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Bristol Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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2 Up, 2 Down: The Good, the bad and the f*ckin’ delightful as Sunderland beat Barton & co!

Our pundits pick out the positives and negatives from Sunderland’s latest win, now that the dust has settled. What were you impressed with, and what left you scratching your head?

Jog on, Joey - you’re shite!
| Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Gary Engel says...


What is it they say? It’s a sign of a good side who can win when they’re not at their best... Sunderland have churned out results for the past couple of weeks, whilst looking a shadow of the side that beat Portsmouth near the start of the month. We’ve kept up the pressure, and are within touching distance of the top two with games in hand. It just shows how far belief can carry a team.

As I’ve mentioned recently, Lee Johnson has struggled to find someone to suitably occupy the void left by Aiden O’Brien. Although he has been far from prolific since his arrival at the Stadium of Light, in league with Wyke, as he proved on Saturday, he can come up with important goals too. Some of my confidence heading into our run-in is based on the players that are due to return to the first team from injury, potentially just at the right time as O’Brien demonstrated. Oh, and in the process to wipe the smirk off the face of Joey Barton, the tinpot Geordie, made it all the more satisfying.


One thing that never appears to change with Sunderland; no matter the manager, philosophy, player personnel or division, is that we always fall into the same trap. Against the better sides, we raise our game, but when we come up against scrappers we always descend to their level. Bang goes the manager’s ideals of playing the ball quickly across the pitch, and instead, we’re ineffectively lofting the ball from back to front. That has been our downfall for the past few seasons against sides we should be beating with relative ease. Just stick to the game plan lads!

We’ve done well defensively in recent weeks. But teams are maybe starting to ask a few more questions of Sanderson and O’Nien at the back, we’ve ridden our luck and seemingly got away with our errors so far. But ideally, we need the experience of Bailey Wright back for the testing matches ahead. That can also free up O’Nien to provide our midfield with a bit more energy.

Bristol Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Kelvin Beattie says...


I’m stating the obvious here, but, we managed to keep our unbeaten run going and snatch a win. On chances created and efforts on goal we probably just shaded the game. O’Brien was lively for his time on the pitch, plus McGeady and Power played reasonably well against a Rovers team who scrapped hard all over the pitch. Laying the Barton Indian sign was a plus, even if we did not play that fluidly.

Gillingham’s result at Hull was very welcome. It’s that time of the season where we have eyes on our team and an ear to those close to us. In the 56 years I have supported this phenomenon, I reckon that only five of those seasons has seen me relaxed and under no stress going into the Easter period. So here we go again - Gillingham have done Peterborough and ourselves a favour in what I now am convinced is a three-club race for the two automatic places.


The defence had a difficult time of it. Sandison and O’Nien both unusually made errors that were not punished. McFadzean was planting passes just too far away from McGeady, and contriving to get caught the wrong side of his winger... again. He also goes down a tad too easy for a Sunderland left-back.

At the risk of being accused of negativity toward officials, I hope to goodness we do get promoted, I am well fed up with inconsistent officials. Hanlan kicked the ball away four times having had decisions go against him. The referee very leniently kept his cards in his pocket. Sanderson does it once and straight into the book he goes!

Bristol Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Hanlan got away with booting the ball away far too often!
Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says...


We won away from home - it was an ugly win, but we did it! Yes, it would be great to watch flowing energetic and attacking football with loads of goals and clean sheets, but the fact is that you get the same amount of points for a win, whether you score once or seven times. If you do that better than others around you, winning by any way possible, that will get you promoted... so let’s do that.

O’Brien scored when goals looked difficult to come by. On a day that Wyke was quiet for me, yet again another player has stepped up and delivered the goods. Yes, his left shin pad should take the credit, but he got the goal they couldn’t cancel out, and the more scorers we have the lower the risk of our team dropping points due to primary goal scorers being well contained.


We forgot how to play our type of football, and were drawn into playing their way, rather than stamping our own way on the match. We lacked composure, consistent passing and movement, and were out-pressed by the home team when pressing is supposed to be our tool. We’ll get beat off the decent sides playing like that.

We really need to find out how to have a midfield that adds more to the game. Apart from the width and cutting in from McGeady (who was double marked out of the game for large periods), we had very little flow from back to front, other than long balls to Wyke and O’Brien. We recently learned that width, movement and clinical passing can make a major difference but that was forgotten, and the coach did little to improve that with subs or tactics. We desperately need Jones back and if wide players are not doing well with a formation or a position we need to change one or both - why Diamond didn’t get a run out mystifies me. Lee got all three on the road again, but the performance was lacking in a lot of ways that he needs to address before Oxford and free-scoring Posh.

Accrington Stanley v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Malc’s wondering why Diamond didn’t get on the pitch
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Mark Wood says...


Aiden O’Brien came to the party with the winning goal. I wrote an article about a month ago about the need for players through the squad to make winning contributions if we were to have ambitions of promotion, and this was the kind of thing I meant.

Putting one over Joey Barton - the self-appointed taunter and tormentor of Sunderland in League One, who seems to make more noise against us than any other opponent because he would like the Newcastle directors to take notice of him next time they are looking for a manager. Two years ago defeat against his Fleetwood side put the banana skin under our promotion drive when we were in the same position as we are now, so to beat his team with just as much at stake as back then buries another one of our hoodoos.


We always know what we're going to get from a Joey Barton team, but for some reason we seemed to try and outdo them at their own game, rather than get the ball down and play football. The ball qualified for air miles and the game was crying out for someone like Winchester or Leadbitter to play the ball on the deck, and bring some composure to proceedings.

A lot of fans think we have promotion in the bag and that going up as champions is a certainty. I feel more cautious than that, even though we are in a good position right now going into the last ten games, because of the last few performances. When Jones comes back from injury I will feel more confident, because once he started to make an impression in the team before he got injured, with him on one flank, McGeady on the other and Wyke firing in the middle, we actually looked like we had too much for anyone else in this league to cope with.

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