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Slow staff, sub-par sustenance and stodgy Sunderland: Reflecting on away defeat in Blackburn

“Tuesday’s away defeat was as annoyed as I’ve been at a Sunderland performance this season,” writes Mitch Marshall, who braved the cold to be at Ewood Park earlier in the week!

Not the real pie... but a pie nonetheless.

Imagine, if you can bear to, a “Potato and Meat” pie.

Costing £4, even Venky-run Blackburn Rovers lacked the audacity to call their half-time fare a meat and potato pie, such was the overwhelming ratio of piping hot potato to sludge which was meant to pass for the meat element.

Blackburn Rovers v Blackpool - The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Add to that delightful image a £5 pint served in a limp paper cup - presumably meant to be environmentally friendly, despite the apparent absence of recycling bins in which to dispose of them.

Yes, the catering at Ewood Park was almost as disappointing as Sunderland’s defeat in front of an at times unusually quite, if typically enormous, away following.

Maybe I am just being curmudgeonly, disappointed that a working day’s excitement had culminated in soggy pastry and a 2-0 defeat.

Nonetheless, the whole experience was deeply frustrating.

Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

Obviously much of the discussion since the game has revolved around the poor refereeing decisions which contributed to our defeat, and perhaps rightly so.

However, watching live, the fans’ frustrations were directed more at the team than the officiating for much of the game.

Like the aforementioned pie, there was a lot of stodge but little meaty end product on show from the Lads. If I watched Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts beat a man once, I saw them do it ten times. And yet, for that, I can only remember Blackburn’s goalkeeper making one save of particular note. It may have been pretty stodge at times, prettier than my anaemic pie for sure, but stodge it was all the same.

We may technically have had one more shot on target than Rovers, but I thought they actually looked more dangerous than us, despite our territorial dominance at times. After passing the ball sideways in their half for what felt like an eternity, two or three passes was often all that was required from them to break us down and create a half chance. We exposed ourselves to risk without creating much chance of a reward.

From that point of view at least, Blackburn were deserved winners. They implemented their game plan more effectively than we did, amply helped by having two physical attackers (oh what we’d give for that at the moment…)

Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Lewis Storey/Getty Images

I also think we didn’t help ourselves tactically in some aspects. Moving Jack Clarke out wide and playing Jewison Bennette centrally in the latter stages of the game was unproductive.

Meanwhile, Patrick Roberts is getting figured out by opponents too often when playing wide right. He obviously wants to cut inside onto his left foot every single time he gets the ball. When successful, it can be very effective, but all too often opposition defences will just line men up centrally and make it impossible to get a decent effort away. I wonder if he could do with a spell on the other flank, or at least being more strongly encouraged to go onto his weaker right foot sometimes.

For all this doom and gloom, though, the Championship always gives you quick chances to turn things around, and I am still confident we can get something from our home game with Burnley on Saturday.

That they’ve had so many draws suggests they may lack a cutting edge in a similar way to us at the moment. Vincent Kompany has also changed their style of play, and I think they’ll let us play our own game more than Blackburn did. As the second half against Wigan showed, we can then cause teams massive problems.

And if they do resort to their old bully boy tactics, hopefully a referee stronger than Craig Pawson will put their foot down on it early doors.

Burnley v Swansea City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Rich Linley - CameraSport via Getty Images

With a vociferous home support behind them, the Lads can build on the things they did well on Tuesday night.

They never gave up the fight, and as the statistics show, were very neat in possession against a massed defence.

All that makes me pretty confident, now that I’ve started forgetting the all round disappointment I felt in midweek. I’ve even almost forgiven Blackburn for having about three turnstiles open for over three thousand away fans, leading me to miss kick off.

And, if all else fails at the weekend, at least I should be able to get a steak pie with some real meat in.


Pause for thought


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