Malc Dugdale says...
We ground out another win!
There are a lot of negatives about today but we broke down a team determined to park the bus and run the clock down – well, we did eventually. To get a result even when not playing super well has to be welcomed. The points are so much more important than the prettiness right now.
Distribution of goals
In the last few games we have seen goals come from people either coming back from injury or rest, or from players who joined in January and are still finding their feet in the team. With Clarke, Roberts, O’Nien and Neil all scoring of late, the pressure on Stewart to perform is reduced, and the goal threat being shared makes us harder to keep out. Hopefully, we can see this continue. The way Neil, Roberts and Dajaku changed the game today was lovely to see.
For 80 minutes we were dour, flat, and bereft of ideas
We would have lost against a better team and cannot be anything less than ready for the run-in and hopefully the playoffs. We need to get our first 11 identified and our style locked in soon, as we can’t stutter into May, if we make it.
Corry Evans is stealing a living and should not be on the pitch, let alone be skipper, in my view. He offers no route through the middle to encourage passing attack play, and has to be dropped - if we play a back 3 we don’t need him to make it a four.
I’m not sure why Alex Neil keeps playing him but that has to be reviewed.
Now we have O’Nien back, he has to be dropped for me. He offers zero.
Luke ‘Bomber’ Davies says...
Goalscorers! Goalscorers, everywhere!
One of the tribulations this season has been our apparent reliance on Ross Stewart to grab the goals for us. We worried that if Ross got injured, or his form fell off a cliff, there would be little hope of us scoring the goals that would win us the games required to get out of this league.
Alas, despite the turgid performances, we’ve scored eight in our last four games and those goals have been scored by seven different goalscorers! We can now take comfort in the fact that Alex Neil has enough attacking options throughout the team to pick up the goalscoring mantle should things go sideways for him.
Jay Matete is a colossus!
It doesn’t matter how poor a team performance we put in, the guy just keeps putting in hugely important shifts in. He’s got the capability of carrying the whole team, playing a pivotal part in keeping up in games, that gives us the platform to wake up and get something from these games.
Yes, some will say he gives the ball away, but crucially, while it might be true, he loses possession in areas of the pitch where there is minimal risk to the team; and by trying to positively progress the ball.
For those criticising Speakman’s transfer business… I’ll respond by posting a picture of this lad!
The slowest of slow starts WILL come back to bite us!
There are only so many “Get Out of Jail Free” cards in a Monopoly set, and we seem to be lucky enough to keep pulling them out of the EFL “Community Chest” deck, BUT… come the playoffs (assuming we get there...), we do not want to have used up all our luck before playing the lottery of these ‘one-off’ games.
Dishing up excrement for the first 75 minutes and putting performances in during the last 15 of games may get us past the teams languishing at the bottom of the table, but against the teams at the top of the league, we’ll find ourselves 2 or 3-nil down with mountains to climb.
The Evans conundrum
He’s our captain - but it’s never felt like he’s OUR captain. And performances have done little to win us round to believing it. Alex Neil is in a right pickle when it comes to Evans, he can’t strip him of captaincy mid-season and upset what little zen there was left in the dressing room when he took over. Equally, as captain, Neil will feel pressure to start him, particularly as there is nobody who can do what he does (or is meant to do) - solely to sit and protect a (previously) extremely fragile backline, rotate possession and give it to Matete, Pritchard, Embleton, etc to drive the ball forward.
At the moment it feels like a wasted spot in the starting XI, particularly when you have Neil and O’Nien coming off the bench to save us.
As the song goes - how do you solve a problem like Corry Evans?
Andrew Smithson says...
The Boyeson done good
You could argue that referee Carl Boyeson's decision to give us an indirect free kick for time-wasting was what turned the game. After years of gamesmanship at this level seeing a team actually get pulled up on it was great, and it seemed to lift the team and the fans. Some of his whistling in the first half was a bit dubious, but he was clearly alert to the fact that Crewe were taking a lend and I’d like to see more of the same no-nonsense approach from his colleagues in the coming weeks. Booking players for taking an age with throw-ins after barely an hour, and ignoring those who go down when there is no need to shouldn’t be seen as groundbreaking really, but credit where it is due.
Being able to bring the level of quality on from the bench that we did is always a big plus, and the two goals our subs scored were top class. Alex Neil doesn't seem shy to change things, and the lift it brought to the team was clear to see. He said after the Fleetwood win that he would risk losing games by going full throttle and given the situation that is all we can do - it is all or nothing at the moment and if things are not going right he has to roll the dice.
Pressure to perform
I don't think Sunderland have ever really thrived in League One when we are expected to win comfortably. After listening to Chris Wynn’s excellent preview pod on Friday it was quite clear that we were heavy favourites going into the game, and that pressure perhaps led to everybody feeling a bit restless when it started looking like another sluggish day. For an inexperienced side Crewe knew all the tricks, and with most of our attacking play looking very disjointed this was a very hard watch. Aside from Elliot Embleton’s goal on Tuesday that is twice in a week now that it has gone past 80 minutes before we’ve had a real shot in anger or put any concerted periods together and whilst our quality did come through in the end leaving it late will not always work out.
I know I’ll get pelters from some for this, and I fully accept that people are entitled to do what they want, but I just cannot see the point in some fans booing the side at half time. The players will have known fine well they needed to improve, and all that type of reaction will do is lift the opposition and make them want to spoil even more. Our crowd is at its best when it is creating a hostile environment for the visitors, not ourselves, and whilst I understand that people are frustrated I personally would rather leave it until after the game. There seems to be so much anger in some people - they’ll hurl abuse, even at supposed fan favourites, whether it is warranted or not and I honestly don’t think it does themselves or the players any good.