Dear Roker Report,
It’s still very early into the Lee Johnson reign, but it’s safe to say the shackles are off.
His spell has been frustratingly disrupted due to the ongoing and all-encompassing Covid situation but the recovery looks like it’s slowly taking shape.
His first proper league game (Wimbledon aside... haway give him a chance) was Lincoln where we played with a tempo not seen for several seasons. The counter attacks were as devastating as they were clinical, the speed at which the ball was moved and the fluency with every pass, resulted in a deserved 0-4 win for the Lads.
At times under Phil Parkinson and also his predecessor Jack Ross, the tempo was slow and difficult to watch. Possession was maintained but without any attacking threat. We found it difficult to break teams down and never got any momentum as a team. A win would be followed by a pair of draws or defeat.
While results haven’t been all plain-sailing - the attacking statistics are certainly going the right way under Johnson. Shots on target, shots off target, goals, entries into the box and chances are all improved since Johnson took over.
One change Johnson has made already is to bring back Aiden McGeady. Frozen out by Parkinson, McGeady offers you a better quality of delivery into the box and can provide the star quality sadly lacking in a Parkinson team. Age is not on his side but his introduction has been popular with fans and he could provide the speed in the team we have desperately been lacking.
Another player benefitting from Johnson’s appointment is Jack Diamond. At the other end of the spectrum in his career, Diamond is a raw talent that has impressed in recent weeks. The academy graduate will need to be eased into the fray but he has taken to regular league football like a duck to water. His speed and energy have had Lincoln and Hull defences worried in recent weeks.
Max Power is a player often criticised but he’s one to watch in a more advanced role. While Grant Leadbitter offers you the defensive holding role and almost plays the role of quarterback in our team, Power never really seemed to have a place in the team. For a captain, the fans had a distinct lack of faith in him but in a position that needs less discipline he may prove to offer another attacking option.
There are still improvements to be made but for the first time in a while, there’s a little bit of hope on the banks of the Wear.
Ed’s Note [Gav]: Discounting the Wigan game - and we should, really, since he took the job two hours before kick off - we’re actually unbeaten under Johnson. Alright, some of the results have been disappointing, but last night it felt like a couple of things clicked, things that the new manager will surely consider going into the weekend.
Namely, the pairing of Lynden Gooch and Aiden O’Brien up front. They combined for the first goal and generally just worked hard together, running from deep in a bid to stretch the Port Vale defence. O’Brien played a superb ball to Jack Diamond which won us the second goal, too. If I was Lee Johnson I’d be pairing the two of them together again on Saturday, because they’ve taken their opportunity and grasped it with both hands.
Power at right back is an option too. I’m told that he’s asked to play there, which if true means we could be seeing an awful lot more of him in an unfamiliar position. He hasn’t disgraced himself so far in his two outings there, and he at least did the basics well - and got forward, which is more than Conor McLaughlin is capable of.
Dear Roker Report,
I’m excited to see what Carl Winchester can do... who is he replacing? Does this spell the end for say George Dobson, who never got a sniff even in the EFL Trophy game?
Ed’s Note [Gav]: I think he’s probably coming in to rotate with Leadbitter, but honestly, who knows? I haven’t really seen enough of him to say where he fits in best. Importantly though, Lee Johnson has worked with him before so knows his game.
Re: George Dobson, I think his time is coming to an end here. And as a young lad he’s got to look at himself in the mirror and think... “have I got a future here?”. He needs to be playing regular football and if that means dropping a league to get it, perhaps on loan, then so be it. I don’t think we’d stand in his way if an offer came in.