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2 Up, 2 Down: Can you pick two positives & two negatives from Sunderland’s 1-0 win v Swindon?

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Can you think of two positives and two negatives from Sunderland’s 1-0 win over Swindon on Tuesday?

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Papa John’s Trophy Photo by Chris Vaughan - CameraSport via Getty Images


Gav says...

Two Up!

Maguire is back on the scene...

Chris Maguire once again came on and proved his worth with an excellent assist, giving us a boost at a time when the game was severely lacking in quality. As I’ve said before, it’s no secret that the club tried to move him on in January and it’s perhaps to his credit that he’s doing his utmost to prove to Lee Johnson why he should be featuring more heavily.

Burge saves the day!

Lee Burge made a save that was as good as a goal. At the time we were 1-0 up, and with a fantastic pass blindsiding Max Power, Burge reacted fast to deny the onrushing Swindon forward with a cracking one-on-one stop. I’ve been fast to criticise Burge in the past when he’s made costly errors, so it’s only fair to give him praise when he makes a save that gave us the opportunity to win the game and, ultimately, the three points.

Sunderland v Swindon Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Two Down!

Gooch out...

Lynden Gooch got injured, which means he’s added to a long list of players that are missing at the moment. I’m not his biggest fan but he’s clearly a player Johnson likes, and he works very hard. Let’s just hope that he’s not out very long, because it’ll be a shame if he misses the important games that we have coming up.

Dan! Dan! Dan! Dan!

We only saw a minute or so of Dan Neil, and I’m not even sure if he touched the ball. I think I’m biased because I really want to see the lad do well, but I felt like he could have come on a bit earlier in the game to help control possession of the ball and raise the tempo of our play. His time will come I’m sure, and I don’t think that it’s a massive deal really, but aye... I just want to see him play and succeed!

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Papa John’s Trophy Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Paul Fletcher says...

Two Up!

Credit to the keeper

Lee Burge secured the three points for us with the great save he made to deny Swindon an equaliser. It’s nice to be talking about a goalkeeper winning us points rather than costing us points. Overall, he didn’t have much to do in the game but what he had to do, he did well and without any drama. Hopefully the combination of a clean sheet, a match-winning save and a consistent centre back pairing in front of him will help Burge grow in confidence for the remainder of the season. We’ll need him at his very best if we’re going to secure an automatic spot.

O’Nien out of ten

Luke was my man of the match with yet another fantastic performance. Apart from one hairy moment early in the second half, he barely put a foot wrong all game. He won absolutely everything and didn’t give their forwards a sniff. He was composed in possession and distributed the ball intelligently. O’Nien also seems to have curbed his natural exuberance and as a result, he’s being caught out of position less often and he’s giving away fewer free kicks.

Sunderland v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Two Down!

Experience over youth

With Leadbitter injured and Power and O’Nien forced to play in the back four, it was a choice between Carl Winchester and Dan Neil to partner Josh Scowen in the middle of the park. With almost 300 senior appearances to his name, it’s easy to see why Lee Johnson chose to go with Winchester ahead of Neil. However, everything I’ve seen of the two so far suggests to me that Neil is the better option. Winchester was tidy enough on the ball on the few occasions he was in possession of it but the game largely passed him by. He didn’t show for the ball often enough and he seems to have a habit of taking twelve touches when a couple would do.

No rest for the competent

Charlie Wyke played every minute of the game as he has done in seven of our last eight games (only coming off once, in the 77th minute against Burton). Aiden McGeady started for the eighth game in a row, in five of which he’s played more than eighty minutes. Dion Sanderson has played the full ninety in five of the last six games, only getting a rest because he was cup-tied for the Papa John’s semi. Finally, his partner at centre back, Luke O’Nien, has played the full ninety in the last five games too. With so many games in such a short space of time, we don’t want to run these key players into the ground and risk them getting injured. However, with every game being huge, Lee Johnson can’t really afford to rest the players who are doing the business in attack and defence. So, I’d like to see us come out all guns blazing on Saturday and have Rochdale put to bed by half time. If we can go into the break 3-0 up, then Johnson can give Wyke and McGeady a well-deserved breather ahead of a massive week. He could also replace one of the centre backs and have a look at Ollie Younger to see if he’s ready to make the step up from the Under 23s.

Sunderland v Port Vale - Papa John’s Trophy Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Martin Wanless says...

Two Up!

Johnson’s tactical flexibility

Isn’t it nice to see a manager who can change and adapt tactics based on what he has at his disposal, and players who can adapt to the change effectively? On Tuesday we played football from the back, with a formation that was difficult to really pin down – sometimes we played with three at the back, sometimes four; and the shape around the midfield two and Wyke changed often as we looked for holes in the opposition defence. It’s an encouraging sign, and makes us more difficult to ‘work out’.

