Coming into a home double header against Preston and Blackpool, I didn’t think I’d be here writing on the back of two 0-0 draws.
Granted, Sunderland had already drawn some blanks before this season, notably against local rivals Middlesbrough.
But in games against Reading and Watford, Sunderland had proven that a lack of out-and-out strikers need not lead to attacking impotence.
As such, not to score a goal in over 180 minutes of home football against two mid-table sides is pretty frustrating. We made chances again against Blackpool, but like against Preston on Saturday there was all too often nobody anywhere near getting on the end of it.
The fact that Aji Alese was once more arguably the closest Sunderland player to making a breakthrough is damning of our actual apparent strikers’ failure to take their chance in the starting eleven - Amad, I’m looking at you!
Hopefully though, the chance to play away from the Stadium of Light, without the pressure of taking the game to the opposition, will let the lads find their attacking flair once again.
A tale of two halves
At half time, it felt like there would only be, could only be, one winner in this game.
Sunderland had caused Blackpool numerous problems in the first half, pushed them onto the back foot and forced them into committing cynical tactical fouls while slowing the game down with time-wasting antics.
Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts were cutting up Blackpool’s defence from either wing and, without a definitive end product, threatening the opposition goal in a way which pointed to a breakthrough sooner or later. I have already criticised Amad Diallo, who fluffed his lines once or twice, but he too looked like he might provide a vital goal sooner or later with a flash of inspiration.
Blackpool came out energised in the second half though. In all honesty, we were lucky to get away with a clean sheet after 90 minutes.
The Tangerines’ wingers took their turn to twist our defence inside out, while they also looked a set-piece threat against our relatively short squad much like Preston did on Saturday. Thankfully, Anthony Patterson was up to the task once again despite the increasingly slippery conditions.
Alex Neil’s Sunderland side seemed troubled by fading performances in the second half of games. Let’s hope that isn’t creeping back in now, because if it is we will eventually be punished with defeat.
No Plan B
The obvious preface to this point is that we are missing our two senior centre forwards.
That said, the same substitutions which have previously enlivened the side in other games failed to have the same effect today.
Jewison Bennette, Abdoullah Ba, Leon Dajaku and Edouard Michut all came on in the second half against Blackpool. Unlike against Reading and Watford, and to a lesser extent Preston, they failed to really make a positive impression in their latest outing.
This isn’t an indictment from me of the individuals themselves - they’re all very new to English football at this level and have shown admirable determination. It also isn’t their fault that their pace and close ball skills are almost too similar to those of the players they tend to replace like Alex Pritchard and Jack Clarke.
Nonetheless, Tony Mowbray will have to try and find a way to get the maximum creativity and attacking ruthlessness out of these youngsters until the World Cup break so that Sunderland can keep up the momentum they built up through such hard work at the beginning of the season.
The lads deserve much credit for their resilience in the absence of Ross Stewart and Ellis Simms. When under the cosh against Blackpool, they did well to at least stay solid.
Now, they need to build on this solidity to find a way to pick up wins without their two star strikers.