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Plymouth Argyle v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One

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Two Up, Two Down: What positives + negatives can we pull from Sunderland’s Plymouth performance?

Sunderland shaded the statistics but ultimately weren’t able to hit the back of the net at Plymouth. What are the biggest positives and negatives that we can pluck from the performance?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says...

Show of Arms!

We needed to be physically and mentally strong, and we were. Plymouth Argyle have a good home record and we’ve seen before that a boisterous crowd can spur a side on, but we rarely let them get anywhere near us and by the end had silenced the fans. There was a maturity about our performance at the back and that shows how far we have come in recent weeks.

Hard To Beat!

The unbeaten run stretches in double figures now and we are looking like we will end the season strong, which is exactly what we want. I think I am right in saying things are in our own hands too, and for a while that didn’t look like being the case. This wasn't a vintage performance, but you are going to have to dig in every now and again if you want to earn promotion, so I’m leaning towards glass half full after that draw. Yes it was bitty, yes it was tense, but we’ve come unstuck in those situations before and I think most of us would have taken a point before kick off.

Long way from home...

The Lads looked ever so slightly leggy at times, which is understandable given we had such a long trip so soon after a tiring match against Shrewsbury Town. At least we have a good few days until our next game, so hopefully the players are at a point where they can ease off the training and just work on their preparations for Cambridge United.

Still no Pritchard...

I may have missed the explanation, but I would love to think Alex Pritchard’s absence is just a precaution at this stage and that he could still have a part to play before the season ends. He, and Leon Dajaku in some respects, offer something different, and the more options we have the better.

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

Malc Dugdale says...

Four from two!

Both these Easter games had the chance to be banana skins for our push to go up, but we managed to get a win and a draw, just. To go away to a side and not lose ended up being enough to get us back into the play off positions ahead of the other half of games Tuesday night, and with two of the teams above us already playing one more than us, we inch closer to securing a playoff berth. The win on Friday was hard earned and made harder than it needed to be, but as has been said a lot, it’s the points that count right now.

No injuries!

At one point Broadhead seemed to hold his groin or hammy, and my heart was in my mouth. The lack of creative spark from Pritchard (and Dan Neil who isn’t getting starts in his absence) does not need company through us losing a striker who has just come back. Hopefully the fact Nathan played on means he is fine for our remaining games. We need more players not less, so let’s hope our squad remains as was or better for the next game.

Poor final third performance...

We had enough possession especially in the second half to once again pinch all three points on offer, but our passing, decisions and execution of what we’re at times “the basics” was not good enough. We have been very creative and clinical in making chances at times, with the issue being converting them, but we didn’t put anything on a plate for our strikers. We have to respect the defence we were up against, who haven’t conceded for an age but we may rue that lack of a killer pass in the month to come.

Individual poor performances...

Too many of the lads had a poor game at the same time.

O’Nien was anonymous, though playing out of position. Clarke was wasteful and lacked quality. Matete met his match in Camara and was cancelled out in the middle quite well by Plymouth. Nathan and Ross struggled to pull the trigger the rare chances they had to do so.

It could be seen as a plus point that we had so many players have an off day but still we got something from the game away from home against a main opponent, but conversely I think it will give Alex Neil food for thought about how we maximise points from the last three league games. If we repeat that type of collective lull we won’t always have results go our way as they did to an extent. Three huge games to go and hopefully 7-9 points to secure that play off berth.

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

Luke ‘Bomber’ Davies says...

The streak goes on!

After drawing with Burton and losing to MK Dons, if someone had said that we would go 10 games unbeaten taking 7 points from Wigan, Oxford and Plymouth away… you’ll have likely been sectioned! Yet here we are having achieved it and while the league position belittles this run we are on, the habit of not losing games is a habit to get into for a run in the playoffs.

Patterson is a proper keeper!

In spite of the criticism he has had in recent months, Anthony Patterson is a proper, PROPER keeper. He made a couple of exceptional saves, plus the save in the Oxford game we’re very “Craig Gordonesque”. If he can reach the levels our Scottish stopper did then phew - what a guy!