We won

Obvious one, but that was a must-win game as far as I was concerned. We’ve fell at similar hurdles this season – Wigan and Plymouth spring to mind – but we ground out the three points. It wasn’t exciting to watch, it wasn’t impressive, but it didn’t matter. And, results in the main went for us, too.

Sunderland v Swindon Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Two Down!

Now Conor McLaughlin’s injured

What sort of parallel universe have we entered in which we’re bemoaning the fact Conor McLaughlin’s injured? Add his name to the list that includes Bailey Wright, Jordan Willis, Arbi and Tom Flanagan, and we’re in some serious trouble at the back. Dion Sanderson’s really stepped up to the plate, and Luke O’Nien’s filled in admirably, but we need Wright or Flanagan back, quickly. If they’re not going to be ready for action this week, we need to give Younger a game on Saturday. We’ve got Portsmouth in midweek, and we can’t go into that without Sanderson.

Callum McFadzean

I know, he seems to be the whipping boy at present, but it’s entirely justified. This lad is a poor, poor player in a back four. He can’t defend, he was outmuscled with ease last night, and consequently our midfielders and centre backs are having to cover him as well as their own positions. McFadzean looked decent when he first came into the team, and he needs to up his levels considerably, otherwise the left side of our defence could be our downfall in the promotion race.

Sunderland v Swindon Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Joseph Tulip says...

Two Up!

Effort on show

This team is clearly fighting for the cause. Charlie Wyke is an example of a player who ran himself into the ground for Lee Johnson. While we struggled to get over the line with three vital points, it’s not for the lack of effort on the part of the players.

Tireless work in defence

Our makeshift defensive line followed up a difficult weekend with a clean sheet against Swindon. While we had a scare late on with a free-kick smashing the crossbar, the back-line worked tirelessly as a unit with Power, O’Nien and Sanderson all making worthy contributions. Even Mcfadzean, who endured a poor first half, made several crucial interceptions in the second period.

Sunderland v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Two Down!

Struggled to break them down

While we won, this was another game where we struggled to break down one of League One’s poorer sides. We lacked quality in midfield with too many sideways and back passes, and maybe Chris Maguire could be the man to add some creative flair in a central attacking midfield role?

Injury woes worsen

Another injury with Gooch going off. While we have strength in depth as a squad, I’ve never known a season where so many defenders, even those playing out of position, have been derailed. We need to get the likes of Tom Flanagan, who is hopefully not far from a return, back into the squad as soon as possible.


Kelvin Beattie says...

Two Up!

Subs made all the difference!

It was another ugly win, with Charlie Wyke back on the goal trail after a good header from an excellent Chris Maguire cross. Maguire definitely lifted the team when he came on - his delivery from set pieces is generally very good, and he put himself about in an effective manner. Maguire should have passed to Diamond on a breakaway late in the half, but took on the shot which was just about saved. We had three players breaking at pace in the dying embers of the game to get a second goal - this is definitely a team changing their ways!

Another clean sheet

Well played the back three and goalkeeper! Sanderson, Power and O’Nien all played effectively in defence and tried to support our attack whenever they could. Burge too had a couple of good moments, including one crucial save in the second half, when he was out quick and got a strong touch on a goalbound Swindon effort. Power was at right back/right centre half, like O’Nien, proving his versatility in an effective performance. This was summed up by a slip in our box which looked like it had let in the Swindon attacker, but Power managed to get himself up and in front of the dangerous looking cross, leading by example at a time when we were under a bit of pressure. The strong team ethic and effort is noticeable and enjoyable, given that the lack of this has been very obvious at times in the last five years.

Crewe Alexandra v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Chris Maguire
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Two Down!

Ooochy-Goochy...

The Gooch injury is yet another impact we could have done without. He has not played particularly well in the last couple of games, but most would agree he does not hide and keeps going regardless. He too offers some versatility in our attacking formations so hopefully not going to be out for too long.

First half display...

On a night when we were not under sustained pressure, the left-back position stood out as being targeted and not meeting the challenge. McFadzean has played worse, but his care of the ball and offensive passing was again wasteful. Defensively he struggled all game to deal with his man and maintain his positional play. It’s a puzzle that Johnson will have to solve, because better teams than Swindon will take full advantage.

Sunderland v Swindon Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Sunderland v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Sunderland v Port Vale - Papa John’s Trophy Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Sunderland v Swindon Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images
Sunderland v Swindon Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Sunderland v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League 1 Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images