Did we expect too much?
In a word, no.
We were coming off the back of a hiding away to Bolton, but had the house packed to the rafters despite that, with the fan base keen to see us bounce-back, ideally fuelled by some of the new faces and one we knew very well.
We were playing the team at the foot of the table at our own gaff, and we had just allegedly had one of the best transfer windows for ages.
Sunderland should have made this home game a formality with a professional performance in front of a huge following. Instead, after a promising first 15 minutes, they were very poor from back to front, with minimal members of the starting eleven stating a case to keep their shirt from the new squad members waiting in the wings.
If this was the caretaker leadership telling ten of the starting eleven who took that hiding in Lancashire this was their chance to show why they weren’t as much part of the problem as little Lee, they failed more or less to a man for me.
As fans of a club of our history and fanbase we had every right to expect a professional performance. We didn’t get one. The coaches and the players let 38,500 of us down.
Did we do well in any department of the pitch?
For me this is again a resounding no.
We had odd spells of nice play especially early on, but we deserved to lose.
Hoffman made a couple of decent saves and couldn’t do much about the goals we let in, but he once again looked shaky in terms of controlling his area. Does he have enough competition to oust him though? I’m not so sure.
The back four were very poor too, and did Hoff no favours. A simple but decent ball over the top released the Doncaster attack way too easily allowing them to take the lead around half way through the first period.
The second goal moments before half time had several chances to be cleared, but wasn’t.
Why we persisted with a back four after Bolton is beyond me though; it hasn’t worked all season and didn’t again versus Doncaster. It could be argued it would have been a big call for the caretaker team to make a change in shape at the back, and whether we had three suitable centre backs to play that way is questionable.
How much worse could we be though given we have now shipped 8 goals in 2 games, home and away, against teams who we should be brushing aside?
I wish they had found the balls to do something more than they did, though the fact they didn’t reinforces the fact we need the head coach in by Sunday/Monday to prevent more points being dropped while we reset post-Johnson.
The middle of the park was ineffective too. Doncaster deserve some credit as from my perspective they decided to flood the midfield and take a chance that we wouldn’t be able to do enough from out wide to hurt them. They were right.
We looked promising very early on but once Donnie got into the game they broke us down very well down the centre of the park, and the offerings from the flanks from Gooch and Cirkin simply didn’t cut it.
Gooch had a couple of flashes of nice work, but that was the most unflattering showing I have seen from Cirkin since he signed, Again, the issue is we have no options… we let Denver go, so Cirkin picks himself.
We had no options to play a back three as we let Flanno go without a replacement, and Arby remains conspicuous in his absence.
Best transfer window? I’m not so sure.
Up front, even the big man was wasteful. He had a couple of headed chances which he didn’t convert (and allegedly one he did, but which the officials didn’t award), including one which could have drawn us level later in the first period not long before the away team doubled their lead.
The biggest thing about Jermain coming on was the cheer from the support, a backing that any Premier League side would love to have. He will take time to get up to speed and will add quality, but reality dashed romance by a long way against the lads from down the A1.
A lot needs to be done across the park by the new coach, so I truly hope whoever it is, he is landed soon and gets to work. He needs his scythe to cut out the underwhelming, and he needs to bring a large portion of inspiration to get us out of this rut we seem to have driven ourselves into despite fanatical support showing up to shout them on.
Did anyone shine at all?
As was the case in the past under Johnson’s stewardship, I think we took way too long to make changes in the game, and as mentioned before we could have been way more bold than we were from the off.
We were clearly being crowded out through the middle but lacked quality out wide, yet it took till an hour in to bring in Clarke, and for me, he was one of the few positives we can take away from the game. He looked strong on the ball and very skilful, and made an impact for us down the wide left quickly after coming on, replacing Winchester.
Pritchard had a good first half and hence also deserves a mention, but he tired in the second, and hence had less impact when we really needed that. We need to cross our fingers he rebuilds his fitness as we need him at his best to recover our form and creativity.
My final positive mention is for Matete, who got about 20 minutes, but seemed to be pushed deeper than we expected him to for large parts of that. I would rather the caretaker coaches had switched him in for Evans than Neil, as the former had a pretty anonymous game other than his consolation goal on 89 minutes, but Jay showed some signs of what we can expect and he deserves at least an honourable mention.
Where do we go from here?
We brush ourselves down, get the coach appointed and stop the rot.
The only real winner on Saturday was wee Bradley’s charity, who gathered close to 40 grand to help kids and their families to deal with way more challenging issues than poor football results. We may not be the best team right now but we are champions league level as fans. No one can dispute that.
Let's hope the man who joined Bradley in being a global symbol of humanity and hope can get us back to those levels seen several years ago, with ample help from the acquisitions we made as we ended January. That game showed me that wholesale changes are needed to halt this decline, way more than just replacing the head coach and his assistant.
Whoever takes on this poisoned chalice we treasure and follow in our droves come what may, please brace yourself. This needs to be a turning point… the temporary coaching staff gave these lot a chance and they didn’t take it. We need a change in personnel, attitude and basic graft ethic.
You ready for that Roy?