Michael Dunne says...
Clean sheets. Another clean sheet for the lads this evening. We have become so solid at the back, which is amazing when you think about all the injuries and alterations we have had. Dion Sanderson is a Rolls Royce of a defender and a massive asset for us at this level. Luke O’Nien, while not his best, was solid again. This is on top of Lee Burge who is getting better and better by the game. This is our foundation for promotion and what’s even better, we have Denver Hume and Bailey Wright to return.
Another game, another header and another goal for Charlie Wyke. The man is unstoppable at the moment. It is hard to fathom that League One defenders have not found a way to stop him scoring so many headers. We are not complaining! On 27 now, I would be almost certain that he will get over 30 for the season which is amazing. We would never have thought this before the start of the season.
The petulance from Aiden McGeady was a little daft and disappointing from a man of his experience. McGeady cut a frustrated figure tonight and he probably kicked that ball away more so from frustration with himself than anything. It was a silly yellow card to get and it was the right call by Lee Johnson to take him off with Saturday’s massive game.
I was hoping with him starting tonight, Jack Diamond would kick on with a big performance. Unfortunately, he didn’t take his chance. Diamond struggled to get into the game. He got off a decent shot midway through the first half but that was about his only contribution to the game. With Jordan Jones hopefully returning soon and Ross Stewart coming on and scoring tonight, it is likely that Diamond will have another spell on the bench.
Philip West says...
A goalscoring debut for Ross Stewart. What a way to make an impact from the giant Scottish striker! Pre-match, Lee Johnson quipped that the January signing from Ross County had racked up zero minutes and zero goals, but had already bagged one trophy. As it turned out, that was the precursor to Stewart finally announcing himself in red and white, and grabbing the crucial opening goal against Accrington. Tall, physical and rangy, Stewart could well come into his own as we eye up the final push towards promotion. If the goalscoring burden on Charlie Wyke can be eased with, perhaps, six or seven goals from Stewart, that really will be of huge benefit to the team. Let’s hope he can stay fit!
Collective resilience and determination to win. There was definitely no Wembley hangover on Wednesday night. Instead, there was a rock-solid team spirit and a desire to deliver a result that was evident from the first whistle. While our football may not have been of the highest standard, you really got the sense that the team was hellbent on securing three points, regardless of what it took. Max Power is really shining as our on-field general right now, and his standards are filtering through the entire team. It is obvious that everyone is pulling in the same direction, and that’s a very positive sign!
Some questionable first-half tactics. For a while, we got lured into playing the same way that Accrington were – lumping aimless balls downfield and hoping that something would happen on the back of them. This was ill-advised and it clearly wasn’t going to work. There were times when Charlie Wyke was left slightly isolated, and it was obvious that a change in approach was needed. Towards the end of the first half, once we got the ball down and started to play a bit more, things definitely improved. It was just a warning of the danger of getting suckered into playing in a way that doesn’t suit you, and one we must always be aware of.
A disappointing night for Jack Diamond. This was an excellent opportunity for Diamond to stake a claim and to remind us of what he possesses, ability-wise, but he didn’t quite make the most of it. Too often, his final ball was short of quality and he rarely drove at the Accrington defence in the way that he could’ve done. Granted, the appalling state of the pitch did not make his life particularly easy, but he seemed to play a little bit inside his shell, as opposed to really stepping up and capitalising on his opportunity. I’m sure he’ll get more chances, but he needs to make the most of them, and to have the confidence to take people on and try to make things happen.
Malcolm Dugdale says...
Another great looking striking option is emerging in Stewart. Not only did he score on his second half debut, Stewart looked a real handful up front in a two with Wyke, with good feet as well as very good aerial ability showing their hand in his first run out. Once he builds up his match fitness and linkups with the players about him, he may well become one of many strike partners who we can get goals from if Charlie has a dip (assuming he ever does!)
Carl Winchester had a great game again today, and in a very bitty and broken game, he showed a lot of class and ability. There will still be games in which we need Leadbitter and he will support us to the end, but to see others emerging to take that role is very welcome.
It took a long time and a lot of very broken football to break Accrington down, and at times like the O’Nien free header, fans could be justified in worrying we may lose or draw due to not taking good opportunities. We however didn’t give up, and we ground out a result, so double MOTM Luke can rest easy.
The side don’t deserve a second down point so I’m taking this as a third up! We went away on a shitty Wednesday night to a shitty pitch against a dull team who offered very little football, and we did a job, despite the fizz still being sticky on the lads’ backs from Wembley. Well done lads. This is the type of fixture we would have slugged pointlessly to a draw in previously. Our ability to hammer out challenging points is one of the biggest improvements, and every team needs that to go up. So we are going up. Period.
Gary Engel says...
Super-sub on his debut! When the second-half at Wembley hadn’t produced many goalscoring chances I was willing Lee Johnson to bring on Ross Stewart. He wasn’t needed of course, but cometh the hour, cometh the man. I’ve just had a feeling Stewart would make an impression when he finally got his chance. I can’t help but liken his kind of impact to that of Micky Bridges, who made super-sub his trademark in his first spell on Wearside. A fine, well-taken looping header to confirm his arrival just what the lads needed tonight.
Another professional performance. It was another of those games where Sunderland controlled proceedings and put the game to bed without being spectacular. These are the kinds of games we, for the last two seasons, have stumbled on. A few months back, half-time would have screamed a goalless draw. But these days there’s a new-found confidence that Johnson’s men will find a way of breaking the deadlock, and then hold onto that lead - so we proved.
Referee, come on... It isn’t the first time League One referees have been mentioned by me, and it probably won’t be the last... often one side will feel aggrieved at something the referee has done or missed. But in a first-half with few shining performances the referee’s was arguably the worst on display. Accrington weren’t particularly happy with him, but then Johnson also made a beeline to confront the ref at half-time whistle to show his own displeasure.
Defensive recruitments needed soon. I don’t think I’m not alone here, that whenever we see one of our defenders picking up a knock we all take a sharp intake of breath. Tonight it was Sanderson, and for a moment I thought his night was going to end early. In most positions we do have reasonable cover, but until one or two of our first choice defender’s are back we are bound to wince when these lads land the wrong way in the coming weeks. The bench doesn’t show a wealth of experience either.