Joseph Tulip says...
The players are clearly enjoying it. Despite Covid and injuries stretching the squad to the point of recalling loanees, our overworked players are enjoying their football, especially going forward, with increasing telepathy among creative individuals.
How good can Ross Stewart become? The big man was always appreciated for his all-round game, even last season when he was Charlie Wyke’s deputy. But Stewart is really looking like the real deal now, following up a ‘perfect’ hat-trick with two more goals and very nearly another trio. It’s one thing scoring headers and neatly finishing lower crosses, but look at Stewart’s burst of energy and determination to take our third goal, racing onto a delightful through ball and finishing with aplomb. Stewart is getting better by the week right now, and that is bad news for League One defences.
Defensive difficulties. During our time in League One we have struggled against sides like Wycombe due to their direct, physical style and threat from set pieces. There were times on Saturday when we let a high ball bounce, either without challenging them or by failing to get anything on them. Tom Flanagan let two or three get away from him. We need to cut these balls out and deal with the aerial threat better. Ross Stewart’s height helped us to defend several corners, but perhaps we need another tall player who can cope physically as well as aerially against sides prepared to foul, obstruct and con the referee.
Bare bones are visible. The bench really showed how thin our squad is, but I’m turning this into a positive. It was great to see Jack Diamond get a run out and he may well become a key squad member in the run in. We all know about Jack’s ability and he can cause problems for sides when called upon. Anthony Patterson did well and I do think he was pinned for their second goal, unable to move his left arm. Of course, we missed the increasingly accomplished HoffmanN, but Patterson will learn quickly and until others return at least, is a key player who needs our backing.
Mark Wood says...
What a game for the neutrals they will say, but even for fans of both teams, this was top entertainment. End to end throughout, Wycombe were the better team in the first half and we can think ourselves maybe fortunate to be going in level at half time, but we were easily the best side in the second half. Particularly just after the break, we created chance after chance to have taken the game out of sight, and when Ross Stewart finally made it 3-2 late on we looked to have taken all three points against a team who had given us a real game. All credit to Wycombe for not throwing in the towel at that point.
Consistency! Following in a similar vein, from our attacking players there were a number of stand out performers who are hitting a consistency in strong performances game after game, and that has to give everyone confidence for the rest of the season. Alex Pritchard again showed he is a cut above in League One and Ross Stewart was not just amongst the goals, but led the line well, holding the ball up and bringing his teammates into play. Elliot Embleton had another good game, and was unlucky not to score a worldy. He hasn’t had much luck with the woodwork in recent weeks, but if he keeps hitting them surely it's only a matter a time before one or two start going in.
Two points dropped? Before the game with the number of faces we lost due to covid then I would have probably been happy with a point against Wycombe away, one of our main promotion rivals. The reaction of the two sets of players at the final whistle was the best indication as to how the game actually unfolded. Wycombe celebrating at salvaging a point, Sunderland hands-on heads at the late equaliser from their opponents. And we had made more than enough clear-cut chances to win the game in the second half. With Pritchard in particular carving open the opposition and crafting openings, it was a shame we couldn't put them away and take the game away from Wycombe.
Not really a down, more of a point for discussion. Patterson came in with Hoffmann and Burge out and overall had a decent game and made some good saves, keeping us in the game when Wycombe put the pressure on. Would their second goal have stood in the Premier League? I don’t think so. In my opinion, the ref and linesman have the benefit of the doubt because I don’t think either had a clear line of sight, but VAR would take a dim view of the keeper being held and pushed over the line. That said, would a Premier League keeper have done something different? Gone down as soon as he was held to get the foul? Would a keeper more dominant in his six-yard box have made the ball his for that and also maybe the third goal? For the second, definitely, you would not see a goal scored when the ball dropped that close to the goalmouth at the top level. It's more one for debate rather than a gripe - after all, we are in League One and don’t have VAR or Premier League players.
Andrew Smithson says...
