On Saturday, the draw against Luton was painted by some in the media as desperately needed and a result that stopped the rot. I am thinking of BBC Radio Newcastle’s Colin White on Saturday’s sports round-up show. He was so keen to paint a dire scenario that he got his stats wrong. He said this point was desperately needed, and that the result still meant there was still only one win from nine for us.
Always a glass-half-full guy, I texted the show to correct him. It was only one win in eight and that the league was so tight that two wins would see us shoot up from 16th to tenth spot. The show did read out my correction, but not the part about the tightness of the league.
Maybe Colin White was having a bad day, because he did think the mags were playing Everton in midweek when they don’t have a game, and played the Toffees a couple of weeks ago.
Sunderland fans are not daft and we know when we see a bad team, but the football we’ve been playing this season has been exciting, high-tempo stuff, with the missing piece of the jigsaw being the striker we’ve been craving since Ross Stewart and Ellis Simms got injured in consecutive games in September.
Throughout that sequence of one win in eight, there were only three defeats, the unlucky reverse at Blackburn, where we had up to 70% of the possession in the second half, but were a bit too tippy-tappy in trying to walk the ball into the net.
Burnley was a bit of a disaster. The second time we have surrendered a two-goal lead at home. Speaking to Burnley fans after the match, they were almost going to leave at half-time, so domineering was our first-half control. The only game that we can be said to be outclassed was the first half against Swansea. Things improved in the second half, but we had left ourselves too much to do.
We are a young team that needs to learn how to calm things down. Another example of this was the goal conceded at Luton. When awarded a free kick just before half time, we should have eaten up precious time (like teams do with us at the Stadium of Light), but we took it too quickly, lost possession, and a foul on Danny Batth left a simple tap in for Luton to go in at half time, 1-0 up.
The team responded well in the second half and Elliot Embleton’s second goal of the season was just reward for a strong second half. Nick Barnes on BBC Radio Newcastle commentary said that there was only one winner after we scored the equaliser.
The big plus, of course, was the involvement of Ellis Simms in the last 20 minutes. The game changed on his arrival and it showed what we had been missing since August when we had two strikers.
So then onto Huddersfield, who languish in second-bottom place - though, they did achieve their fourth win of the season on Saturday by beating Millwall 1-0. We are six points ahead of the Terriers, who have underperformed this season after reaching the Championship Play-off Final last season. They (and Hull) have lost the most amount of games in the league this season, nine.
Huddersfield have injury worries of their own, with full back Ollie Turton out with an ankle injury. It presents an opportunity for Patrick Roberts to have a go at any deputy.
The game at Huddersfield is an opportunity to go at them with full force, give Simms more game time and hopefully come out with a win.