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We’re having a Batth with Danny & Luke at the back!

Danny Batth and Luke O’Nien - two of the unsung heroes of Sunderland’s season so far - have been steady away at the back, and returning players are going to have a job shifting them!

Photo by Martin Schutt/picture alliance via Getty Images

We’re eleven games into our Championship return, and it’s fair to say we are doing alright.

That’s probably me playing it down a bit - in reality, we are growing in every game and are starting to really get to grips with the division.

Four wins so far this season have got us looking up at the playoffs rather than down towards the bottom three.

Two of our three defeats have come against the sides currently sat in the automatic promotion spots - and who have played Premier League football in the last two years.

We now find ourselves - despite not having a fit striker - on a four game unbeaten run.

Sunderland v Preston North End - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The likes of Ross Stewart, Patrick Roberts, and Jack Clarke have lapped up the plaudits so far this season (rightly so, of course), but our current centre back pairing have quietly gone about their business, and have had good starts to the season too.

Danny Batth has been a first choice central defender from day one this season, and his stable performances have been a major factor in our very impressive start to life back in the Championship.

The four game unbeaten run began with the superb 3-0 win at Reading last month, during this game Batth was tasked with marking frontman Lucas João, a job which he did very well.

The Portuguese forward’s threat was neutralised all night, so much so that he was brought off with 10 minutes left to play.

Throughout the season, Batth has faced up to his new challenge each week and he continues to look at home as a Championship central defender.

His experience has been a welcome addition to a side that is so young - and 27 year-old Luke O’Nien looks like an ‘old head’.

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

Let’s turn to Sunderland’s Mr Versatile. Throughout his time on Wearside, O’Nien has been tasked with playing in several positions - and, more often than not, he has thrived.

He now finds himself at centre back alongside Batth and, in these last four games in particular, he has shown himself to be solid and consistent (own goal at Watford aside, of course - yet scoring OGs often comes with the territory of being a defender).

With over three quarters of the season still to go, there will be plenty of ups and downs and we will likely go on poor runs here and there.

Yet all things considered, we are doing far better than many of us could probably have imagined.

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

We’ve been hit particularly badly by injuries in the early stages of the campaign and although a lot of attention has been given to those of Stewart and Ellis Simms, but Batth has seen two of his defensive partners limp off injured in matches this season already.

Fortunately for us, O’Nien has answered the rallying call and as our goals at the right end have dried up this week, it’s reassuring to know we are solidifying at the back.

Three clean sheets in the last four games and four shutouts in six is signs of a strong backline - not bad at all for a squad littered with injuries.

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