Was it the wrong decision to start Carl Winchester and Grant Leadbitter together?
Lee Johnson has rarely received criticism lately given Sunderland’s current form, but I cannot hide my frustration towards his midfield selection today.
With Aiden O’Brien missing, Johnson turned to his unfashionable January signing in Carl Winchester to play off frontman Charlie Wyke, but he simply failed to produce anything.
Winchester’s form has been excellent lately, but in a deep-lying playmaker role where he can make quick passes and switches of play to keep Sunderland ticking.
He has played further forward for Forest Green at times this season, but today his presence further forward meant Sunderland had a very defensive trio in midfield and lacked a creative spark.
Also, by moving Winchester further forward, Johnson selected Grant Leadbitter ahead of Josh Scowen.
The 35-year-old looked incredibly off the pace, particularly in the second half where he gave away a number of needless fouls, one of which Lincoln scored from the resulting set-piece.
I assume Johnson agrees that Winchester did not work behind Wyke, but replacing him with Josh Scowen was a very Phil Parkinson-esque move, especially when Chris Maguire was on the bench.
Scowen is an industrious defensive midfielder who thrives on winning the ball and pressing, he is not someone who creates anything going forward, so why play him advanced?
Leadbitter was removed ten minutes later, but it seemed far too late and questions will once again be asked on whether he should remain in the starting XI.
Given that Lincoln possess excellent pace on the break, I believe Scowen would have been a more suitable option than Leadbitter in the deep role.
Also, you have to wonder if Chris Maguire could have delivered the spark that could have killed off a low-confidence Lincoln side who had won just two of their last ten League One matches?
It may feel like two points dropped, but it is important that Sunderland do not panic!
At full-time I think most Sunderland fans will feel like that was two points dropped and a missed opportunity to leapfrog Peterborough into the automatics.
Having said that, a draw is not a defeat and it would simply be unrealistic to assume Sunderland were going to win all of our remaining 12 matches.
The top six all failed to win yesterday, so in reality, Sunderland are in the same position – we have Hull and Posh to play meaning our destiny remains in our own hands.
I think it would be fair to say Sunderland did not do enough to win the match, but you also have to credit Lincoln who despite missing key players defended very well and looked dangerous on the break.
Michael Appleton’s two centre-backs, Adam Jackson and Lewis Montsma, were excellent up against League One’s top scorer, plus their two full-backs kept Aiden McGeady and Lynden Gooch quiet enough.
You could see watching the match why Lincoln are positioned where they are, so I do not think there is any need for Sunderland to panic.
The club are now unbeaten in nine League One matches, winning seven, while only conceding in three.
Sunderland remain two points behind Peterborough and have two games in hand on Hull - we are still in touching distance from where we need to be.
Admittedly, we need to lift our performance levels from Lincoln, but we should go into Bristol Rovers next Saturday still feeling confident and positive.
The gaffer reflects on today's 1-1 draw on Wearside.— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) March 20, 2021
Full interview... pic.twitter.com/Ghhv2KZL4X
Callum McFadzean scored! Does he deserve credit for raising his performance levels?
The most unexpected part of yesterday’s draw easily was Callum McFadzean’s excellent header to put The Black Cats in front.
The ex-Plymouth left-back has been one of Sunderland’s most criticised players this season, but one thing I do respect him massively for is his resilience to keep pushing and fighting to retain his place in the team.
After weeks of error-prone matches, many believed Jake Vokins would break back into the team, but despite a credible performance in midweek Johnson opted to reinstate McFadzean.
The decision was validated as McFadzean was a danger for Sunderland going forward, whipping in some excellent crosses, as well as linking up well with Aiden McGeady.
A few poor defensive moments prevented him from contending for the man of the match award, but it was refreshing to be discussing his positive moments more than the erratic defensive errors.
His first goal for the club (Fleetwood away was an own-goal) should hopefully help build his confidence and push him on to battle harder to keep his place.
The fact first-choice left-back Denver Hume has returned to training should give the 27-year-old added motivation to raise his performance levels.
I will openly admit I have been highly critical of McFadzean this season, so I feel he deserves to be praised for a 7/10 display in Martin’s player ratings, in the same way he has been criticised for being poor many times throughout this season.