Sunderland’s demolition job has been coming
What a performance - this was the sort of dismantling of the opposition you hope for before every game.
Huge credit must go to the players and coaching staff for the work that has clearly gone in during training to produce a performance that wouldn’t have looked out of place at a much higher level - I’ll leave you to decide just how good it was.
Sunderland have dominated teams, and have put games to bed before half time on numerous occasions in League One, but this was different. The style of play has remained the same in games that preceded this, with the only thing missing being goals.
Wigan away felt like a preamble - itself an utterly dominant performance which was superbly executed. However the movement and pace of the side meant that at times last night, Sunderland’s tactics were unreadable.
The Robins simply had no answer; in truth it’s hard to not feel a little sorry for them, watching from the stands it wasn’t always clear what the Lads were going to do next.
Broadhead & Stewart lay the foundations of a devastating partnership
Up until now, Sunderland’s forward line has been spearheaded by one man - The Loch Ness Drogba, the Highland Haaland himself, Ross Stewart.
The way in which he and Nathan Broadhead linked up was absolutely superb. Their understanding of each other’s movement meant that they operated in tandem across the front line. Often, either would drop deep allowing the other to overlap and stretch the Cheltenham defence - usually to devastating effect.
And what about the second and third goals? Broadhead’s no-touch assist almost defied belief - anyone who has followed Sunderland for more than five minutes knows things like that never come off. Later, his reverse pass to McGeady who provided it on a plate for Stewart, was almost too good.
It’s not often you watch goals for the assists, but that’s the case tonight, and for that reason Broadhead deserved to be man of the match.
The only thing missing was a goal. But that will come - and notice has been served on League One defences that there’s trouble ahead.
Evans the quiet controller shows his class
It’s a joy to watch a footballer operate in an ocean of calm while fireworks are going off around him. That’s how Corry Evans appears to me.
He’s not got the explosive pace of others in the side, or the all-action approach of Luke O’Nien, but his positioning and ability to mop up is superb.
You wonder if he could have been an astronaut in another life considering his ability to constantly find space. On numerous occasions, particularly in the first half, Evans received the ball with little pressure - and that’s no coincidence. The consequence being that he has time to pick a pass and exert midfield control.
In that sense, he was missed against Bolton, but tonight he really came good - and almost scored a cracker too.
Competition for places is red hot
Lee Johnson will be going to bed tonight with not so much a selection headache but a selection migraine - both for Portsmouth this Saturday, but the season beyond.
Too often managers bemoan players passing up opportunities to stake a claim in the first team - not this time.
Boy did the players who came in make a superb impression - Dajaku, Huggins, Evans, Broadhead - even Wright and O’Brien - have given Johnson something to think about.
But what of the likes of Eliot Embleton and Dan Neil? Objects as immovable as Mike Ashley from Newcastle United before the team was announced will now be worrying for their place in the side.
Perhaps it’s a shift to a rotation policy - LJ admits he is unsure of his best team - but really, that’s the beauty of having such incredible squad depth.
After all, it’s there to be used.