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2 Up, 2 Down: Can anything positive be salvaged from Sunderland’s defeat at Shrewsbury? (Part 1)

Our panel try and attempt the impossible, where in our first part of two, we once again ask them to find the good and bad from Sunderland’s woeful defeat to Shrewsbury - let us know if you can think of any!

Shrewsbury Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Malcolm Couzens/Getty Images

Paul Fletcher says...

Two Up!

It’s not the end of the world...

I understand that people are absolutely fuming and I can see where they are coming from. The second half performance was dreadful and we’ve shot ourselves in the foot, yet again.

However, this was our first away defeat of the season. We only lost by one goal and we weren’t outplayed. Their two goals we conceded were down to individual errors - you’d like to think they can be avoided in future with a change in personnel.

At the other end, we scored a good goal, we had one cleared off the line, their keeper pulled off a couple of fantastic saves, both Wyke and Wright missed free headers from the six yard line.

We created enough to win the game but we didn’t take the chances. Our defending was okay apart from two costly errors. These are problems that have solutions.

As awful as we’ve been this season, we’re somehow still only eight points away from the automatic spots (possibly more if Doncaster win their two games in hand).

Help us Jordan Jones - you’re our only hope...

In the January window we brought in four players. Winchester looked pretty average and then got injured. Ross Stewart hasn’t featured yet. Jake Vokins two performances so far have been horrendous.

Jones has been the only positive from the transfer window so far. If he stays fit he has to play as many minutes as possible and we have to find a way to get the ball to him in space.

At Shrewsbury, he wasn’t in the game as much as any of us would have liked to have seen. But on the occasions he did get in the game, he looked dangerous and likely to create something. I was baffled when Lee Johnson took him off after an hour.

Milton Keynes Dons v Sunderland - Papa John’s Trophy
Jordan Jones
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Two Down!

Rotation frustration...

If rotating Jones out around the hour mark was a sensible option to protect a player who has hardly played a game in recent months, then that makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is insisting on starting a half-fit Jordan Willis every game - especially when Dion Sanderson is a more than capable replacement who has spent months warming the bench.

Grant Leadbitter and Aiden McGeady are both 34 years old - does it make sense for them to be starting two games a week, on the heavy pitches we see in League One at this time of year?

We’ve got enough alternatives in the squad to rotate the two of them. I’d much rather see Leadbitter play one superb game a week (like we saw at the beginning of the season) than two mediocre ones. Similarly, with McGeady, I’d rather he played two halves of football across two games and have a big impact, than play two games a week and be run into the ground.

Starting XI...

Johnson is coming in for a lot of criticism and rightly so. He picked the team, he decided on the tactics, he made the substitutions and the responsibility ultimately rests at his door.

It was his decision to give Matthews a sympathy start, and it was his decision to persist with Vokins at left back after a stinker of a debut on Saturday. Those two decisions have cost us the two goals and the three points.

The argument that a manager cannot be held responsible for the individual errors of his players only goes so far. If Aiden McGeady were to miss three penalties in a game or Luke O’Nien were to get sent off for headbutting the referee, then I would say these mistakes were out of character for the players and that Lee Johnson can’t really be blamed.

But when it’s a keeper with a history of gifting goals gifting a goal (should have been two goals if not for a fortunate offside decision) and an inexperienced full back with question marks over his positioning being caught out of position, then I’ve got little to no sympathy for the manager who picked them in the first place.

Shrewsbury Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Remi Matthews and Bailey Wright attempt to clear the lines leading to Shrewsbury Town's equaliser
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Philip West says...

Two Up!

The continued resurgence of Parmo Inzaghi...

Despite ending up on the losing side, Charlie Wyke turned in another excellent, line-leading performance.

He was strong on both the ground and in the air, and his hold-up play was extremely impressive. What I really like about Wyke at the moment is his attitude. He really does seem to be relishing the responsibility of being the team’s main goal threat, and although he didn’t find the net against Shrewsbury, he contributed to our forward play.

It is quite a remarkable transformation from the player we have seen for the majority of his time at Sunderland, and for that, he deserves immense credit.

Return of the Mc-Geady...

Aiden McGeady was, at times, superb. There are always going to be question marks over his place and best position in the team, and whether he is more effective as an option from the bench, but against Shrewsbury, he once again proved his worth.

The ex-Everton man showed neat touches and some flashes of the skill that made him one of the most highly-regarded players in the division. Yes, at times he was ‘ball greedy’, as we would’ve said back in our school days, but overall, he turned in a decent night’s work in what was ultimately a lost cause.

Shrewsbury Town v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Aiden McGeady
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Two Down!

A game of two-halves...

The second-half performance was an absolute disgrace. It was a disjointed, godawful mess. Unfortunately, this is not a new phenomenon either. We are, at best, a forty-five minute team.

We can turn it on here or there, for half of a game, but we are utterly incapable of maintaining that level for the duration of a match.

On Tuesday night, it was the same old story: score the opening goal, fail to build on it, and then watch helplessly as the opposition capitalise. I firmly believe that this is a psychological issue.

We do not defend leads spitefully enough, and we lack the ruthlessness to take advantage of scoring an early goal. It is a perfect storm, and until we toughen up mentally, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes week in and week out.

Nothing between the sticks...

Remi Matthews made a very strong case for induction into Sunderland’s goalkeeping hall of shame, to sit alongside such luminaries as Steele & Camp, after a performance that was, at times, comical, bewildering, and often just downright horrific.

He flapped woefully at the cross that led to Shrewsbury’s equaliser, and was only saved from the embarrassment of allowing a free kick to squirm under him by the intervention of the officials.

It is time for Anthony Patterson to be given a first-team berth, and I will hold my hands up and confess that I was wrong about both Matthews and Lee Burge. I genuinely believed we could just about make it to the end of the season without too many calamities, but neither of them are anywhere near the required level, and this is an area of weakness that is costing us big time right now.

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