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Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship

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Two Up, Two Down: What are the big positives & negatives to take from Sunderland’s performance?

Despite the frustration of being unable to make the breakthrough, the Lads took a decent and well-earned point from Saturday’s game, so what were the positives and negatives?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Gav says...

Two up!

The quality of football from SAFC

Even though we didn’t get the win, I came away from it having felt properly entertained by the football that I had seen from Sunderland, and sometimes that’s enough.

There’s plenty to gripe about - and I’ll offer mine up in a hot second - but you have to remember that this is football, it’s not always your day, and even on the bad and indifferent days you must remember what the plan is, and what we’re trying to achieve.

The boys tried to play the right way against a proper anti-football team, and even though we couldn’t break them down, it was a joy to watch at times.

When you pay your ticket money you want to be entertained, and I think the fans in attendance would mostly agree that they were given value for money by Sunderland on Saturday.

Players are taking ownership

I’ve seen quite a few people moaning on about not having a striker on the pitch after the game, but I don’t think the lack of a forward was actually a huge issue.

Would we have scored one of those chances or put one of those crosses away with Ellis Simms or Ross Stewart on the pitch? We’ll never know. Cudda wudda shudda.

We had sixteen shots, but only two on goal. The problem wasn’t in the chances we created, but perhaps two-fold - we couldn’t stick them on target, and they defended brilliantly.

I think the defending from both teams was decisive in how the game ended. Each side guarded their goal like warriors, and a point was a fair result even if Preston didn’t necessarily come to go toe-to-toe with us.

I don’t see any point in complaining about strikers anymore, because it is what it is. The lads who did start had a proper go and looked a threat all day. If we play like that on Tuesday we’ll batter Blackpool, with or without a striker on the pitch.

Two down

Clarke’s reaction to being subbed

I thought Jack Clarke’s reaction to being taken off was childish.

He doesn’t have to agree with the decision, but to walk straight past his manager and the coaches was pathetic. Let’s hope he sees that back after he’s calmed down, apologises and learns from it, because it was daft.

Heart-in-mouth passing around the back needs to stop!

I love how comfortable we are with the ball, but I thought there were times during the game when we looked too comfortable, and it almost cost us on a couple of occasions.

I won’t name names but there were a handful of incidents that left me in a cold sweat - doing Cruyff turns inside your own box when under pressure and doing the other player only looks good when it comes off!

I don’t want people to think I’m discouraging our players from having freedom on the ball, but I’d like to think we’ll try and be smarter against the better sides who would have punished some of the play we saw inside our own box at times against Preston.

Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Rich Speight says…

Two up!

A confident performance from Luke O’Nien

It was nice to hear from the versatile fans’ favourite after the game that he was enjoying being part of a solid back four.

He played a couple of fantastic diagonals against Preston, and his adaptability is such a huge asset for this squad, especially in a system that requires ball-players at the back alongside Danny Batth the battering ram.

We are no pushovers

The Lads play as a team, they play for each other, and they play for the fans.

Even when things were not working in the final third against a side that hardly concedes, they stuck together and keep going to the end. When the new lads come in, they’re immediately integrated into the fold, and the contrast with the last time we played at this level becomes clearer every week.

Two down

Missed opportunities

We got into good positions against Preston but the finishing wasn’t there.

The other week, I wrote that it will be a long slog in this league without a striker, even if the other attacking talents can hold the fort. This game was much more akin to the kind of match we had last season, where breaking teams down who’d come to our place looking for a point often required a moment of quality from Nathan Broadhead or Ross Stewart.

We just don’t have that available now, and it will mean that we get a point rather than three on occasions, until either Ellis Simms or Stewart return.

Refereeing inconsistency

I don’t like having a go at referees, because they are the people who make games happen up and down the country every week, but at this level, all we ask for is a bit of consistency.

If Mr Woolmer had got his yellow card out earlier, as Preston repeatedly committed fouls, then we would have had more space - particularly on the break.

He eventually booked Lindsey but then he jumped on the next Sunderland foul to give Patrick Roberts the same punishment.

Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Jon Guy says...

Two up!

Hot Batth

Once again, Danny Batth went about his business brilliantly.

He’s becoming a real rock for the side and with Aji Alese, he looked assured when needed in order to blunt the Preston attack.

Some neat passing

We looked so good when we put a few passes together.

All of our players looked like they wanted the ball and we were positive with our passing. It was a pity that the quality occasionally dropped in the final third, but we were on the front foot throughout.

Two down

So many missed chances

We need Ross Stewart or Ellis Simms back.

The quality and chances were there, but we were crying out for an out-and-out striker to convert them, and it would also have asked a few different questions for the opposition defence.

We can only play with the players available to us, and you can’t question their efforts, but a specialist striker is a big miss at the moment.

Sub-par set pieces

Our set pieces weren’t as good as they have been in recent weeks, and delivery on the whole pretty poor.

Preston looked so dangerous from set pieces, and they might have had one or two goals from set pieces had it not been for some last ditch defending.

Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Toby Phipps says...

Two up!

Ace Alese

The former West Ham defender was solid at the back but also he also linked up really well with Jack Clarke down the left hand side.

He got into dangerous positions numerous times, whether this was in the box or providing a cross into the box.

Fearless substitutes

It was fantastic to see the young players giving it a real go from the bench.

Whether this was Jewison Bennette running at the defence or Abdoullah Ba’s confidence on the ball helping to progress plenty of attacks, it was really encouraging.

Two down

No focal point

I felt that Saturday was the first time we’ve really struggled without Ross Stewart or Ellis Simms.

There were several occasions where a player with a killer instinct could’ve made a difference, by getting into good positions and putting the finishing touch to some good attacking moves.

Lack of an outlet when passing out from the back

Similar to the first, we were short of a player with the ability to win the ball in the air up front which possibly could’ve allowed us to mix up our play a bit more and enables us to start attacks a different way, rather than just passing out from the back.

Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

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