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Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship

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Two Up, Two Down: A mixed bag as Sunderland and Coventry draw their season-opener

Alex Neil’s side played out an entertaining draw with the Sky Blues in their opening game. What positives and negatives did our panel take from the match?

Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Bomber says…

Two Up!

We can clearly compete at this level

As the first half showed, we are good enough to compete at this level. Coventry are a good Championship team who finished six points outside the playoffs last year, and we bossed them for the entire first half.

There are poorer teams than Coventry than there are better teams in this division, so the first half performance gives me great confidence!

Key players stepping up into the Championship

Jack Clarke, Ross Stewart, Alex Pritchard and Lynden Gooch are all players that we hoped would be good enough for us in the Championship.

It’s early days, but the indication from Sunday is that they would be just as effective for us in a higher division.

Two Down

League One-style mistakes will cost us dearly

How Coventry didn’t pull level from the mistakes made from our own goal kick can only be attributed to divine intervention.

One thing is for sure: in League One, you’ll get away with it more often than not. In the Championship, however, getting away with it is an exception and not a likely occurrence.

It is a ninety-minute game

During the last twenty minutes we looked very tired. We dropped further and further back and made more and more mistakes - with Coventry not really doing anything different.

The Championship holds a relentless intensity, is infinitely more demanding than League One, and the physical and mental demands need to be met.

As I mentioned, it’s very early days, perhaps the demands of the game were unexpected, and maybe the adrenaline of being in front of 40,000 fans drained us.

Whatever it was, we need to be able to perform for ninety minutes, because this league does not abide tiredness or coasting.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Sam Quigley says…

Two Up!

Jack the lad

Throughout pre-season, Jack Clarke has been steadily building on the form that we saw during the end of the 2021/2022 season, and this version of Clarke is a different beast.

From the first whistle, he pestered their defence with his speed and agility, and he showed that he had another skill in his locker by heading in a perfect opening goal for the Lads.

Proof that we can compete at this level

By no means was that game a walk in the park, but we showed that we have what it takes to compete in this league. Let’s not forget that Coventry were no whipping boys last season, and a point against the Sky Blues is a good way to open our account.

Two Down

Discipline is key

Sunderland recorded sixteen fouls to Coventry’s six, and picked up four yellow cards on the way, with Luke O’Nien nearly picking up a card of either colour late on. This could be a hangover from the sometimes brutal melee of League One, but it is definitely something we need to figure out quickly.

Squad depth

This isn’t a numbers issue: it’s a quality issue.

When we are trying to see a game out, we should be able to send on a player like Corry Evans, but by bringing O’Nien on with the game well and truly against us, we needed a player with more composure and the ability to mark dangerous players. Maybe that would’ve stopped the equaliser?

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Kev Campbell says…

Two Up!

The quality of our squad

We found out that most of our squad from last year really was a league above the competition.

Not one player flinched at playing a very good Championship side, and for fifty minutes we looked the better side. Maintaining that standard of play over the course of the season will see us into a very good position.

We’re a massive club!

From the attendance, to the atmosphere, to the performance, we reminded everyone, on a national stage, that we’re a giant of a club.

Very few clubs will come close to rivalling our home attendance numbers, or our travelling support, and over the course of the season, I imagine that the proverbial ‘twelfth man’ will take its toll on the rest of the league.

Two Down

A lack of depth

This will be a non-issue by the end of the window, I’m sure, but the squad is thin.

There was a definite drop-off when Elliot Embleton and Alex Pritchard were subbed off, but when Alex Neil gets his full squad together and the new boys get up to speed however, look out.

Ross Stewart’s toughness

Stewart played well on Sunday.

He pressed well, he linked up the play, and he also created a couple of good opportunities. One area that he could improve, however, is his toughness. He went down fairly easy on a couple of occasions, and he needs to stop trying to get the referee’s calls and just play on. He’s a big strong lad and if he can improve his physical toughness, he may well be unstoppable.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Kyle Garrett says…

Two Up!

Something to build on

Going into our first Championship game in four years, it was so important to register a positive result, and a point against a strong Coventry team is a decent start.

Threats

We looked really threatening going forward in the first half, and that is something we can hopefully replicate over ninety minutes, rather than just forty five.

Two Down

Tired legs

We looked tired in the second half, and Coventry’s substitutes changed the game, which was something that we struggled with in pre-season, especially the games against Roma and Bradford.

More poor officiating

I know it was the first game, and blaming the officials would seem like a cop-out, but come on, they were awful!

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Ewan Bowman says…

Two Up!

Alex Pritchard

Pritchard is player who we all thought could step up, after previous spells in the Premier League and the Championship, but today’s performance shown he belongs at this level.

He was the best player on the pitch, effective on the ball, and especially with the cross that led to Jack Clarke’s chance in the first half. He provides us with a real creative spark, and could be a contender for player of the year if he stays fit.

A good result

A positive result against a very good strong and physical side. We more than held our own and defensively looked solid especially in the first half. Second half they were the better team but throughout the match we showed a real threat and will hurt teams in this league.

Two Down

Midfield issues

In the second half, we were outplayed and overran.

Corry Evans needs some help in the middle of the park, and it underlined the need for powerful, combative Championship-quality midfielder who can break up the play and keep the ball.

Playing out from the back

Playing out from the back looks good, but it can lead to the concession of goals.

Matty Godden should have scored following Dan Neil’s error, and at times it was very nervy at the back with the ball at our feet. You can get away with that in League One, but the Championship is another level, and we have to learn from it and ensure that we only play out from the back at the right time.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Michael Dunne says…

Two Up!

Jack Clarke on form

I think Clarke is going to be my favourite player this season.

I love how direct he is, and how he offers an outlet for us under pressure. His performance was very good, and I think he could be key for us this season. He scored a great goal and hopefully he can continue to contribute, as we need to ease the burden on Ross Stewart.

Stepping up a division and looking good

We are very capable at this level.

We have shown that we can be solid at the back whilst simultaneously being dangerous going forward. Stewart, Clarke, Patrick Roberts and Alex Pritchard will cause lots of teams problems, and I would be satisfied with how our defence is looking.

A couple more signings, and I think we will be looking OK for this season.

Two Down

Midfield problems in the second half

I felt that our midfield was completely outplayed in the second half.

I found it strange that Elliot Embleton was taken off at a time when Coventry were gaining a foothold and we needed someone who could get on the ball.

Luke O’Nien came on, and I just don’t think he fits that role. I think Neil went slightly too negative at that stage, and maybe that invited more pressure.

Missiles being thrown from the Coventry end

Coventry fans throwing missiles is completely unacceptable, and it should be dealt with appropriately.

Having our fans seated under the away fans in the upper north stand is dangerous, and I worry that it could lead to a severe injury. It may be something that has to be looked at going forward.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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