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Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One

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Just one of those nights, or did Lincoln exploit Sunderland’s chronic lack of physicality?

Was the Lincoln defeat just one of those nights, or do Sunderland have a real issue when facing the more physical sides?

Photo by Will Matthews/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Mike Dunne says...

Our team by its nature is not an overly physical side. Our style is completely different to this and in the main, it has worked. I think there are many things that have to be taken into consideration when judging the outcome of the Lincoln result.

Firstly, the team simply underperformed. They were flat from start to finish and it just seemed that they were out on their feet after their exploits on Saturday. The Wycombe match was non-stop from start to finish, and with very little changes in the team, it’s no surprise that the Lads struggled.

Furthermore, the pitch was certainly a leveller. It is hard to fathom what was the reasoning for basically waterlogging our own pitch but it caused more harm than good.

I think a bigger issue for the team is a failure to adapt and maybe lacking a plan B.

Sunderland tend to stick to their style throughout. They can appear rigid when things aren’t going well and that tactical flexibility seems to be lacking - that said, it’s difficult to be too harsh on Lee Johnson when he’s struggling to just get a decent starting XI on the pitch.

I wouldn’t be too worried about Sunderland’s physicality (or lack of it) - there’s more than one way to play football. The bigger issue is leadership and I think Sunderland lacked leaders at times on Tuesday. The younger players need guidance, and it was certainly not there when things went against us.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Gary Engel says...

On Tuesday night, Sunderland took some large steps back, as though the previous ten game unbeaten run didn’t happen. Anything that could bite us in the balls very much did!

It is well-known by the supporters and other teams we don’t have the same physicality that much of this division rely upon. Instead, we are the best passing side in the division, and arguably one of the slickest attacking sides in the league. That wasn’t apparent in the most part against Lincoln, but for some good reasons.

The pitch was terrible, which is a real shame considering it was area we hoped to improve. But also we lacked two key ingredients that made our unbeaten run possible. Our captain Corry Evans was missing, and he’s clearly been a calming influence on the side, providing good cover for our backline.

The other thing which was so obviously apparent in the second-half was how wide-open and stretched our defence was. We need to put three at the back once again - it’s no good being a smart attacking unit if when we fail to score, we are picked apart at will.

Often, our defeats have turned into a downturn in form.

However, we understand what works for us and how good we can be - we just need to do the things we did against Sheffield Wednesday and then keep it going.

Sunderland v Lincoln City - Sky Bet League One Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says...

As others have touched on, the pitch was awful. When you’ve just turned in a great advert for League One footy in a six-goal thriller away from home a few days ago, trying to follow that up on a muddy field isn’t easy.

We can get players back from Covid and from injury, some in days and others in weeks, but getting the pitch to the standard we need is a bigger challenge.

Groundstaff - it’s time to earn your keep.

Aside from the pitch, another major factor for me was fatigue. Our squad is so depleted that I’m pretty sure we could have called off Tuesday after losing Evans at the weekend. We opted to play on, and the combination of the surface and the proximity of games showed in our legs and our heads.

That said, Lincoln only named four subs due to being similarly short, and they managed an away win, so that struggles to carry a lot of water under scrutiny.

The last aspect of the game that affected the result for me were the tactics used. Lincoln’s approach to the game stopped us playing just as much as the pitch and the tiredness did.

We have to acknowledge that at times people like Appleton who know this league well will set up better than us, and with such a depleted squad, the options to change are very restricted. We did ourselves no favours going down to ten men, and that adds to future issues given Winchester will be suspended, but you can’t get the tactics right every time, so that played a part for me.

We will face a good few more physical sides across the rest of the season, and teams may well opt to play more that way if we let that become an ongoing flaw.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

We still have one eye on the automatics, so let’s not allow that to wander.

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