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Talking Points: Minutes are the most important thing for Sunderland - and more Lee Howey please!

Whilst the result and the goals we conceded at Accrington were disappointing, Alex Neil had some really sensible views on what he saw - we mull over all the key Talking Points from the game!

Accrington Stanley FC

First half was brilliant, but the second half was sloppy

Bar a fifteen-minute spell at the start of the game where neither side really had a foothold in proceedings, I thought Sunderland were very good in the first half.

We played at a reasonably high tempo, we created numerous opportunities, and if it wasn’t for the Accrington goalkeeper - who was brilliant - we would have scored two or three goals.

Yes, you could argue that we perhaps should have done better with the chances that he did save, but I think that ultimately he kept the score down, and I was really relieved when we were awarded the penalty which Ross Stewart stuck away with ease.

And then... well, the second half happened.

I think that given the fact it was a pre-season game you can forgive the players for dropping the tempo of their play, but that doesn’t excuse the defending for their two goals, which was piss-poor and something Alex Neil will want to make sure doesn’t happen again when the action starts for real next weekend.

Bailey Wright was all over the place for the first, and then a catalogue of errors started by a shit pass from Luke O’Nien gave them their second.

It’s not worth worrying too much about, but it is frustrating and gives the players something pretty crucial to work on over the coming week or so - Coventry are a far better side than Bradford or Accrington and will be harsher with their punishment of our mistakes if we repeat them at the Stadium of Light next Sunday.

Don’t hit me - but minutes are still the most important thing

There was a rather predictable reaction to the result and performance on social media after the game. And I do get it, we all want to see Sunderland win, and we all know that the squad is short in a couple of positions ahead of the season starting.

That said, you almost have to separate the result and the performance out from the other stuff, which is something I think Alex Neil did really well in the interview below.

We can acknowledge what was crap and what we need to work on, but at the same time the biggest priority in the eyes of the manager was ensuring that every player got the minutes on the pitch that they needed, regardless of their individual performances in the game.

In that sense, it was mission completed - we now move on to Monday night where the team will be almost fully rotated again, and a host of other players will get a run-out.

Three places up for grabs - go take ‘em

Whilst - publicly at least - the manager might say otherwise, as far as I can tell there are likely to be three places still up for grabs when we play Coventry next week.

Anthony Patterson is guaranteed to start in goal, and Dennis Cirkin has enjoyed a cracking pre-season regardless of the fact that he’s our only left back, so he’s in.

At centre half it’s clearly a case of Dan Ballard and then one other - leaving Danny Batth and Aji Alese with the opportunity on Monday night to show why they’re a better choice than Bailey Wright, who had a day to forget down at Accrington.

Lynden Gooch appears to be our first choice right back, but then we’ve also seen Luke O’Nien play there, and you can’t ignore Trai Hume, who has been given ample minutes on the pitch in pre-season and will start on Monday down at Hartlepool. Gooch was poor at Bradford and then poor again yesterday - a solid showing from Hume on Monday could see calls from supporters for him to play in the showcase game in front of the Sky cameras.

Our captain, Corry Evans, is another shoo-in but who partners him in midfield is still up for debate. Right now it feels like Dan Neil is the frontrunner, but against a really good side on a big occasion it may be the case that Luke O’Nien plays in there - and we can’t totally discount Jay Matete, who with a strong performance at Victoria Park could play his way into Alex Neil’s thoughts.

I don’t really think that there’s any debating the other four positions - if they’re fit, we know exactly who will start. It would just be nice to have a few more options in place by the time Sunday rolls around.

That has to be the message from the manager to all of the players that start on Monday - nothing is totally decided yet, so go out there, get the minutes in the legs that you need, but also show me why I should be seriously considering you when I pick my team at the weekend.

Simple as that.

Sunderland AFC

Lee Howey on commentary

I’ve really enjoyed Lee Howey on commentary for the last two games.

He’s no-nonsense, he doesn’t talk for the sake of talking (which is a seriously irritating trait of some ex-players when you hear them on the TV and radio during games), oohs and ahhs like we all do when we’re watching from our seat, and isn’t afraid to have a go at the players if they’ve done something crap. I’d like to hear more from him, please!


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