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Sunderland v Oxford United - Sky Bet League One

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2 Up, 2 Down: The good, the bad and the law as Sunderland eventually dispatch Oxford United!

There’s plenty to discuss after our home victory over Oxford United on Good Friday - but which ones will our panel go for when we ask them for the positives and negatives?!

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Paul Fletcher says...

Two Up!

Lee Johnson knows what he’s doing

Either that or he’s in the middle of an extremely long lucky streak. All of the tough decisions he’s making, in terms of team selection and substitutions, are working out.

Before kick off, I thought the decision to play Gooch in O’Brien’s position was the wrong call. Then Gooch scored a crucial equaliser by making a run that O’Brien probably wouldn’t have made. On 77 minutes, I thought he was mad to take Jordan Jones off, with the score at 1-1. ‘Nobody else looks that likely to score or even create anything here’, I said to myself. Then Gooch set up McGeady for the second goal and Wyke set up Power for the third.

What was I worried about?

In conclusion, I haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about and Lee Johnson is a genius.

Improved decision making

As I‘ve just mentioned, Lee Johnson has been making some great decisions recently. Perhaps he’s made a conscious decision to pass on his decision-making skills to his players. How many times in the past few seasons have you found yourself tearing your hair out as you see players make the wrong decision and squander opportunities. Our last two goals yesterday perfectly exemplified this improved decision making. Lynden Gooch (too often squanderer-in-chief) got his head up and picked out McGeady with a perfectly weighted pass for our second. Then for our third, Charlie Wyke (not renowned for his incisive counter attacking skills) not only chose the right option but delivered the kind or perfectly weighted pass that Aiden McGeady would have been proud of.

Two Down!

A dreadful goal to concede

When you concede a goal that is down to an individual error, it’s somewhat easier to brush off, knowing that if the same mistake is avoided in future, the goal can be prevented. Oxford’s goal was a catalogue of errors. McGeady gave up possession too easily, McLaughlin dived in unnecessarily, Power forgot to unhook the caravan, Scowen didn’t really react, O’Nien reacted too late, probably due to the fact that he was expecting to see Callum McFadzean on his left, but our left back was nowhere to be seen. I’m worried that other teams will look at that goal and try to hit us on the counter attack. If they do, we’ll need to deal with it much more effectively.

We didn’t see Jack Diamond

I’m sure I’m not the only Sunderland supporter who was over the moon to hear that Jack Diamond has committed his long-term future to the club. I’d have loved to have seen him come on and mark the occasion with a goal. With Oxford down to ten men, the game stretched and gaps appearing in the final third, ready to be exploited, I thought the situation of the game was perfectly set up for a Jack Diamond cameo. However, Lee Johnson saw it differently and we won the game - so it really doesn’t matter.

(It’s great to be forced to clutch at straws in order to find two negatives to write about!)

Sunderland v Plymouth Argyle - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Michael Dunne says...

Two Up!

Return of Jones...

The return and form of Jordan Jones was a timely and extremely beneficial boost to the squad. Jones’ pace and directness is an asset that is unrivalled in this league and with the games coming up over the next few weeks, he could certainly be the difference.

His run and assist for our first goal was an incredible piece of skill. Hopefully there is more of this to come!

Gooch out wide...

I really enjoyed Lynden Gooch’s second half performance. Gooch had an extremely poor first half by his standards but when Lee Johnson shifted him to the full back role he excelled immediately.

Gooch was marauding up the wing like he had been playing there all his life. His crossing was much improved also and he had an integral role in the Aiden McGeady goal, and it was a pleasure to see Gooch play like this.

This is what he is capable of and this is what the fans expect of him. We know he has it in his locker but can he become more consistent?

Sunderland v Oxford - Sky Bet League One
Lynden Gooch brings Sunderland back on level terms against Oxford United on Good Friday
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Two Down!

Initial plan...

I thought Lee Johnson made a couple of mistakes in relation to the formation and some in game decisions. His decision to start Lynden Gooch in the ‘10’ role was probably the incorrect move.

Gooch is a better player with the space in front of him to run in to. He appeared to struggle with this and in turn, led to Charlie Wyke being completely isolated in the first half.

In addition, I had sympathy for Callum McFadzean yesterday as he was completely isolated one on one with Oxfords most dangerous player, Shodipo. Aiden McGeady offered very little support to the left back and I question whether this was more of a decision from our manager than anything else.

Whilst McFadzean ended up doing ok as the game was on, if Oxford were a little more clinical, we could have been in a far worse position at the break.

Born of frustration...

Karl Robinson. What an awfully annoying man. His excuses post match smelt of ‘small man syndrome’. He could have benefited from keeping his mouth shut. Hopefully this is the last time we will see him in the SOL.

