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Sunderland v Blackpool - Sky Bet Championship

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Hot Takes! Another home stalemate, but Sunderland are looking at home in the Championship

Tuesday night’s game against Blackpool was a tale of frustration - but Sunderland’s season is still on an encouraging trajectory, despite two home blanks in a row

Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Two crucial points dropped?

Frustration at our inability to make the goalscoring breakthrough?

A baptism of fire for some of Sunderland’s young recruits, or simply another one of those games that, twenty years ago, we’d have shrugged off with no drama and geared ourselves up for the next one?

Tuesday night’s game probably contained a little bit of everything. The post-match refrain was familiar: strikers, and our lack of them.

Whether Kristjaan Speakman finds himself in the firing line for every blank we draw this season - either for his decision to lower the average age of the squad so radically or for his failure to lure a mystical third striker to Wearside - only time will tell, but the reality of the situation is probably somewhere in the middle.

The ‘false nine’ experiment had yielded five goals in two games against Reading and Watford, but on Saturday and last night, it didn’t bring the same level of success in the face of Blackpool’s compact formation and attempts to slow the game down and drag us into a war of attrition.

It was not a matter of Sunderland failing to create chances, because across the ninety minutes we carved out a hatful.

When Ross Stewart and Ellis Simms make their comebacks, it should provide us with the cutting edge that we lacked in the last two games.

Sunderland v Blackpool - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

During the first half, we constructed some neat passages of play through the likes of Alex Pritchard and Patrick Roberts - and had it not been for the crossbar, as well as some excellent saves from Chris Maxwell, things would’ve looked altogether more positive.

As the rain began to sweep into the Stadium of Light midway through the second half of this League One throwback, the nerves were jangling and control of the game was slipping away from the Lads.

Blackpool, generally insipid in the first half, started to hit us with some pace from out wide - and from worrying about how we were going to win the game, all focus suddenly switched to ensuring that we didn’t lose it.

Midway through the second half, Elliot Embleton did actually have the ball in the net, only to be denied by a ludicrous call from referee Jeremy Simpson to pull the play back for a foul on Roberts.

New league, same incompetent referees.

In the end, perhaps 0-0 was a fair result.

The visitors edged the second half and we had the better of the first, but overall it did feel like something of a missed opportunity to back up a solid point against Preston with what would’ve been a welcome home victory in front of a sterling midweek crowd.

As for Sunderland's youngsters? Some flashes of promise but also some areas for improvement.

Amad Diallo’s first start in red and white was very much a mixed bag.

He showed some neat touches and made some promising runs, but one particular chance in the first half, when he hesitated instead of shooting, summed up his evening - he isn't quite there yet, and perhaps that was the sign of a player who’s confidence isn’t at its highest.

Sunderland v Blackpool - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

Elsewhere, Jewison Bennette was all hustle and bustle when he entered the fray; Abdoullah Ba gave us a bit of drive in midfield, but throwing Edouard Michut into the mix at a time when nerves were frayed and the momentum was with the visitors didn't really tell us anything.

The young Frenchman will get plenty of opportunities, but it was good to finally see him take to the pitch and make his debut after plenty of excitement and expectation.

Despite the frustration at dropping two points, this wasn’t an entirely wasted evening, largely due to the performance of Aji Alese.

The former West Ham defender was a colossus.

Sunderland v Blackpool - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

He patrolled his defensive areas with aplomb and embarked on marauding, purposeful runs forward whenever he got the chance.

Dennis Cirkin certainly has a job on his hands if he’s to regain his place, but competition for places is healthy - and nobody will know that more than Mowbray.

Despite a generally positive start to the season, Sunderland’s home form is not exceptional so far, and we do need to start notching up some victories on home turf as soon as we can.

Saturday’s trip to Swansea feels like an excellent opportunity to get some momentum going.

Our two most recent away trips have both yielded positive results, and if we can recharge and head to South Wales with some confidence, another crucial victory is certainly achievable.


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