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Sunderland v Blackburn Rovers - Sky Bet Championship

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2 Up, 2 Down: What were the big positives and negatives from Sunderland’s winning performance?

Despite falling behind, the Lads rallied against Rovers and eventually secured the victory thanks to Ellis Simms. What were the positives and negatives from the game?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Jon Guy says…

The return of the ‘SAS’!

It’s the first time in over three months that we’ve seen Ross Stewart and Ellis Simms reigniting the partnership that looked so promising before their respective injury woes.

Following Stewart’s equaliser, Simms came on and secured us a massive win in the dying embers of a to-and-fro game.

Luke O’Nien’s performance

O’Nien’s been irrepressible this season and his versatility has been worth its weight in gold.

Forming a new central defensive pairing with the returning Dan Ballard was always going to pose challenges, but O’Nien was a stalwart at the back yet again.

He was arguably one of, if not our best player on the pitch.

Injury worries

Our injury list is increasing week on week.

After Dennis Cirkin and Lynden Gooch went down, we’ve been left defensively short, and it looks particularly sparse down the flanks with Aji Alese also out.

It’s a little concerning, considering the short turnaround with festive fixtures and another two to come in the next six days.

Conceding from a set piece…again!

Once again, we fell short (quite literally) at a set piece, by failing to deal with a dangerous ball into the box.

Admittedly, we’ve been left vulnerable without Danny Batth who has been a key aerial presence for us this season, but it’s an area that needs to be addressed urgently.

Sunderland v Blackburn Rovers - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Joseph Tulip says…

Completing the job at home

Many times this season, we’ve had encouraging starts to games at the Stadium of Light, only to retreat into our shell in the second half and allow opposition teams back into it.

After starting well yesterday, we did have a scrappy spell towards the end of the first half, but we came out on the front foot after the break, went for it and got our just rewards with a fine late goal from Ellis Simms.

Strength in depth

We’ve been ravaged with injuries at various points throughout this season, but our squad seems to come up with the goods in terms of resources.

The return of Dan Ballard from injury and Bailey Wright from the World Cup couldn’t have been better timed, with the formidable Danny Batth sidelined.

Both players were crucial to our victory and the way we ended the game with a 3-5-2 formation is a sign that despite more injuries, we’re in good shape for the forthcoming fixtures.

Injuries keep piling up

I’ve already touched on our strength in depth, but our resources are constantly being pushed to the limit.

Let’s hope that Lynden Gooch and Dennis Cirkin aren’t sidelined for long after being forced off.

The importance of possession

There were occasions against Blackburn when we gave the ball away too easily.

We’re an impressive footballing side but sometimes there are risks associated with putting together an attack based on intricate passing.

Blackburn were very dangerous in the counter-attack, and every misplaced pass potentially put our defence under pressure, especially when the game was open.

Fortunately this didn’t cost us and I’m being a little pernickety, but maintaining possession is crucial in the Championship.

Matt Smith says…

A crucial home win

One of the few disappointments of our return to the Championship has been our failure to make the Stadium of Light the fortress we all know it can be.

A win against a very good Blackburn outfit, roared on by a full house, will hopefully restore confidence in players and fans alike that this is an environment that refuses to recognise a lost cause.

Talent throughout

There’s been much to admire in our performances this season but it’s rare to see positive contributions spread so widely throughout the team.

Solidity was provided in both the centre of defence and midfield, our full-backs overlapped to great effect, the three behind Ross Stewart were positive both in and out of possession while Anthony Patterson, Stewart and Ellis Simms were all composed when called upon.

Fitness concerns

Lynden Gooch justified his Tony Mowbray’s continued faith in him with an enthusiastic performance that included a number of inviting crosses, particularly in the first half, so it was galling to see both him and Dennis Cirkin become the latest visitors to the already inundated Sunderland treatment table.

Hopefully neither will face a lengthy spell on the sidelines, but with fixtures coming thick and fast over the festive period, having even fewer bodies to call upon is a concern.

Set piece concerns

At this point in the season, attacking set pieces for Sunderland are more likely to instil me with fear of our vulnerability to the counter-attack rather than genuine expectations of threatening the opponent’s goal, and yesterday was no exception.

It must be something that Mowbray and his staff are working on in training, but with the talent at our disposal, I can’t help but feel that it’s become more of a psychological rather than a technical or tactical problem by now.

An inswinging corner glanced into the net by Ballard, Stewart or frankly anyone would do us the world of good right now.

Sunderland v Blackburn Rovers - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says…

Hitting back quickly

I read a stat that suggested when Blackburn Rovers take the lead this season, they invariably go on to win, so to equalise so soon after their goal without allowing them to build that confidence was crucial.

Coming from behind always shows a good mentality and that was the case here.

It’s lovely to see old friends back home for Boxing Day, but big crowds can mean more expectation and the Lads did well to keep their heads.

A battling performance

That was a physical game against some big men, some of whom were going over the top, but we matched their work rate and got stuck in.

Bar one superb Anthony Patterson save midway through the second half, I can’t remember any trouble in the second half, and it was thanks to some real graft.

Luke O’Nien was superb. He fought for everything and was switched on to their gamesmanship, even pulling a few tricks himself.

I think we all knew we had the talent for this level, but it seems we have a lot of the other aspects covered too.

Set piece frustrations

It’s a shame that we still haven’t scored from a set piece.

We tried a few different ideas and it looks like we have been looking at it on the training ground, but things still seem to be falling the wrong way.

It’s not the end of the world as we are doing plenty of good things in open play, but the longer it goes, on the more annoying it feels.

Caught cold

A late and deserved win on Boxing Day is always going to feel good and I’ve come away absolutely buzzing, so assuming Dennis Cirkin’s and Lynden Gooch’s withdrawals were precautionary, there’s not much to be down about, football-wise!

On a personal note, I was massively underprepared for the cold weather and I missed kickoff because I’d forgotten how mad the concourses get on days like yesterday.

I’ve been going long enough now to know better!


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