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2 Up, 2 Down: The bad, the worse and the rain from Sunderland’s defeat to Plymouth Argyle

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After struggling to find negatives at the weekend, we now challenge our panel to find a couple of positives following our defeat to Plymouth - let us know if you can think of any!

Sunderland v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images


Martin Wanless says...

Two Up

1. Aiden O’Brien...

It was a rare moment of quality amid a sea of shit, but the former Millwall man showed a good instinct to get across the defence to meet a nice cross to level the scores.

I think O’Brien has received a lot of unfair criticism so far. He’s made a big move away from home during a pandemic, and he’s been played out of position. If played through the middle, I think we could see some goals from him.

2. Johnson’s post-match comments...

Just ahead of the innovative ‘camera behind a camera’ shot of Frankie and Danny, which was a tremendous addition to proceedings, we have Johnson’s post-match comments.

After Parkinson’s bluster about good performances and excuses of sloping pitches, it’s nice to hear a manager tell it like it is. He was clearly very angry after the game, and he evidently has seen things he’s not at all happy with.

Sunderland v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Two Down

1. The lack of any progress...

It goes without saying, that was an absolutely dire result. Horrendous. Since Parkinson left we’ve played 8, won 2, drawn 4 and lost 2. PPG is 1.25, compared with Parkinson’s 1.77 for those keeping PPG scores.

From those opponents, only Hull and Lincoln are anywhere near the top of the table. While we may be getting more shots on goal, we’re looking frail defensively and toothless upfront.

In my opinion, Plymouth was a must-win if we had any aspiration of going up, and we stuffed it. Despite him saying a lot of the right things, we have gone one step back since Johnson took over. Hopefully, the two steps forward occur soon.

2. Dissension in the ranks...

Was Phil Parkinson right? McGeady’s reaction to his substitution spoke volumes, as did the frequent arguing between players on the field.

If this season’s a write-off, let’s make sweeping changes now – clear the decks, pay people up, and start building for a true Lee Johnson team that can hit the ground running next season. If it’s not, bollocks – do it anyway.

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

Malcolm Dugdale says...

Two Up

1. Aiden O’Brien...

O’Brien scored again and looked one of our better players for the third game in a row. His performance was far from perfect, but we just lost at home to a team who haven’t won on the road in about a year, so “2 up“ items have a low bar today.

It’s a good job O’Brien turned up too as Saturday’s “hat trick hero” may as well have stayed in the changing rooms for what he added.

2. Manager comments...

We have another game in four days time, so we have an opportunity to draw a line under that loss and move on. In addition, we have a coach who isn’t avoiding the poor performance and his post match thoughts were honest, appropriate, and as critical as they deserved to be.

All teams have had dry spells this season, we need to rebound and regroup, and hopefully the home pitch and the opponents are both available to enable that to happen ASAP. The team need to get a good run of form going before fans return - if the team perform like that with 30,000 critics sat twenty-feet from the pitch, I’m sure they will be provided a swift assessment with immediate feedback on their performance.

Sunderland v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Two Down

1. Déjà vu...

We weren’t really outplayed, but we were out-scored in poor conditions at our home ground, by a team who were languishing in the bottom half of the table. This is becoming an all too common occurrence at the Stadium of Light.

We are getting into bad home habits which erode confidence and destroy team morale and that is arguably way more of a concern than an individual result on a wind swept and storm ridden Tuesday evening.

Despite the wins leading up to the Plymouth Argyle fixture, in the cup and League One, I am more convinced that we aren’t going up this season today than at any point since the restart.

2. Fixture backlog...

I genuinely don’t feel our players have two decent games in them a week, and that is very worrying given the backlog of games and the fact we still aren’t half way.

Though the score flattered us on Saturday at Plough Lane and away to Port Vale, we played well enough to deserve both wins. However, Plymouth seemed able to cope with playing again a few days later on a heavy pitch than Lee Johnson’s side were. We were slow, unambitious, inaccurate and slack with the basics.

Oh... and we desperately need a left back. Both goals came from Plymouth attacking down their right side of the pitch. McFadzean may have put the cross in for O’Brien but his defensive display was woeful, and Wright, Willis and Sanderson can only cover so much.

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

Kelvin Beattie says...

Two Up...

1. Quality of equaliser...

Our equaliser was a good crisp goal, with slick speedy passing and a very good cross from McFadzean to a well positioned O’Brien to head home with gusto. I am sure LJ would have been very pleased at the crispness of this move and the number of bodies in the box as the ball came in.

This is the type of offensive play he appears to be looking for. The timing of the goal was good in terms of a response from the team, and it should have set us up to go on and claim the win.

2. Carl Winchester...

Winchester made a steady debut once he and Scowen had sorted themselves out positionally. On a paddy field of a pitch he won the ball (apart from the one tackle he was booked for) well and distributed simply and effectively. He also offered an aerial presence in the midfield as well as looking to get forward with sharp give and go’s on a couple of occasions. I saw enough, to want to see some more.

Sunderland v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Two Down...

1. Poor Defending...

On a disappointing night there are no shortage of negatives. Defensively we have been fairly solid this season and the statistics would back this up. Last night both Plymouth goals came down our left-hand side.

McFadzean was caught the wrong side of his man on both occasions and the centre of defence were slow to react to this. Plymouth had 3 shots and scored 2 goals! McFadzean really does need to take a look at himself positionally, this is not the first time he has been exposed in this way.

Whilst he was not the only player on the night to misfire offensively, and having already acknowledged his good cross for our equaliser, just about everything else he did was wasteful or came to nothing.

This is particularly galling when you consider the amount of ball he receives. He seemed to over run, overhit and/ or play hospital passes to his teammates. A very poor night for him and lots to think about in shoring up the left-hand side of defence.

Sunderland v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

2. Up top and substitutions...

Having taken many deserved plaudits for his hat-trick on Saturday, Wyke will have to girder his loins for pelters following his performance last night.

He could not claim there was no decent crosses, generally we got our set piece right. He could not say there was no decent ball played through to him, there was. Unfortunately his inability to take the ball with a defender at his back was exposed again.

His tendency to foul his defender and give them an easy exit was on display, as well as his ability to disappear for huge periods of the game. He was not alone in having a bad night, but he leads our attack and his performance stood out last night for all the wrong reasons.

Sunderland v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

We also witnessed again what a poor sub Maguire is. He offers little or nothing coming on, some players are just like that. I would not say it was lack of effort, more a need for him to have a bit of time to grow into a game. At present Maguire coming on as sub I regard as a waste of a substitution.

The recurrence of Jordan Willis’s injury is a concern and disappointing for him having played so well on Saturday. I must say I was shocked that McGeady was taken off, he looked along with Diamond our likeliest source of creating and scoring. He looked furious upon exiting the field and I can definitely see where he was coming from last night.

Last night’s game was everything that supporting Sunderland has been about these last few years. I approached the game with realistic hope of victory. I left the scene angry, gutted and annoyed at myself for daring to dream!

This though is a work in progress, of this I am hopeful. New owner, coaching team and players need to be given time to get it all moving in the right direction. LJ gave a reasonable summary of the game in his post match interview, he is no mug. Let's grit our teeth and hang on to our optimism that better times are ahead. We have a role to play, let’s make sure we do our bit as well as we can.