Jordan Jones shows his quality in breakthrough performance
When we signed the Rangers attacker in January, there was a lot of expectation and no small amount of excitement. Could he be the player to offer us the width, quality of delivery, & pace on the flank that we have been lacking?
After showing flashes of promise in his appearances so far, when it came to the game against Portsmouth, we got a definitive answer.
In what was a crucial game that required our big-name players to really show up and make a statement, Jones was simply unplayable at times. His array of skills and trickery was far too much for Portsmouth to handle, and the quality of his deliveries into the box was top-notch as well.
Such a fine performance deserved to be capped off with a goal, and he was duly rewarded, as a Portsmouth defensive howler saw the ball break to Jones, who casually added a second goal with an outrageously nonchalant chip over the onrushing Craig MacGillivray.
It capped off a superb individual performance and eased any nerves as the second half wore on. It is such a positive sight to see a Sunderland player who is confident enough to take the ball and make things happen, and if the chance arises, we really ought to move heaven and earth to sign Jones on a permanent transfer this summer. He really is an outstanding footballer.
Collective resilience & work-rate shine through
In the context of our season, with the upper reaches of the league table so congested and every victory priceless, this was a match that was a much a test of our resilience & fortitude as it was of our passing and our movement, both on and off the ball. Pre-match, there were a lot of nerves on Sunderland Twitter, and rightly so, given our tendency in recent years to fall short in games like this.
We needn’t have worried. From the first whistle, every Sunderland player was ‘at it’. The work-rate was ferocious, the pressing was absolutely ruthless, and you could see that every player in red and white understood the magnitude of this game, and the importance of leaving Fratton Park with three points in the bag.
It was a no-nonsense, ruthlessly efficient team effort, sprinkled with some swagger & flowing football that really demonstrated exactly how much confidence is flowing through the team right now.
Max Power turned in one of his best performances of the season, a genuine captain’s performance, and he never stopped cajoling & encouraging his teammates throughout the entire game.
Even Aiden McGeady showed a superb willingness to track back and do the unglamorous donkey work, and the industrious Charlie Wyke added another goal, as well as leading the line with aplomb.
In terms of attitude, this is the standard we now need to operate at on a regular basis, and if we do so, we will be right in the promotion mix until the end of the season.
‘Mr Versatile’ shines yet again
Who else could I be referring to other than Luke O’Nien? Pre-match, much of the talk centred around whether our makeshift defence would hold out against a higher quality of attack, which Portsmouth allegedly possess. As it was, the likes of John Marquis, a striker we were once linked with, barely had a sniff of goal on Tuesday night.
O’Nien, alongside the classy Dion Sanderson, was magnificent. He headed every ball in the air and put boot to every ball on the ground, and his passing was crisp & incisive. He simply oozed confidence and authority, and was totally in control from the first minute to the last. Considering the weight of expectation placed upon him, he is taking it all in his stride, and that familiar enthusiasm & transparent love for the club continues to shine through, even in an unfamiliar role.
A matter of months ago, you would’ve got very long odds on Sanderson & O’Nien becoming a rock-solid central defensive partnership. That they have is one of the best & most uplifting subplots of this rollercoaster season.