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Talking Points: We’ve exited another cup, but did we get what we needed from that game?

We run through the key Talking Points coming out of the Oldham game in the Papa John’s knockout stages, where a second-string Lads team exited the competition.

Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

“Harrioka” - how did the new young attacking partnership look?

Not many would have predicted the starting front two of Harris and Kimpioka that we put out against Oldham, but in places they linked together well. If not for chances being unconverted, we may have had a couple of goals in the first 45.

As early as the first 15 minutes, Kimpioka got through but even after seeing the last defender slip in front of him, he failed to convert. Similarly, around 37 mins, he was through after a great break created by Harris, but his touch pushed the ball wider than was ideal, and all he could secure was a corner.

Sunderland v Manchester United U21 - Papa John’s Trophy Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The second half was less impressive in terms of attack, as with Benji pushed out wide we created way less options, which in a way is a compliment to him. Harris had one good opportunity in stoppage time, only to see a cross from Dyce flash under his boot.

In my view, some good pace and some good signs for the future were evident in the first half, and with the lack of attacking options outside of Stewart and Broadhead, both Harris and Kimpioka did themselves little harm. The lack of effective finishing needs work though.

Three at the back with Arby, Younger and Alves - options for the back line?

The back three did OK on the night for me, with the only goal coming from an individual error not made by one of our second choice centre back trio.

It was good to see Arby make it through a full 90 minutes, and Younger and Alves both looked decent, with them both making a couple of marauding runs at times.

The concern for me remains around our left back area of the pitch - it felt like every attack from Oldham came down their right, and the misjudged high ball leading to the goal was on the left side of our defence too.

Sunderland v Oldham Athletic: Papa John’s Trophy Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

While the minutes for the centre back options were welcome, we continue to avoid clean sheets and to show a reason for concern down our defensive left. This area of our back line is something that wasn’t really improved, but hopefully Dajaku and Gooch can continue to do a job at wing back in league games, till we get reinforcements in early next year.

O’Brien as a holding midfielder...

Interestingly, I think Aiden did better in the first half than in the second, when he was pushed forward to his supposed natural role in support of Harris. He kept it simple in the middle of the park across the first half, and other than a couple of basic errors, he did okay breaking up play and setting the team in a forward direction during the first 45 minutes.

Given the lack of options, he did his claim for a midfield slot more good than his claim for a place up front. He did nothing in the second half I can recall while in a more advanced position… not standing out among our under 23s as an attacking force, against a team like Oldham who have been on a dire run for some time, that is something that tells a tale all on its own.

We may well use him to help out in the middle if really stuck, but my view is we should sell him in January, and replace him with attacking capability. For me, he simply hasn’t worked out, and I’m not sure he has what we need at all.

That is about the only thing that I had reinforced about AOB last night. He has to go.

So how did we do overall, and does this game help for Oxford on Saturday?

We lost a game that we should and could have won, but it was a game very few cared about, and we performed OK for the first half with a much-changed team.

From those perspectives, we gained a couple of advantages for the overall squad with an important league campaign underway. That is something I certainly want way more than further Papa John’s Trophy progression.

We confirmed that we have a few options at centre back emerging if needed, and up front we saw that Benji is potentially ready to help from the bench, with Harris, if called upon.

We didn’t take any more injuries and we got some minutes for Embleton and Dajaku to increase fitness and readiness for the weekend. The only real downside was the poor goal we gave away, and the lack of defensive robustness down our left.

Sunderland v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

I doubt that anything seen at home to Oldham will greatly change the team that runs out on Saturday, but I am pleased we didn’t sacrifice any more first choice players to stay in this competition.

We probably learned more about what we won’t do from this game than anything new that we will do, but we have to hope we can bounce back in a few days in the league and get back into winning habits.

Polish that trophy ready for its return, and all eyes on this league run lads. I’m already over it, and I don’t think I’m alone.


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