Did Sunderland’s performance in our first competitive game provide hope for the season ahead?
Kelvin Beattie says...
I thought it was a mixed bag today against one of the teams that would hope to be challenging.
Lee Burge was untested as the back three/five were solid, especially Bailey Wright who was commanding and Jordan Willis by effectively pushing on down the right combining well on occasion with Luke O’Nien.
Hume put some dangerous crosses in and some poor ones. He also on at least three occasions seemed to go down far too easily when under pressure in dangerous areas.
Dobson did not do a lot wrong and put in a great covering tackle at the death, whilst Max Power looked like he could settle well in his advanced role if he is given more of an opportunity to do so.
Chris Maguire was uncharacteristically quiet and Lynden Gooch was ineffective in his time on the pitch. Will Grigg and Aiden O’Brien looked lively and showed signs of forming a partnership up top which should be interesting to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
All in all a good work out, room for improvement but a number of positives that leaves enough optimism to think we can do well this season, although putting the ball in the back of the net and a lack of pace are issues we still need to resolve.
Jack Howe-Gingell says...
Felt a bit like Groundhog Day in truth - we should have been home and dry in the first half, but we couldn’t capitalise on our otherwise good football.
I’m disappointed that Scowen and Neil didn’t feature after looking like our best players during the pre-season games, and I think they both could have added something to the game. It was particularly grating for Neil to not even get ten minutes, seeing as Parkinson had subs left.
Whilst it was interesting to see Parkinson pushing Power further forward and trying something a bit more attacking, he still lacks boldness. He made the same old substitutes, rather than trying a different approach.
Defensively, we look solid, which is a plus. Wright is a great addition and adds real class and quality to the back line. We were one of the strongest sides defensively last year, so I’m not surprised to see us remaining tough at the back.
What’s more concerning is the other end - failing to hit the back of the net despite a multitude of chances. This must change if we want to get into the automatic promotion picture. Grigg and Wyke were amongst the goals in pre-season but were found wanting again. That said, Grigg looked far more useful than ever before. Penalty aside, I have a sneaking suspicion he could be a player for us this season.
All in all, a glimmer of hope performance wise but worrying trends still remain.
Tom Albrighton says...
All in all this was a game where Sunderland huffed and puffed but never really got going.
Defensively for the most part we looked solid bar a few lapses in concentration. Willis looked the far better if the back three whilst Flanagan continues to look to be its weakest member, whose place must surely now be under threat. O’Nien was again full of endeavour but when asked to defend was unsurprisingly found wanting.
In the midfield, Power seemed to stand out again and mainly carry his partner George Dobson, who has failed to live up to any kind of expectation upon his signing. With one man doing the job of two men in midfield, it’s unsurprising the engine room failed to churn out anything note.
Again for Sunderland, the substitutions came too late in the game for any effect to be felt and the typical Sunderland pastime of bottling penalty shoot-outs again prevailed.
James Nickel says...
It might just be me, but I’m honestly not that bothered about the final result beyond the lottery of penalties. It is obviously never nice to lose, but we were inevitably going to go out of this competition relatively early anyway. So I simply viewed the fixture as a very competitive and feisty pre-season run out.
The performance, in general, was encouraging. We absolutely dominated a team which is packed with stars at this level and will be contenders to finish in the top six come the end of the season. However, we just didn’t have those predatory instincts in the final third considering how much we dominated. That being said, Will Grigg was denied two perfectly good goals and I’ll die on that hill.
The decision to shift about the top three and push Aiden O’Brien up closer to Will Grigg paid dividends as we were creative and it solved the biggest issue that plagued pre-season - our central lone striker being far too isolated.
The biggest worry actually came from Phil Parkinson. His substitutes were underwhelming, with O’Brien unfairly subbed and the replacements did naught to try and change the flow of the game which was stagnating at the time.
We clearly needed fresh legs in midfield as Dobson was tiring and did little of note in the final third of the game. The introduction of Dan Neil or Josh Scowen from the bench may have given us more impetus than Parkinson’s actual substitutions, and the decision to leave Jack Diamond out altogether was poor too.
But overall, encouraging. It’s the best we’ve played in some time and it was especially refreshing to see the lads dictate and control a game entirely. Even under that brilliant eight-game winning streak under Ross and the purple patch under Parky we failed to do so.
Matthew Foster says...
Honestly, I can’t say I’m overly concerned. I think many of us felt these two cup games were glorified friendlies, and there’s no harm done in the outcome.
Performance wise, we dominated for large parts of the game, and whilst lacking that finishing touch - which is of course concerning - it was a strong display against a side expected to be up there.
O’Brien impressed me barring his chance, and another one worth mentioning is Will Grigg. It seems he has been getting some pelters on social media, which is a little harsh. He looks in a much better place than he was last season, and hopefully he can put his missed penalty behind him.
I do feel a bit perplexed we didn’t see either Neil or Diamond today, with the latter not even on the bench. Parkinson has commented that McGeady is to leave to allow these players first team opportunities, so it seems odd that neither appear in a competitive game against a League One side, where in a stuttering second half performance, could have made all the difference.