Are Sunderland now paying the price for having too many defensive injuries?
Sunderland played well for large spells against Hull and very nearly snatched all three points when Aiden O’Brien crashed a header against the bar in stoppage time.
Having said that, what was crystal clear for Sunderland fans watching was just how vulnerable Lee Johnson’s team were defensively.
Callum McFadzean was endlessly dribbled past by Hull’s Mallik Wilks, whilst a once dependable Bailey Wright was bullied by Josh Magennis and frequently gave the ball away.
The two Hull goals were very similar, McFadzean was skipped past too easy and Wright was beaten too easily.
If it was not for some excellent saves from Lee Burge, Sunderland very easily could have been looking at a fourth consecutive loss.
Following the recent injuries to Dion Sanderson and Conor McLaughlin, it now feels as though Sunderland defensive injury crisis is proving too severe to cope with.
Yesterday Sunderland had a central midfielder playing right-back, a converted right-back playing centre-back, an evidently rushed back from injury player at centre-back, as well as a wing-back who simply struggles with one-vs-one defending.
Without the above-mentioned Sanderson and McLaughlin, plus Jordan Willis, Tom Flanagan, and Arby Xhemajli, Sunderland are left with very few options.
It is incredibly worrying going into a potential playoff campaign with a defence who are conceding soft goals and cannot seem to handle aerial duels.
Denver Hume starting on Saturday against Accrington would be a welcome change for a start, but that seems to be the only card the manager has to play.
An improved midfield? Did Sunderland benefit from having an added body in midfield?
A key change for Sunderland yesterday saw Aiden O’Brien drop of the starting eleven, which allowed Lee Johnson to play a midfield three of Grant Leadbitter, Carl Winchester, and Josh Scowen.
Leadbitter once again proved that he thrives in a deep midfield role, which allows him to sit in space and distribute the ball around the pitch.
Winchester endured a quieter night, but Josh Scowen displayed excellent energy with his forward pressing and overall Sunderland’s midfield seemed more compact.
The team enjoyed 60% possession during the match and Johnson’s midfield will likely be frustrated by some of the individual errors defensively.
On the wings, Lynden Gooch put in a fantastic display, setting up both of Sunderland’s goals.
The American put in a fantastic sliding tackle, before excellently whipping the ball in for Jordan Jones to volley home early on.
He also won a penalty and looked dangerous in one-vs-one scenarios, it was great to see him put in a great display which almost made you forget that Aiden McGeady was ruled out injured.
Throughout the match, Sunderland’s midfield looked a real positive and many will feel that Johnson’s team should have left the KCOM Stadium with all three points.
The only disappointing factor going forward was that few chances were created for out-of-form striker Charlie Wyke, who once again struggled to obtain clear-cut chances.
Automatic promotion is dead and buried, but our final four games are crucial!
Failing to win any of their last five League One fixtures has planted a firm nail into Sunderland’s automatic promotion hopes, but our last four matches are still integral to our season.
First and foremost, Sunderland need to ensure they qualify for the playoffs.
That may sound over the top to some, but considering we have won just two points in five matches, we need to ensure our streak without a win concludes on Saturday against Accrington.
The playoffs are a complete lottery and often it is the teams on form who manage to achieve promotion, rather than the best team.
Sunderland need to ensure they end the season with the players high on confidence and optimistic that their season is not over.
The last thing any club in the playoffs wants to do is end the season on a negative so that they are beginning a two-legged affair on the back foot.
Sunderland fans seen first-hand under Jack Ross what ending the season poorly can do for a playoff campaign.
Lee Johnson and the team should be aiming to win all of our final four matches to try and finish third, it would massively help breed the confidence and the belief that Sunderland could still achieve promotion back to the Championship.