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Bristol Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Fan Letters: Do O’Brien and Scowen deserve more credit for their role in Sunderland’s surge?

RR reader Michael believes we’ve got to change the team if we’re going to get promoted, while Graham says O’Brien and Scowen deserve more credit.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I am writing this after our win at Bristol Rovers. To be honest our performances over the last 4 or 5 games have been poor, average at best. Yet we have somehow managed to pick up the wins needed to close the gap on the top two and claim a draw against promotion rivals Lincoln.

That is brilliant and it is widely accepted that the sign of a good side is one that can play poorly but still win matches.

I, however, hope that Lee Johnson now takes stock and looks at the upcoming fixtures. We have some promotion rivals to play and in my opinion if he continues with the same 12 or 13 regular starters then we will lose some of those games, possibly costing us a place in the top two. I would like him to be proactive rather than reactive, waiting until the defeats happen – which I’m convinced they will.

Be proactive Lee and freshen up the side NOW. I’m not talking really about the goalkeeper or the defence. There hasn’t been scope to change things there with injuries, though with the returning Bailey Wright I would like to see O’Nien returned to the midfield.

I would give Gooch a breather and use Scowen and Leadbitter sparingly. Introduce more game time for Dan Neil, Jack Diamond, the returning Jordan Jones, the sparingly used Chris Maguire and Ross Stewart.

I believe this would improve creativity and performance levels that will be needed to beat the teams around us. Take the Lincoln draw as a warning sign.

It would be a brave move to change a winning team and I know many fans will disagree but I believe it is necessary and would provide the impetus to get us over the finish line.

Michael Atkinson

Ed’s Note [Martin]: I think there’s a huge difference between a poor or average performance, and one that’s not entertaining. I think the past few performances have been effective, but not very entertaining to watch. Take the Bristol Rovers game – we weren’t great in the first half, but went in one up, and it should have been two. Second half we had enough chances to win by four. The attacking style of play we hope to see has had to be restrained a bit due to the defensive injuries we’ve had – the midfield has had to offer more protection to the defence than they ideally would. I think once Wright returns, we’ll see a bit more attacking emphasis, and for me he’s the crucial one; O’Nien will come out of the defence surely – but where he goes is the question. You say you’d like him to be returned to midfield, but in truth he’s never had anything more than the odd game there for us.

I think Scowen’s an integral part of the team and we miss him terribly when he’s not playing – he does so much pressing and off the ball work, he becomes even more important when we’re playing on the front foot. The return of Jones is critical – if we can get him and Wright back in the team for the run in, I believe we’ll do fine without making wholesale changes.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One
Michael wants Lee Johnson to ring the changes!
Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

Think that O’Brien deserves more credit than he gets from some fans. He and Scowen do the dirty work in the team for me so others can get on with their own jobs. If AOB scores a few along the way then well that’s great, keep it up. Big Chaz needs him in the team to thrive.

Graham Toward

Ed’s Note [Martin]: Couldn’t agree with you more, Graham. As I said above in my reply to Michael, I think Scowen does a hell of a lot of good work for the team, and the same goes for O’Brien. It’s pretty simple to me, the team is better with the two of them in it at present.

A good team is better than the sum of its parts, and Scowen and O’Brien are hugely important for us.

Bristol Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One - Memorial Stadium
Let’s give Scowen and O’Brien some credit, says Graham
Photo by Steven Paston/PA Images via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I can’t work out if LJ was taking the piss with those shark comments after the game. If he was deadly serious then he’s lucky we’re doing well cos he’d get crucified for it otherwise! Though I do quite like the idea of the players thinking like sharks... lol

John Fenwick

Ed’s Note [Martin]: I know Johnson’s interviews can be a bit polarising, but I really like listening to him. It makes a nice change from the cliched, repetitive shite the likes of Parkinson, Ross, Grayson, Moyes etc came out with. As long as the players are responding in the right way, it’s fine by me! Long live the sharks.

Bristol Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
O’Brien’s goal celebration paid homage to Johnson’s teamtalk!
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

The L1 match on stream in the US this weekend was Peterborough and Ac Stanley. I tuned in to hope for dropped points. What I saw was lacklustre defending with a sprinkling of total capitulation. They matched our goal diff in one game. The pitch looked about as good as the local car park after a landslide, and it turns out Posh has a quality mud game. Should be in for a challenge next week.

I think the EFL1 run-in looks the most competitive in Europe. The winners will surely deserve it.

JD

Ed’s Note [Martin]: It’s certainly going to go down to the wire, and Monday’s game could be pivotal. It was disappointing to see our GD get wiped out in a game, but we’ll be aiming to ensure that’s an irrelevancy come the end of the season. Fingers crossed it is!

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