Timidity under constant pressure

Plymouth we’re very good today, arguably better than Oxford. We didn’t get the early goal to settle us today and as Plymouth grew into it we most definitely shrank. Long first time balls in behind and comfortably playing it around at the back when the opposition is happy to let you get on with it is not the sign of a team that is trying to get on top of the game. Chances are we’ll come up against these again before the season is out, and we’ll need to do better at controlling the game.

Jack Clarke need dropping...

I was initially a fan of Jack Clarke. He was bright against Cheltenham and his goal against Fleetwood was spectacular. But every time I watch him now he spends more time adjusting his shorts than trying to affect a football match. The boy is clearly a talent, but with Neil opting to rely on experience, one wonders how he is keeping his place in the starting line up ahead of Roberts. That change needs to happen for the next game because bar a worldie from outside the box, he’s just not gonna do it.

Sunderland v Crewe Alexandra - Sky Bet League One Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Joseph Tulip says...

We looked League One wise

From the moment the starting XI was announced, we looked like we were ready for a fight with, depending how you looked at it, four central midfielders in there. Yes, Elliot Embleton was more advanced and Luke O’Nien was deployed wide left, but both were able to offer much-needed protection, with the former dropping deep on occasion and the latter covering both inside and also at left back whenever Dennis Cirkin got forward. We gave the ball away at times but in terms of our set up, we were very much wise to a League One type battle and grinded out another clean sheet.

Broadhead blossoms

The way Nathan Broadhead carried the ball forward on numerous powerful runs gave us a real outlet on the counter attack. There was no goal for the loanee today and at times his link up play didn’t quite come off, but Broadhead is a huge all round player for us, not just a goalscorer, especially in the absence of Alex Pritchard.

You can’t have everything!

The downside of our extra populated midfield meant that we sacrificed a winger. Whilst our only natural wide man, Jack Clarke, improved his crossing on recent games, we lacked runners from deep to support Ross Stewart, Broadhead and Clarke, who often found themselves outnumbered in attack.

We can’t rely on late goals indefinitely

Our record of late goals is remarkable and has enabled us to keep our season on track. We looked more dangerous at Plymouth once we’d made some attack-minded substitutions but that goal just didn’t come this time around.

Alex Neil will be acutely aware that we might have to roll the dice a bit earlier, perhaps even from the start, in our remaining games, but he knew we couldn’t lose this fixture against a play-off rival, so we take a point away from home and move on in a positive frame of mind.

Arsenal v Sunderland - Carabao Cup Quarter Final Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Kelvin Beattie says...

Good Point?

What matters at this stage of the season is results. Not only did we deny one of our closest rivals their 10th home win in a row, we denied them the extra two points that could be crucial at the end of the season.

Solid Patterson!

I was impressed with Patterson today. He was positive and efficient in his handling and command of his box. I can recall only one well-placed corner that caused any consternation. It's good to see him looking competent and confident as we head into the absolute business end of the season.

Rugby tackling centre halves and one-eyed refs!

I dislike harping on about referees, but what in heavens name was the ref looking at when Ross Stewart was manhandled to the ground from probably our only well-placed cross? Their defender was not even looking at the ball, he turned and took Stewart out like a Scottish back row forward on an English Stand-Off. No wonder Stewart looked incredulous. The cross was heading straight for his napper too!

Is Jack Clarke a wing back?

Having been quietly impressed with Alex Neil’s use of his squad and team selection up to this game, I was a bit underwhelmed at the timing of his substitutions at Plymouth.

Jack Clarke will know himself he did not have a good game. He was a lucky laddie to be coming out for the second half in my view. How he lasted the whole game is not a question I can answer. He is a risk defensively and against Plymouth was not on his game offensively.

This was not the best attacking display from the team generally and even making allowances for a well-drilled opposition defence, there was little sign of the fluidity and pacey link up play that we saw in spells last week. Stewart looks like he could do with his next goal coming sooner rather than later.

The substitutions were made too late in the game to have any decisive effect.

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