RR: Well... I’m not really sure anyone was really expecting Sunderland to score five goals, but we put in a very good performance and were clinical. What’s your overall take on the game?
Shrimps Online: Put simply, it didn’t look like two sides from the same division on Tuesday. I’ve watched Sunderland a few times this season and knew they had that in their locker. You have players who look genuine Championship quality.
For us to compete in games like this, we need big performances across the team and instead we got lots of below par displays.
RR: Is there anything in particular that you think your manager could have done differently to ensure your side weren’t on the end of hiding like that?
Shrimps Online: We’ve predominantly used a 4-3-3 this season, and on Tuesday we tried a 4-4-2 to start with. I’m not against experimenting per se, but it didn’t seem to work and we switched to a 4-3-3 after 20 minutes - by which point we were already two goals down.
A formation choice can’t mask poor defending, though!
RR: Cole Stockton is the league’s in-form striker, and was the one player fans were really worried about going into the game. Knowing what you know about Cole and how he handles defenders, what do you think was done to successfully nulify him?
Shrimps Online: I’m not sure you could say you nullified him. He still had four shots on Tuesday night - excluding his offside goal - and in the form he’s been in you’d actually expect him to take one of those chances.
On the other hand, you dominated the ball for most of the game. so Cole was working off scraps for most of the night.
RR: In fairness, Morecambe had chances of their own, but didn’t put them away. Let’s say one of those chances at 2-0 goes in... do you think it changes the way the game ultimately pans out, or was it always destined to be one-sided?
Shrimps Online: It’s difficult to say, isn’t it? Football is often about momentum and confidence. Two league games ago, we went two down to Charlton and got one back, which we ended up drawing and could have even won it by the end. Against MK Dons - in the League game before our meeting on tuesday - we were 2-0 down and had chances at that stage of the game we didn’t take. The game got away from us and we lost four-nil. We’ve found League One to be unforgiving - if you don’t take your chances or defend poorly.
RR: We chatted offline briefly after the game and you said that this game wouldn’t be the game that relegates you, but more needs to be done, and January can’t come soon enough... can you just explain that one through and where you see the season going from here?
Shrimps Online: I expected us to take a few batterings through the season, is the reality.
Sunderland have now scored 22 at home and have conceded just five, winning eight from ten. On your day, you look like a side who will slot into the Championship, so the result didn’t shock me. A team can survive League One losing to Wigan, Rotherham, Sunderland away by a few, if they pick up results in more winnable games.
That being said, the nature of defeat and the performance was lackluster. If we have aspirations of staying in the division, some of those players have to find a better level or be replaced in January. We have obvious deficiencies in our side which need rectifying, so hopefully our new Head of Recruitment, Martin Foyle, has players ready to improve us and keep us up. We’re in 20th at the moment and I’d snap your hands off for that finish.
RR: Which Sunderland players impressed you most?
Shrimps Online: We couldn’t handle either Lynden Gooch or Leon Dajuku in the wide positions. Daniel Neil and Carl Winchester gave you control at the base of midfield to dictate play. Each of your front three has scored at least one, so took their chances and did their job.
RR: And, just some final thoughts coming out of the game and where you expect both teams to be by the time we next meet on the final day of the season...
Shrimps Online: I thoroughly expect Sunderland to be in the mix for promotion by that point. With the squad you have, when injuries ease up, automatic promotion is a fair aim but there are other strong sides in the division. I’ve been very impressed with Rotherham and I expect them to go on to win the division, but it’s tight at the top. How much of an impact will the January window have on sides? Who will they bring in and will they lose anyone?
As for The Shrimps, I hope we´re safe by then and can enjoy the day.
Best of luck for the season and I look forward to catching up again ahead of your trip to The Mazuma!