nickels says...

The most intriguing aspect for me, was how the two either side of the central striker were lined up.

Last season we suffered from a creative dearth in general, especially down the middle third of the pitch. We were lacking a real number 10 to occupy spaces between the lines. Those in the inside forward positions would drift wide and into the channels, overloading either wing.

Take Chris Maguire, for example, he would peel off to the right channel and work well in tandem with Luke O’Nien and Jordan Willis. However, the central striker was far too isolated and eventually teams found us out: stop the supply line out wide and there was no plan b.

Against Gateshead, however, it was clear we were taking a different approach. These two (Maguire & Embleton/Neil in the first half, Gooch/O’Brien in the second) played much more as a pair of number tens. Instead of shuffling out wide they would prefer central runs and supporting the central striker.

Now if Wyke wasn’t about as bad as I’ve seen him play, it would’ve been more effective in the first half. But in the second, the chances came from this. Gooch played in Grigg with a lovely diagonal which he cushioned down to Scowen. He was white narrow and O’Brien was right up in support of the Northern Irishman. For the disallowed goal, it came from vertical passing while the wing backs stretched their defence.

We used the width of the wing backs to create gaps in the middle of the park, and then had the men in those gaps. An experiment or not, it was refreshing to see after our issues playing between the lines against packed defences last season.

Gateshead v Sunderland: Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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