Sunderland v Oxford - Sky Bet League One
Lee Johnson
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Gary Engel says...

Two Up!

Significance of maximum points...

A great home win, perfectly timed to keep up the pressure on the top two. Only ten minutes from time in all three matches; Hull, Peterborough and Sunderland were all level. However, at full-time it was a different matter.

Lee Johnson has played down the significance of one match, but matching Hull and Peterborough stride for stride - with the form we are in - until one of them slips up is very encouraging.

On-loan excellence...

The return of Jordan Jones and his positive influence on the team. He provided much more of a threat down the right that we have lacked in recent weeks.

Oxford were certainly concerned that on the occasions he had space to run into, their answer was to clatter him at every opportunity. Then, thanks to a moment of brilliance by Jones providing the gilt-edged chance for the equaliser, Gooch looked a different player in the second-half.

Sunderland v Oxford - Sky Bet League One
Lynden Gooch celebrates his equaliser with Jordan Jones after the on-loan winger provided the assist
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Two Down!

Leaving ourselves a lot to do...

By our own admission, after a reasonable first few minutes Oxford took control and we found it tough going to get a first-half foothold in proceedings.

Oxford took advantage and appeared to be heading into half-time with the lead. If Sunderland do that in any of our big upcoming matches we are likely to be punished without hope of such a recovery.

More support for Wyke...

Johnson may have already found his answer to this, but Wyke is lacking a partner and someone between midfield and attack to help retain the ball high up the pitch.

It was another frustrating first-half where Wyke had very little to feed on or opportunities to hold up play. If you watch him closely, he is twice the player he was before Johnson arrived, every little touch you can see he’s stepped up a level.

If we can just provide some more support he’ll be laughing again.

Sunderland v Oxford United - Sky Bet League One
Charlie Wyke
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Mark Wood says...

Two Up!

Attacking class...

It was great to see Jordan Jones back after his spell out of the side due to injury. He looked like a player who had been out for three to four weeks at first, as he looked to shake off the rust in the opening half an hour, but once he got going the quality started to show.

The way he cut past two Oxford defenders and held back playing the ball until he saw Gooch making his near post run was worth another look or three. Aside from what he brings to the side going forwards, he also got through a great deal of work helping out Conor McLaughin in defence.

I have said it before, but with both him and McGeady in the team we look like we have too much for anyone else in League One.

Digging deep...

Oxford came with a plan and looked like they pretty much fancied their chances. They gave us a game and in the opening exchanges were perhaps the better of the two sides.

Sunderland were asked questions and had to dig deep to turn this one around after going a goal down. The best teams find a way to beat the most difficult opponents in front of them and we did it again. Good signs to give us confidence against some difficult matches to come.

Sunderland v Oxford - Sky Bet League One
Sunderland players celebrate Aiden McGeady providing the lead against Oxford United
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Two Down!

The riddle of Lynden Gooch...

In a good win it's hard to pick out the negatives, but Chris Coleman said Lynden Gooch was more of a number ten when he first became manager, and then in the first few weeks of Lee Johnson’s reign he said he was more of a ‘nine and a half’ whatever that is - I’m assuming a more advanced number ten.

He has probably had more managers than games in that type of role. Lee Johnson started him in that role against Oxford and it's fair to say that he was poor in the first half, one shot from range looking like something I would have produced in the school playground all those years ago.

You have to also consider that Gooch has not really got going this season, but I had hoped for better. Still, he put away the all-important equaliser and when he was switched to right back in the second half it was his runs into the box which turned the game in our favour - to leave everyone somewhat puzzled.

Toys out of the pram...

As I mentioned above, Oxford came with a plan to be physical and upset Sunderland’s wide players from having an impact on the game. I am one that thinks any team is entitled to play the game whichever way they like as long as it is within the laws of the game, and it is up to the opponents to find a way to defeat them - and Sunderland did.

Oxford were making a number of what you might call ‘cynical challenges’ and due to some lenient refereeing were getting away with a fair amount of them until they had a man dismissed in the second half.

It is little wonder that there was an altercation in the tunnel at half-time, another one at full- time and Max Power gave it a full Martin Keown celebration in front of the Oxford bench.

Oxford manager Karl Robinson knew what he was doing when he sent his team out to play like that and saw them beaten fair and square. After he was dismissed himself to then call the Police for an alleged head-butt on his goalkeeper (which he didn’t see) just smacks of toys out of the pram in my opinion.

Sunderland v Oxford - Sky Bet League One
Mark Sykes is shown the red card at the Stadium of Light
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images


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