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Sunderland v Rotherham - Sky Bet League One

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Fan Letters: “Alex Neil got it wrong against Rotherham. Was he afraid of the threat they posed?”

Alex Neil’s team selection, the stadium’s facilities, and the removal of an abusive fan are the topics discussed today. Got something to say? Email us: rokerreport@yahoo.co.uk

Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I am surprised that nobody has picked up on Alex Neil’s team selection for last night’s match.

After a stunning performance against Cambridge, the heart of the midfield was removed and replaced with Jay Matete and Trai Hume, so we ended up fielding a side with no attacking central midfielders.

It felt as though Neil was afraid of the strength and the pace of the Rotherham team, but this was a home game and we needed a win. The team he selected was never going to do that, and the first half stats showed we only had one shot at goal! A bit of midfield control was desperately needed but for some reason, the the second half started with a unchanged eleven.

We have two goalscorers in Stewart and Broadhead, but for some unknown reason Broadhead was substituted and the man who is capable of providing the sort of passes that Broadhead thrives on (Alex Pritchard) was brought on to replace him. Surely a front three of Pritchard alongside Stewart and Broadhead would have given Rotherham something to worry about.

Jay Matete was having a shocking game but he was given seventy minutes, when he should have been replaced at half time along, with Hume, and replaced with Elliot Embleton and Dan Neil.

Alex Neil has done well up to now, but I feel he got it wrong last night and played into Rotherham’s hands. He has said he picked a team of big lads to compete with them but the truth is we do not have players of the physical stature that Rotherham fielded.

The best option is to play to your own strengths and give the opposition something to worry about, particularly in your home games.

Stuart Lathan

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Thank you for your letter, Stuart. I do feel that Alex Neil tilted the balance of the team too far towards a cautious, safety-first approach against Rotherham.

As you said, we don’t have the physical power in midfield to compete against teams who will get in our faces and make life tough, and we certainly lost the midfield battle on Tuesday night.

We do have plenty of creative options within the squad, and perhaps if we had approached the game with a more attacking mindset, we could’ve really taken the game to the visitors and the outcome would’ve been different. Against Morecambe, I expect us to return to something similar to what we saw against Cambridge, and hopefully that will be a system and a starting eleven that can help us to victory.

Sunderland v Rotherham - Sky Bet League One Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I agree with the comments regarding the facilities at the Stadium of Light.

The ladies’ loos are a disgrace. One hand dryer has been out of action for the last two seasons, and the toilets rarely flush properly.

I have complained previously regarding the state of the loos but to no avail. We ardent fans deserve better.

Sue Melia

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Sue. There is no doubt that our stadium is definitely in need of some major refurbishment in many areas, and hopefully this issue will be addressed sooner rather than later. The state of the toilets is, at best, less than pleasant, and at worst, quite appalling.

For the people running the club, taking pride in the stadium is crucial to restoring the club back to a position of respectability, and I would like to think that action will be taken to rectify the problems. It is something that cannot be ignored.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet League One - Stadium of Light Photo by Zac Goodwin/PA Images via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I was glad to see a racist idiot booted out of the crazy corner on Tuesday night.

Hopefully this is a sign people are not going to stand for it.

If you hear it, report it.

JJ Dhillon

Ed’s Note [Phil]: I fully agree that it was a welcome sight to see an abusive supporter removed from the seating area. This is another issue that has been shaming the club for quite some time, and as you say, the more people who are willing to take a stand and report it, the better for everyone.

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


Dear Roker Report,

I was having a pint in the concourse before the game on Tuesday night, when supporters looking at the televisions started shaking their heads.

When I looked at the screens, I could understand why. ‘Alex Neil has picked a team not to lose,’ I thought. We were playing at home, so why worry about the opposition? We needed to play to our strengths, to keep the ball on the deck, and not resort to hoof-ball, which is what we got.

Our midfield were nowhere near Ross Stewart’s knockdowns, and it seemed to me that any headed clearances were simply trying to get the ball as far away as possible, and not to try and pick out one of our players.

I thought that Trai Hume had a canny first twenty minutes, but got lost a bit afterwards .It seems to me that we are changing the team too much, and our pattern of play is suffering .

We got lucky against Rotherham, and although I suppose an eleven-game undefeated run has to come to an end some time, I hope it’s not at Morecambe.

A Lynn, fifty years in red and white.

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Alex Neil’s team selection against Rotherham was possibly his most discussed, and certainly his most divisive.

In my opinion, he set out to try and contain Rotherham, minimise the danger, and try to navigate his way through the game with the hope of nicking it by the odd goal. It was a risky strategy, and it almost backfired. He does like to tinker with the starting eleven from game to game, and ultimately, he is being judged by results. In that sense, he’s doing well.

On the other hand, Paul Warne’s team are well-drilled and a very effective League One team, and they certainly gave us a very tough game. Ultimately, a draw was a decent result, but we’ve still got a job to do on Saturday, and I’m confident that we will do it.

Sunderland v Rotherham - Sky Bet League One Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images
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