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Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship

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Matchday Musings: Back to our poor home form again as WBA take all three points at the SOL

Once again a game of two halves, but this time not in our favour. A few musings straight after the match from Malc.

Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Thoughts before the game

The main thing that stood out for many before the game was that there was no sign of Ross Stewart. I for one was a bit gutted as I hoped he would at least make the bench, so much that I picked him to score in the second half in our predictions piece.

Tony Mowbray discussed this decision before the game, citing it as not directly an issue with his return from injury but rather SAFC easing him back in.

He then sort of mentioned that he didn’t want to take a risk when the player may have felt something. After all these weeks is he still not fit to play? Only time will tell.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship
Cannot wait for this lad to get back out there. Been way too long
Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The other notable pre-match stand-out was Elliot Embleton coming in for Jack Clarke. One can only assume Elliot must be playing well in training, though I do think young Clarke was well-marked and pretty limited compared to the usual success he has when playing against Millwall. Embo however didn’t really do anything of major note for me in this game, but then Clarke didn’t do a massive amount when he came on for the last 35 minutes or so either.

I really hope people aren’t starting to work out how to defend very well against our width and specifically young Jack. If his confidence drops and he stops doing what he can do so very well, we will lose a major asset in our offensive line.

Hopefully just a bad day at the office.

Another game of two halves and questionable Coach decisions

Once again, as per my notes from the Millwall game (but the other way around in terms of timing) I find myself wondering, how can we be so good in one half, but then so poor in the other?

This repeated inability we have to play consistently well for a full match has to ask a few questions, including about Tony’s tactics, both when ahead and behind.

We looked sharp, impressive and all over them in the first 45, and in the second we were poor. They made changes that made a real difference; we made changes that didn’t really make a lot of difference at all.

We should have been two goals up we were so convincing in the first 45 minutes, and we would have been if not for a very fortunate but well-positioned and strong left hand from the Baggies keeper. Alex Pritchard absolutely smashed his shot at the goal after a sublime flick from Simms, which 99 times out of 100 goes in. In typical SAFC fashion, it didn’t.

Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship
He smashed it, but it was blocked. A game of fine margins
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

In the first half when the Baggies did very little to threaten, they were still very obviously relying on the right sided winger (Wallace, the man of the match awarded by Sky) for so long, but we did absolutely nothing about it. I actually jotted down in my notes for this item “I really hope we start tightening up down the left and stopping these crosses, they are dangerous”. Did we? No.

Both goals came from that side, and were influenced by their capable wide man who was given way too much space and freedom. I have no idea why neither the players nor the coaching staff reacted to this threat which anyone could see sticking out like a sore thumb.

When we did go behind, we then started to think about how we may get back in it, but even that seemed to take an age to do anything about it. You have to wonder what else we could have done to get at least a point out of this game rather than making three subs on 89 minutes. If we are trying to secure at least a point, or going for the win, why not do so with a bit more than six minutes ago? If you are going to bring Ba, Dajaku and Roberts on, to give them enough chance to even get fully up to speed they need more time.

I may be a bit grumpy after seeing us lose from a winning position, but in my view we need better from the team, for larger portions of the game, and more tactical nouse from Tony Mowbray.

When are we going to sort out this set piece problem?

As was made abundantly clear by words and even graphics shown by the Sky coverage, we have had 90 odd corners without a goal. When things are going on for so long that even Sky are starting to laugh at us, something simply has to be done to sort it out.

Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship
The one he nearly got…corner 91 was it?
Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

We have to get Ross back out there, but while that carries risk, we have to get more from the height of Batth (who was unlucky on one header in the second half). The likes of Alese and O’Nien, who both have very good height in the jump need to get in there more too.

I am not sure how you fix this, but I am not a professional football coach, or an offensive expert who specialised in set piece conversion. People at our club are.

What are they doing to fix this? Not enough.

Maybe they are waiting for Alex Bass to get a call-up with an outfield shirt.

Any other plus points?

It could have been worse in my view if not for a couple of players, and one of them is Antony Patterson. He made a great save just after the hour as WBA built up the pressure, tipping a deflected shot over the bar.

Reflecting on the loss, he had no visibility of the first shot, which was very well taken, and he could do nothing about the good header from sub Dike. The rest of the team should have done something about the (roughly 50th) cross from Wallace, but that wasn’t stopped from coming in, and we got what we deserved as a team even though Patto did very little wrong. He continues to do the basics well and should not beat himself up too much about that performance.

The other player I would call out would be Amad, who was class yet again. It was a great penalty win of the like the World Cup officials shout maybe take note, and he took the spot kick like a seasoned pro way ahead of his years. At times he seemed to take one touch too many or maybe try to be overcomplicated, but the fact he is trying things should not be shouted down too much.

Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship
Well taken penalty, eh Harry…
Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Final thoughts

We didn’t pick up any more injuries, though I noticed Batth is now one card from a set of 5 yellows. Ballard should be back soon and hopefully he can add quality at both ends of the pitch, as will Stewart.

We showed some really good signs, but yet again struggled to capitalise on one half of decent football. That half was more than good enough for a win in this league, but counts for nothing if we don't back it up with another one of at least similar quality.

We need to sort ourselves out and get back to winning games, especially at home. There is very little difference in this league between where West Brom were before this match, and where we both are now. Get on it Tony and the team.

Not good enough, by half.


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