Phil West says...
Dennis Cirkin is emerging as a genuinely brilliant player for us. Defensively, he’s growing into a real presence at the back, and as we saw against Bolton, he’s adding some real potency going forward as well. His run and pass for Winchester’s goal was excellent, and it’s a real shame that concussion might force him out of the next couple of games, because when fit, he’s one of the first names on the teamsheet right now.
Thorben Hoffmann is really settling into his role as our first-choice goalkeeper. He seems to be growing in confidence and he played superbly against Bolton. This position, for so long an area of weakness for us, has now been filled with a player of real talent, and he’ll become a real fan-favourite this season, I’m sure!
Our midfield didn’t quite function as well as it has done previously. Dan Neil and Luke O’Nien couldn’t really influence the game to as great an extent as they would’ve liked, due in no small part to Bolton putting us under intense pressure in the middle of the park. They’d clearly done their homework on us, and it was to their credit that we didn’t get much joy in that area. Fortunately, it didn’t cost us the game, but it was a definite reminder that midfield play in League One matches can be fraught with danger if the opposition get their tactics right.
This was another edgy victory and another game in which we often looked a little bit slack, particularly when trying to pass the ball out from the back. There’s a time and place to be elaborate, and there’s a time to put your laces through the ball and clear the danger. Against Bolton, we often tried to be too clever for our own good, and on another day, that might’ve cost us. I’m sure that’s something that we’ll look to address in the upcoming matches, however, and I don’t think it’s a colossal concern. At this stage, navigating these tricky early-season games is crucial, and having plenty of room for improvement is no bad thing.
Rich Speight says...
We’re able to win when not at our best. It’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason - sides that win this kind of tight encounter when under pressure, and against a team that looked pretty decent in comparison, go on to win things. Sunderland have lots of room for improvement, we’re clearly not yet on top form or in top gear - so picking up three points at home is crucial.
Tom Flanagan’s return. The Northern Ireland international is rapidly becoming the linchpin in our defence and it was nice to see him back. Calm and assured, mature and reliable, and with none of the errors that have littered his career at the club over the last few years, Flanagan is now our leader at the back. I remember a while back an MK Dons fan telling the Roker Rapport Podcast that Flanagan was seen as a Rolls Royce of a player on the training ground when coming through their ranks - we couldn’t quite believe it then, but we’re starting to believe it now.
Missed opportunities. I seem to be saying the same thing every week, but we have to start covering more of the guilt-edged chances that we’re creating. It’s the flip-side of the room for improvement that’s clearly there, but we could have scored three or four on Saturday, had we been more clinical. I’d like to see Broadhead, who’s renowned as a natural finisher, given more minutes on Tuesday - he’s got goals in him that lad.
Mindless hooligans. Whilst it’s clearly a minority of a minority, and no reflection on Bolton supporters overall, stories of coins being thrown down at Sunderland fans from the travelling Wanderers supporters are really worrying. It’s not the first time that missiles have rained down from the top tier of the North Stand, and this is a problem that the club really needs to resolve before someone is seriously injured.
Kelvin Beattie says...
We continued our unbeaten run at home albeit in unconvincing style at times on Saturday. Cliched as it may be, wins do breed confidence, and this squad are beginning to look like they fancy the job. Playing badly (as we did at times on Saturday) and still winning is the sign of an upwardly mobile team. It was great to see the two full-backs involved in the goal - it reminded me of the days of Bolton and Henderson, charging down either flank from their full-back positions to terrorise opposition defences.
The togetherness that is building in this team is becoming more and more noticeable. The almost unanimous delight on the faces of the players when the final whistle went was a very welcome sight. They appear to the spectator's eye to be playing for and supporting each other in a very effective way. It is a credit to Lee Johnson and his team that this has been achieved in such a relatively short period of time. It’s stating the obvious, but we’ve not always been able to see that trophy-winning togetherness out on our grass.
Bolton were tough opposition and, for large parts of the game, nullified our creativeness. They pressed cleverly and robustly set about their business, knocking some of our more creative players out of their stride. I am pretty sure this will happen again this season, so hopefully Lee Johnson and his team can come up with a timeous answer - one that does not raise my stress levels any higher than they were for that last 7 minutes!
I am still a bit perplexed by Aiden McGeady’s form. Whilst he was marginally better on Saturday, he is still not back to his elusive best. He is an important cog in LJ’s squad, but can he justify his place in the team on current performances?