Rich Speight says...
- Lynden Gooch’s pace and positivity. When Lynden Gooch came on to replace Jack Diamond, who had really struggled to get into the game, early in the second half he demonstrated some of the attributes that made him probably our best attacking player in the first part of the season, particularly his touch, directness, and ability to run past players. He almost broke through just before Gillingham scored their second equaliser, only a poor decision by the referee who adjudged Gooch to have fouled the defender by being elbowed in the face prevented him from having a match-winning impact. Gooch has been out poorly with Covid-19, and his end product needs work, but with plenty of competition in the squad on the wings, it’s good to see the Californian staking his claim for a place in the manager’s starting XI.
- Aiden McGeady stepping up and delivering. From what I’ve seen of Jordan Jones, he looks like a younger, quicker version of Aiden McGeady; plenty of skill and a penchant for cutting in from the left side and delivering quality into the box. So it was good to see Geads being at the centre of both of the goals in the first half, albeit he was fortunate that his early shot deflected over the ‘keeper and dropped into the bottom corner, then he used his quick feet and experience to win the penalty just before half time. As with Lynden Gooch, I hope that the competition for places provided by new arrivals pushes him on to keep producing good form and moments of quality that will have a big impact on results during the hectic few months ahead of us.
- We still can’t cope with antifootball. Steve Evans’ Gillingham clearly came to the Stadium of Light with a game plan – one which they implemented with aplomb – but unfortunately for Sunderland, it didn’t involve them attempting to play the game of association football as it’s commonly understood at the professional level. Over the last couple of years, we’ve struggled most against teams such as Wycombe and now Gills who lead with their arses, elbows and knees, kick it into the corners hoping to win long throw-ins, and rely on scrappy second bounces off set pieces to get results. We’re a side that has technically proficient players in most positions and Johnson wants us to play decent, attractive football, but we’re consistently either not smart enough or strong enough to counter teams that have absolutely no interest in the beautiful game. It doesn’t help when you’ve got soft referees who won’t take control of the game and dish out the yellows when arms are raised, and players are manhandled. But we’ve got to be savvier and more vocal when the opposition is getting away with the kind of challenges that would normally result in a period in the sin-bin on the rugby field.
- No Wright = Defensive Chaos. Without the cool head and experience of Bailey Wright at the heart of our defence, we looked a complete nervous wreck trying to deal with the brute force of the likes of Graham and Akinde. Although individually it was hard to pick fault with the contributions of Power, Willis and Flanagan for much of the game, collectively we looked a mess and failed miserably to cope with the direct play of the opposition. The chaos that ensued with almost every Gills lofted attack, linked to their brilliant decision not to bother with actual passes, inspired very little confidence especially in the second half. As the minutes crept by, it became obvious that we’d be fortunate to take all three points; their equaliser wasn’t a surprise and the predictability of it was utterly infuriating.
Joseph Tulip says...
- Despite our shortcomings in terms of getting a much-needed win, we didn’t buckle after sustained aerial bombardments from Gillingham, and responded positively to their first goal by going in 2-1 up at half time. This is a clear sign that the team is growing in confidence under Johnson.
- The re-emergence of Lynden Gooch. I’ve always liked Gooch wide right, and he was a real outlet there after coming on in the second half. Jack Diamond is a tremendous young talent, but he can’t be expected to hit the heights every game. Gooch’s return to fitness and form, in any of the attacking positions, is very much welcomed.
- Once again in League One we’ve failed to overcome a physical team with a likeness for playing in the air and the darker arts of the game. An extra centre half was needed in the second half to nullify the threat of the long throw, but we failed to deal with second balls and must be better equipped against this style of opposition.
- We persisted in playing it out from the back despite Gillingham’s very obvious high press. Lee Burge repeatedly passed to a marked defender who had to option other than to return the ball to his keeper. We must adapt to differing opposition and need to change the way we play to suit each game.
Kelvin Beattie says...
- Having been constructively-critical of Josh Scowen in the past, I feel that it’s only fair that I point out that he probably had his best game for us on Saturday. From picking up second balls and nicking balls away defensively, to finding space and managing the ball fairly well offensively for the whole game, Scowen was my man of the match.
- Lynden Gooch showed up well in his time on the pitch. He ran some fairly good channels and made himself available to receive the ball in and around their box. I thought he was very unlucky to have a foul given against him about 25 yards out from their goal centrally late in the second half, having made an excellent run at pace in to their half of the pitch. He’s just showing signs of getting back to his best.
- Our inability to make it three wins in a row - this really feels like a missed opportunity. They had a game plan reminiscent of Wimbledon of old, and we struggled to manage this. I tend to agree with Danny Collins, who kept calling for “screeners” in front of their two big lads when the ball was played in to our box. I give them credit for generally finding their man in the box. The second goal seemed to offer a lot of space on our left-hand side which sits with defenders on that side defending too narrow. It is not just on the defence though, we had enough decent ball into their box to have pulled away. It wasn’t a great afternoon for Wyke and O’Brien, who laboured manfully, but not always skilfully. I was not sure that the substitutions positionally were the best - Wyke also could have offered additional defensive aerial support for the free kick which led to their goal.
- Am I the only one who finds Steve Evans ranting on the touch line really aggravating? There is almost an attitude of it is good old-fashioned football coaching... it is not! My take on this is that it is foul-mouthed histrionics, and I was going to say more appropriate for a pub league touch line, but actually I do not think the pub league referees I know would accommodate this. His ranting was a constant background to the game, and a bit like his team’s football, it should be consigned to history.