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Two Up, Two Down: The good, the bad and the tedious from Sunderland’s stalemate at Northampton

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After two weeks out through having COVID in the ranks a rusty Sunderland played out a goalless draw - what will our panel take from the game as the positives and negatives?

Northampton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by John Cripps/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Kelvin Beattie says...

Two Up...

Sanderson was moved to left back and certainly showed us again that he is a good athlete with a good engine, pace & attitude. Apart from when he was taking a throw-in, I thought he played very well in an unfamiliar position. The defence generally did ok , and whilst Flano continues to be unable to hit a barn door from ten yards with a pass, defensively he did fairly well, winning some important high balls and putting himself in harms way when required.

Although he did not have a lot to do, Lee Burge made a very smart reflex save in the second half that meant we at least came away with a point. I have not been his biggest fan to date, but a few more saves like this from him and I will admit I was wrong. I tend to view his kicking from hand as erratic, but today I did feel he got more right than wrong. Unfortunately the ball was not sticking with our forward line today.

Big Lee now has a transfer window to deal and dabble in, we await developments with eager anticipation!

Northampton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Lee Burge
Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

Two Down...

In many respects this was a disappointing performance and result against a team 19th in League One. There was no surprise in the way Northampton played, we got what we were expecting and I am sure they were delighted with their point. In what has been a theme all season, we were unable to break down a packed defence, and might have easily lost this game. It does not need me to tell Big Lee that to get out of this League we need to find a way around the parked bus.

A number of players did not play well on the day. The pitch did look a bit of a cabbage patch and the referee was one of the most inconsistent I have seen in this League so far. I would expect him to be in charge of a Sunday League game next week. Despite all these negatives, my particular concern was how poorly Josh Scowen played.

Right from the off he was over/under hitting passes, giving away stupid fouls and disappearing for segments of the game. He owes us a cracker of a game next time we play. Any player can have a bad day, and we have no idea who & how badly the squad was impacted, but I would say another game as bad as that and Josh’s coat could be on the “shoogly peg”!

Northampton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Josh Scowen
Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

Michael Dunne says...

Two Up...

A clean sheet of course is always a positive no matter the game. Our defensive record is one thing we can take pride in this year as its the best in the League. If we can continue this and add some creativity and finishing at the other hand, we may stand a chance of promotion.

Dion Sanderson starting today was a positive for me. EFL supporting mates of mine have praised him and said we had a really good defender on our hands. He was used sparingly under Phil Parkinson so it would be great to see him get a chance under Lee Johnson. Sanderson put in a solid display today alongside Bailey Wright in the heart of defence.

He will be someone to keep an eye on over the next few weeks to see if he can maintain his place with Jordan Willis especially returning to fitness.

Northampton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Bailey Wright
Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

Two Down...

Today’s performance from an attacking point of view was woeful to say the least. Jack Diamond and Aiden McGeady were pale shadows of the individuals that lit up the Lincoln game a few weeks ago.

Of course, in the mean time, a lot has happened and players are probably only returning to full health but I still would have expected more form these two especially today. The return of Lynden Gooch may see Lee Johnson making a change here.

Strength in depth is lacking badly up top. In the summer, when Phil Parkinson brought in Danny Graham and Aiden O’Brien, it was thought that we had added some experience and strength to our front line.

Unfortunately it has been nothing short of abysmal from the two. They have added very little to our front line and unless Charlie Wyke gets a bad injury, you wouldn’t see these two individuals forcing their way in. It’s probably fair to say that getting in a centre forward who may actually score goals would be high on our priority list.

Northampton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Lynden Gooch
Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

Mark Wood says...

Two Up...

Dion Sanderson playing well even though he was at left back, a position that he is not accustomed to. He looks athletic, confident, good in the air and with a bit of pace. I would love to see him given a try for a few games at centre-back and maybe make that position his own as a pairing with Bailey Wright while Willis regains his fitness.

This was my first real look at us since Lee Johnson became boss and it was pleasing even in this game that we committed far more players in the box when we attacked than we ever did under Parkinson. In the long term this should pay dividends and the days under PP where we only had one or even no shots in a game become a distant memory.

Two Down...

The overall performance was poor. How much is down to rustiness or the effects of COVID on so many players in the squad we can only guess and we will get the answer to that from the performances in the next few games. The worry is that the performance was of a level pretty much the same of what we have seen in the last three seasons, which raises the question of the quality of the squad.

Flannagan playing hoof-ball repeatedly in the first half. He did it time and again, each time creating absolutely nothing apart from gifting possession to the opposition. To be fair I didn’t see him do it in the second half so presumably either Lee Johnson or the coaching staff got hold of him at half time and had a ‘constructive chat’. All we need now is for the same ‘constructive chat’ before kick off each week.

Northampton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Tom Flanagan
Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

Malcolm Dugdale says...

Two Up...

We didn’t lose the game, in fact despite Johnson being known for a more attacking style which leaves more gaps at the back, our defence had little to do. We comfortably contained a team that scored three only a few days ago, and who were arguably way more match fit than us, and more used to playing on a ploughed field too.

We saw more of what Sanderson has to offer, and even playing out of position he had a stronger game than many playing where they prefer to. I’d like to see him get a run at right back, as he has the pace combined with the ball control and passing ability to push forward when we need an extra man in midfield or out wide, and he has the defensive brain and engine to get back better than most.

Sign him permanently Johno, if we have an option. He could well finally allow Luke O’Nien to get his midfield berth back when he is fit, which we may benefit from.

Northampton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Dion Sanderson
Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

Two Down...

We lacked the ability yet again to break down a very defensive team, and we need to fix this fast. There may be times when we have to switch to a back three to help out our midfield being smothered by opponents playing essentially a back eight and are very happy to sit back.

We need more off the ball running and quicker passing of better quality to get past these tactics. To be fair that may come once the lads are more over the break for COVID, and against Lincoln they did all the above very well, but Lincoln had a go while many won’t if it gets them a point against us.

Northampton Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Aiden McGeady
Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images

The team from back to front looked slow and lethargic, and lacked energy and ideas. The Scowen and Power midfield looked good at Sincil Bank, but I’m not sure if that was the exception rather than the rule.

We need to support Diamond more with other attacking flair middle of the park as he is being double marked, and we are losing most of our go forward due to that, especially when McGeady is wasteful, as he was in my opinion at Sixfields.

We need a powerful attacking midfielder to challenge Scowen and Power as well as Embo, who I assume must have been borderline fitness wise or he would have gone on.

We need a striker who can score from six yards too, as Charlie should have got at least one from that close out, and he also needs completion for his place to be increased with Grigg potentially out with an injury.