The Lads are lethal! It was a kick in the teeth to concede late on but we can still take plenty of positives from the game, namely how good we are going forward. We’ve scored three quality goals away from home and looked capable of creating even more. Every time we get the ball we seem full of belief, and that hasn’t always been the case at this level. The unbeaten league run is now into double figures I think, and defences will not fancy going up against us at the moment.
Striking a balance. If you look at things objectively and take away the frustration of how it ended, we probably got the balance right in the second half. Wycombe Wanderers away is one of the hardest games in this division, and yet after the break, we’ve not only quietened them down but we’ve managed to do a bit ourselves. This is despite the upheaval beforehand and uncertainty of who would be available, and when you finish a match against a rival side disappointed with just a point it suggests you are heading in the right direction - particularly when you think how far we were off it the last time we played one of the leaders on the road.
2 points dropped? After seeing the stats about how often we score early on, and how rarely we lose points after going ahead, I am still a bit gutted that Sunderland couldn’t ensure the win. In the first half I would have liked to see use exert a bit more control and to have kept possession more, and whilst I thought that in the main we defended resolutely the nature of the goals we did concede was frustrating (even if their second was highly dubious). I do feel that in the long run we will still look back on this as a decent point, but it is hard not to look at the table right now and think ‘if only’.
Player availability. The priority is that Corry Evans is okay and that his injury turns out to be better than it looked. From a football point of view though, we are getting hammered with injuries and illness right now and are doing well not to let it catch up with us too much yet. Any deals we are looking to do this month become that little bit harder when selling clubs know we are short on bodies, and given the model and tactics, the club is trying to implement having the few physical players we do have like Bailey Wright being out really hurts us. I cannot fault the players we do have available when they fill in and have to undertake roles that perhaps don't best suit them, but it is undeniable that we’ve had a lot of bad luck on the fitness front.
Michael Dunne says...
Our attacking play at times today was just a joy to watch. It would really make you feel proud to be a Sunderland fan watching this team play. They had some really intricate plays throughout and were attacking from all angles. This is such an exciting team and Lee Johnson has them playing in such a positive manner. At times, it was like all-out attack when you saw the likes of Tom Flanagan, Denis Cirkin and Carl Winchester consistently bringing the ball out of the box and ending up in the opposition box time after time. In addition to this, it would be wrong of me to forget some of the passes Alex Pritchard played. He is the perfect orchestrator of this team. I say it every week on this, but he should not be in this league and we hands down have the best player in him in the division. A word too for Elliot Embleton, who has stormed right back into form and is certainly benefiting from a consistent run in the team.
Ross Stewart had a quiet run-up to Christmas. He just seemed to be a little off. His poor performances were somewhat diluted with the rich vein of form Nathan Broadhead had displayed but he has certainly bounced back. His return to form over Christmas was the best present Lee Johnson could have asked for especially with the Broadhead news. His performance was outstanding. Stewart didn’t give the Wycombe defence a minute peace. He was very unfortunate that the first goal was not given to him. However, the second and their goals were just perfect examples of a striker who was ravenous for goals. He displayed such determination for both the second and third goals to ensure he was in the right position just to get a foot on the ball to score. He is well on his way to matching Charlie Wykes record from last season while also offering far more to the team.
The defence was shaky. Sunderland continued to struggle with the physicality that Wycombe always bring to a game. Time after time, the lads lost the first and second balls. They lost most key battles at the back and I thought our goalkeeper and back four were bullied throughout. Don’t get me wrong, Wycombe are a tough team and they will bully most. However, I expected better from our lads, especially with the last-minute goal.
Corry Evans’ injury is just another unfortunate moment in an injury blighted season for the Northern Irishman. The incident looked sore and one can only hope that he didn’t or isn’t suffering too much. I am convinced if he can get a run of games in the team, he would be an asset to us. Unfortunately, he has just not had the rub of the green thus far this season.