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Cambridge United v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Two Up, Two Down: What were the biggest positives and negatives from Sunderland’s performance?

What were the biggest positives and negatives to pluck from Sunderland’s performance in the win at a windy Abbey Stadium on Saturday?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Joseph Tulip says...


A win to settle everyone down. I haven’t liked the criticism of Lee Johnson in recent weeks, but we’ve now picked up seven points out of nine and are three points off the top of the table with a game in hand. For me, there was never any need to panic, but a win at Cambridge was just what Johnson and his side needed.

The togetherness of this squad is evident. We’re ravaged with injuries and having to place square pegs in round holes, yet our players have adapted and really got stuck in to graft out three vital points in very challenging weather conditions. While the likes of Pritchard and Broadhead will deservedly get the plaudits for their contributions, fair play to the versatility of Gooch for excelling at right back, and also getting an assist, while it was good see an academy product in Will Harris involved from the bench.


Another man on the sidelines. An injury to Corey Evans in the warm up was the last thing we needed with too many players already in the treatment room. This is out of our control, however, and the Lads deserve much credit for getting down to the business of winning the game.

We came under pressure in the second half. But let’s make this a positive, as we had to defend resolutely with a strong wind in our faces. It was good to see the likes of Bailey Wright commanding the defence and Carl Winchester, back in his favourite central midfield position, covering such a lot of ground to keep the home side at bay.

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

Andrew Smithson says...


Making our forward quality count. At the start of the season we were scoring all types of goals, and that made us hard to defend against. Passing moves, counter attacks, solo efforts, set pieces; everything. Our creativity had looked to have dried up for a while though and that was a worry, but against Cambridge United we created some very good chances and scored two quality goals. I’ve seen some sources suggest our first was actually an own goal, but either way, it was a good ball into a dangerous area from Alex Pritchard and it is good to see him starting to make a real impact in games. Nathan Broadhead’s shot was top class too, and if we are able to pick the top corner out every now and again and vary our threat it puts us in a very good position.

Handling the conditions. After struggling to deal with the elements at Portsmouth earlier in the season it was important that we didn’t buckle, particularly after the equaliser. Conditions will not always be perfect, but we dug in and adapted our play in parts to suit the weather. Winning ugly is always a great trait and we’ve now managed it twice in three games.


Lack of clean sheets. Although there was some brave defending and some good goalkeeping from the Lads, the amount of chances and soft goals we concede needs to be reduced. A lot of our games seem to be end to end and if we are going to tighten up it has to be as a unit. We don’t always need to be at full tilt, if we could keep hold of the ball more, dictate the pace and take the sting out of the opposition when they are flying it will all give us a bit more control and hopefully mean we are not always under pressure in defence.

The physio’s room is filling up again. The injuries are mounting up and a lot of them are to players from the same areas of the pitch. The news that has come out about Luke O’Nien is a big blow and limits our options further, and we are now left looking very low on numbers in both the midfield and at full back. Cieran Dunne made the bench and I like the look of Will Harris, so the one positive from this is that those playing on Wednesday in the Papa John’s Trophy know that if they do the business they could have a real chance of getting some more first team action.

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

Ant Waterson says...


Three valuable points in very tricky conditions. The wind really did not help, and Nathen Broadhead's wonderful finish was vital in our win. We struggled to attack much in the second half but really worked hard for that win. The league table looks a hell of a lot healthier now.

Bailey Wright. The Australian has quietly gone about his business in the last week or so, and has played very well in the three games we have had this week. Wright, on form, is a colossus and we might be seeing the return to form that he showed in the first half of last season.


Soft goals. We once again let a lead slip to a really soft goal. Doyle was sold far too easily by Hoolahan, and Hoffmann was very easily beaten. We need to iron these daft goals out.

Mounting injuries. With the busy Christmas schedule closing in, Sunderland can ill afford any more injuries. Losing Luke O’Nien means we are losing a player of immense versatility, and like him or not, his miss will be felt. He and Mcgeady are both experienced players we won’t have for the busy festive season. Dan Neil and Carl Winchester have played a lot of footy, and it would be nice to rest them both on Wednesday night. Plus, it will allow us to see if the likes of Sohna and Wearne are up to it.

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

Malc Dugdale says...


We got a win rather than a loss or a draw in a gritty battle amongst the elements. Instead of looking like a rabbit in the headlights when they got one back, we battled and got another too, and what a cracker it was. A sign the fighting spirit may be returning for good? We will see.

We got a win while a lot around us dropped points, which almost never seems to happen. We are very much back in the hunt and have a few home games to come where we can build some momentum on top of this 7 from 9 mini-revival. Let’s do that eh, and show this league our dip has passed.


Broadhead could have scored earlier, but he seemed hesitant to shoot. If you don’t shoot, you don’t score. Hopefully the thunderbolt he later put in the top corner will have brought that home to him.

Too deep, again! We sat way too deep in the second half playing into the wind, and still seemed to struggle to put a foot on the ball and to deprive them the chance of taking possession and bombing another ball up into a windswept 6-yard box. This was a better gritty and hard-fought performance than Pompey by a long way, but we have a long winter to come and more of these conditions too… we simply have to get better at ball retention and building up possession to calm games down. We weathered more than one storm, and I can vouch that it was a bloody cold one in the Cambridge away end too, but we need to improve the ball retention aspect of our game more, for sure.

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