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Sunderland v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One

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Talking Points: Sunderland taste the joys of winning ugly

There were several times on Tuesday evening when I could have thrown something at my laptop screen. But then on came Luke O’Nien and showed us what we’ve been missing...

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

More than a personality, Luke O’Nien is the real deal on the pitch

Do you remember back in the summer of 2018 when Sunderland signed an unknown young attacking midfielder from Wycombe Wanderers?

After a slow start under Jack Ross, Luke O’Nien quickly enamoured himself to the Sunderland faithful and won Young Player of the Year in his first season, and he’s been the one constant in the side throughout our time in League One.

He proved himself committed and willing to go anything for the team, but then came the questions... is he a full back, a centre back, a battling central midfielder? Is he a shithouse or a school prefect?

What’s entirely clear is that Luke O’Nien is a leader and his return from the shoulder injury that’s kept him out for the last few months was timely and important. His goal on 82 minutes was absolutely crucial - it felt like a turning point in the mood around the club.

O’Nien’s energy, drive, and determination combined with his nouse and understanding of what it takes to win in this division was, ultimately, what gave the Lads the victory against Fleetwood. It could be that his influence on the pitch will be crucial to our prospects for success in the weeks ahead, and I’d like to see him do so with the captain's armband on too.

Sunderland v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Winning ugly is hard to watch

It was tough to watch, that match. Really bloody hard work - and I was perched comfortably in front of my laptop at home with the central heating on. I felt genuine pity for my family and friends amongst the 28,000 at the Stadium of Light who had to endure the first hour of that game in the freezing cold.

For the most part, it was slow, boring and a terrible spectacle. On the Roker Rapport Podcast this week, Gav said something that's entirely correct but hard for the football purists amongst us to take - it doesn’t actually matter how we win, so long as we win.

There will be wonderful folk who travelled from across the country to witness that dross, and I hope that is what Alex Neil told the men at half time. Thankfully, the rockets he clearly (although metaphorically) inserted into orifices at the break, as well as some pretty bold tactical changes, did actually make the difference in the end.

Sunderland v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

But Sunderland fans know how to make our own fun

Having spent many a drunken afternoon on the Western Terrace at Headingley and the Hollies at Edgebaston, I am well acquainted with the simple pleasure of frustrating a steward who is desperately trying to win an impossible game of piggy in the middle.

As it became clear that Sunderland had the game in the bag, the morose atmosphere in the ground was quickly transformed. The visitors had started time-wasting after 90 seconds of the game, with every throw in taking 30 seconds and goal kicks had been replaced at walking pace, and with the Lads looking suddenly in the driving seat and Fleetwood reduced to 10 men we saw and heard the impish streak that makes us a beautiful bunch of fans come to the fore.

Time wasting is one of the most frustrating things about League One, and I think the supporters well and truly made their point this evening.

Sunderland v Liverpool - Premier League
Fun with balls at the Stadium of Light
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Respect for one of our own - RIP Michael Waggott

If there was a slightly sombre mood in the ground at the start of the match on Tuesday, it can only have been because our supporters were reflecting on the tragic loss of Michael Waggott, who collapsed at the Burton Albion home match on 22nd February and sadly died at Sunderland Royal Hospital on Thursday 24th.

The club and the fans were united before kick-off, with tributes paid on the pitch, in the dressing room, on the big screen, and on the live feed. The moving tributes paid are a reminder that however much we might bicker and squabble, our love of our club unites us all and when a family suffers such an untimely loss, we show our support to them in whatever ways we can.

Our condolences go out to all who knew and loved Michael - he is forever red and white.

Sunderland v Fleetwood Town - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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