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Sunderland v Ipswich Town - Sky Bet League One

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2 Up, 2 Down: What were the highs and lows after another win for Sunderland?

The good, the bad, and the ugly side of Sunderland AFC was on show at the Stadium of Light on Saturday. What can lessons can we learn from the win against AFC Wimbledon?

The flags were out again at the Stadium of Light this weekend
| Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Kelvin Beattie says...

TWO UP!

With plenty of effort on show from our team, it was good to see Winniesta’ cap a good performance with a well-deserved goal. He has barely put a foot wrong since the start of the season in a quietly effective way. Against an undefeated Dons he let us all know he might take some shifting from this team. His performances at right-back have reminded me of big Joe Hinnigan in his pomp (minus the crunching tackles that are being officiated out of the game). I like his willingness to get forward and past the last defender and believe he makes some well-judged runs that could see him given the ball a little more often. He usually uses the ball fairly well and I cannot recall him being caught out of position or done for pace yesterday. Man of the match for Winniesta!

Dan Neil at left-back had another effective game, combining good use of the ball with well-judged runs into the box, he also might have had a goal, if he had buried a header at the far post in the first half, having been exquisitely picked out by McGeady. His stock rises game by game as his confidence grows.

Sunderland v Wigan Athletic - Sky Bet League One
An absolute revelation...
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

TWO DOWN!

I found this game quite frustrating to watch. There was no lack of effort, but with Gooch on one of his less effective days, Pritchard still working himself into effective nick and McGeady clearly “not right”, we struggled to impose ourselves in the manner that we did against Burton last Tuesday night. I was particularly concerned about McGeady, he does not look right to me and if this is his injury from last season impacting, a different plan may be required with him.

I am not a great fan of LJ’s last 10 minute, “hold what we have” strategy, with 9 points in the bag it may be churlish to raise this, but it just appears to send the wrong signal to the opposition and if Patterson had not made a smart save from a downward header, this strategy could have backfired against Wimbledon.

I hope not to spend the season complaining about officials, but the referee is worthy of mention for all the wrong reasons! From his grand dramatic gestures with his spray, to some very petty bookings and a number of wrong decisions his officiating added to the frustration. I really like officials who seem almost invisible, you hardly see them or hear their whistle. Yesterday’s referee seemed determined to get in on the action right from this first whistle. I gave him a very generous 2/10 on my match ratings.

A pleasing result as we anticipate the arrival of Wycombe next Saturday, as well as an attractive looking trip to Blackpool on Tuesday night. An honourable mention to Flano’, not my favourite player, but defensively he put another good shift in to add to his season so far.

Burton Albion v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Is Johnson too cautious in the closing stages of games and inviting the opposition on?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Michael Dunne says...

TWO UP!

The performances of our younger stars was something that impressed me immensely. The likes of Dan Neil, Elliott Embelton, Callum Doyle and our debutant goalkeeper Anthony Patterson was fantastic to see. These players are breath of fresh air and have injected some enthusiasm and exuberance into our team. Long may their high performances continue.

The resurgence of Tom Flanagan is something that I was probably not expecting to see but he really has come into this season in fine fettle. He appears to be playing with newfound confidence and I wouldn’t be surprised if Lee Johnson has actually spent time on him individually. Whatever it is, it is working.

Portsmouth v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One
Flano is a different player this season
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

TWO DOWN!

Aiden McGeady was poor yesterday. Any player can have a poor game but he just appeared to be off the pace a little. The Irishman was making very unexpected errors from a player of his calibre. I am sure it is only a blip and I fully expect to see him back to his best very soon.

The Luke O Nien dilemma continues for me. I have yet to be fully convinced that O Nien is a centre midfielder for us. Yesterday, it can be argued that our best midfielder was playing at right-back and possibly our best right-back was in midfield. Carl Winchester appears to have most things in his game to play as our midfielder. His calmness on the ball, his distribution, his natural physique and also his ability to score a goal leads him to be the obvious option in the centre of the park for us. O’Nien lacks the technical ability that Winchester has and I do think he struggled to dominate proceedings at times on Saturday. I just wonder if we would be better off swapping Winchester and O’Nien.


Rich Speight says...

TWO UP!

The best is yet to come. I got the feeling watching the performance against AFC Wimbledon that Lee Johnson’s Sunderland can go up another couple of gears in the weeks and months to come. Yes, we will have sterner tests in upcoming fixtures - our next two league games are against sides relegated from the Championship last year in Wycombe and Sheffield Wednesday - but so far we’re playing a much-improved brand of football that’s both entertaining and pleasing on the eye. As the likes of Alex Pritchard and Nathan Broadhead get closer to full fitness, and with a couple of signings still to come in, there’s every chance we’ll start to turn the great play into more goals.

The versatility of our squad is just so satisfying to watch. On Saturday we saw Elliot Embleton drop into a central midfield role to fill the gap left by Dan Neil, who slotted back into left-back. With Winchester shining at right-back, and even Ross Stewart and Nathan Broadhead alternating between wide and central attacking roles in the last 20 minutes, I believe we are witnessing a mini-revolution in the way we think of the footballers on our books (albeit one that also has me recalling how Gordon Armstrong, Gary Owers and Brian Atkinson would take up a range of midfield roles in the early 1990s). Square pegs in round holes? I like to think it's more that we’re increasingly a squad full of Swiss Army knives ready to take on any job that presents itself.

Football. 1992 FA Cup Final. Wembley. 9th May, 1992. Liverpool 2 v Sunderland 0. Liverpool’s Steve McManaman is challenged for the ball by Sunderland’s Gary Owers.
Gary Owers played fullback at Wembley in 1992
Photo by Bob Thomas Sports Photography via Getty Images

TWO DOWN!

A lack of ruthlessness in finishing the golden opportunities we’re creating for ourselves. Sunderland’s XG rating has lept through the roof this season as a result of the new philosophy and general improvement in quality across the park, but we’re not putting games to bed and risking allowing the opposition the chance to perform smash-and-grab raids when we really should be home and dry with 15 minutes left to play. Gooch and Pritchard were guilty of wasting gilt-edged chances on Saturday but, as I said above, the best is certainly yet to come and the fact we’ve got 2.25 points per game with just under a tenth of the season gone is certainly comforting.

The booing of players taking a knee before kick-off is an embarrassment. We all heard it, whether we were in the ground or following from afar. I’ll have much more to say on this matter in an article later in the week, but for now, suffice to say that the minority who continue to do so are showing a level of disrespect to those professionals who chose to make this quiet and simple anti-racist gesture that brings shame on our club and our city. Perhaps it’s time we were a little less tolerant of intolerance.

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Hendo knows...
Photo by MICHAEL REGAN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

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