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Two Up, Two Down: What are the biggest positives & negatives from Sunderland’s performance?

If I asked you to give me two positives and two negatives from Sunderland’s performance and result at Wimbledon, what would you say?

Neil Graney says...


Changes! Neil’s willingness to change formation from the start, then change things early in the second half. Those were signs that he wanted to win the game, and that he trusts the players he has in the squad.

Jay Matete. Again, the former Fleetwood Town midfielder looked great. He was, in my opinion, our best player on the day. He’ll control games once this squad gets some confidence back. Trai Hume is worth a mention too - he looks more than adept at right back.


Crap refs! We bang on about it and it never changes, but… the officials in League One are shocking. How the linesman gives that a penalty ahead of the referee, I don’t know. Then 14 yellows. There were two or three worthy tackles, and a couple where Wimbledon players were rightly carded for kicking the ball away, but other than that... It was an awfully scrappy game, initiated to a large extent by the referee.

We are just short of confidence and belief. We need to work on that, so I’m glad we have got a full week to prepare for MK Dons next Saturday. There’s quality in the squad, there just wasn’t enough time for Alex Neil to get into them for this week. Finishing in the top two looks unrealistic now, and maybe that will take the pressure off a little bit. If we can get good results against MK Dons and Burton, we’ll go to Wigan in a totally different mindset.

Andrew Smithson says...


Stopping the rot. I’m not sure what I’d have thought if somebody had told me at the start of the month that I’d be happy with a scrappy point at Wimbledon, but this was another out of form side we were up against and before kick-off I could easily see us making it an unwanted hat-trick of defeats. A point after being behind gives Alex Neil something to build on though, and he now has a week to work with the squad on the training pitch.

Positive changes. Seeing Neil try to go looking for the win with early substitutions and a shift in formation was encouraging. It gives the opposition something different to think about and certainly beats throwing players on with five minutes to go and expecting them to pull something out of nowhere. Whilst I was happy to avoid defeat, draws in the main are going to be no use to us in our remaining matches and such bold thinking may pay off in the long run.


Lack of chances. Although we clearly didn't want to just shut up shop we lacked a little cohesion going forward, and were unable to utilise Jermain Defoe. It is perhaps understandable that we looked a little uncertain given recent results, but odd moments like Alex Pritchard’s goal showed that we have some real attacking quality in the side and we need that to see that coming through again.

Lack of control. It’s been done a million times before I know, and it isn’t the only reason we didn’t win, but that was a poor display from the referee I felt. Having Bailey Wright back and able to play the full 90 was a plus and our set-piece defending looked a little bit better than it had done recently, which is just as well really given how many we faced; there were too many daft free kicks awarded and it really impacted the flow of the game. Simon Mather somehow managed to be card happy yet still lose control, and that penalty decision would have been a much bigger talking point had we not equalised. As much as I hate to say it, Sunderland really need to start learning how to play the ref a bit more.

Michael Dunne says...


It can’t get any worse than it is. That was another extremely poor performance from the lads, especially considering it was against the most out-of-form team in the division. What has happened to us in recent times is genuinely mind-boggling stuff. Now that we have a new man in charge, it honestly can’t get any worse. One would hope with Neil in charge, it can only improve from here.

Alex Pritchard is keeping us in games at present. He is the only man at the moment who is playing anywhere near his standards. His free kick was exquisite and his constant willingness to probe Wimbledon was encouraging - it was just a pity that there was not much around him.


Zero creativity from the majority of the team. Pritchard and Matete aside, the team looks completely and utterly devoid of any creative ideas. It is a far cry from the free-flowing expansive Sunderland that we saw in games pre-Christmas. This Sunderland performance was akin to ones witnessed under Phil Parkinson. I felt for Ross Stewart as he was completely isolated and he fed off scraps - and it was the same for Defoe when he came on. It’s hard to blame the strikers when they are getting no support.

I felt for Denis Cirkin at times. He is struggling immensely and has been for some time. Wimbledon got a lot of joy down his wing throughout, and it would be of benefit to swap him out. Cirkin’s dip in form will undoubtedly raise doubts over why the club sold Denver Hume.

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