I started this piece on Thursday, when we had played 23 games and I sat down to do a mid-season retrospective, but Saturday’s game has made me rethink. Do I moan about the inability to hold onto winning positions (especially so late into the game)?
Really, Saturday has merely reinforced the message I was already labouring. Too many draws over in our League One sojourn has cost us dearly. As Matthew Crichton says in his post-match Talking Tactics bit, ten draws is too many for a promotion chasing side.
Having played 24 games, we are bang, slap right in the middle of the season. And as I look at the trusty, colour coded soccerstats page of Sunderland’s current season, there is more green than any other colour, though a fair splodge of grey (postponed games). Indicative of the times, and I don’t just mean a harsh winter.
As in the last two seasons, it is our inability to kill teams off which is hampering our progress. We are the least defeated team in the division with only four losses - all at home. Most of twitter was bemoaning the fact that Saturday’s performance was the bad, the worst ever seen. Et cetera, et cetera.
The Gillingham draw saw us sneak into the play-off positions, but nobody is under any illusion that we are looking solid contenders for promotion.
After our stuttering home win over Shrewsbury last weekend, Mark Egan, my ITHICS co-editor, said “anyone watching that who thinks this team can go up needs medical attention.”
Our away form is worthy of note. In this strangest of seasons, we have not been beaten away from home. A feat only Manchester United can compare with across the four top tiers. If away games only were considered, we’d be third in the league. 57% of our points were gained away and we have only played 11 games on the road, against 13 at home.
We seem more expansive away from home, as we have recorded 4-, 3-, and 2-0 wins, whereas at home we have only won by a single-goal margin. We’ve scored 18 goals in 11 away games, compared to 14 goals in 13 home games.
Why is this? We can’t blame the crowds, because there aren’t any?
New players haven’t exactly been banging down the doors of the Academy of Light wanting to sign for the club. Winchester, Jones, Vokins and Stewart have joined, but they hardly set the pulses racing.
We need the new regime to take effect quickly to relieve this malaise and get us out of a division, most of us thought we’d only be spending one season in to start with.