I haven’t felt this deflated after a Sunderland match for ages.
Frankly, the sight of QPR’s goalkeeper scoring an injury time equaliser at the Stadium of Light after we’d acquitted ourselves so well for eighty seven minutes left me speechless, and for the rest of Saturday night, I could barely bring myself to think about the match.
Win, lose or draw, there’s always much to discuss after a game, whether that concerns our skill, our determination to take one point or three, or our shortcomings. All three apply in some measure to Saturday’s game, but in the aftermath, I didn’t even want to think about them.
We’d been great for much of the game and yet still hadn’t won, and the biggest story of the clash ended up being something so incredibly ‘Sunderland-esque’ that it really stung.
However, after a period of reflection, I see this as being very significant for our season. For the fans, and the players and staff at the club, QPR provided us with some important lessons about the realities of Championship football.
During the game, we showed that we can play well, establish a two-goal cushion, and yet still be vulnerable to a double-quick collapse. QPR, on the other hand, also exhibited both the talent and the element of chaos that characterises the English second tier, with their own late comeback.
What this means for Sunderland is that we need to get used to frustration.
Yes, we must mitigate against lapses like we saw on Saturday as much as we can, whether that is through the use of personnel by Alex Neil, or working on our fitness and concentration levels as a squad. However, both the fans and the players need to realise that this type of result, and worse, will still come our way this season.
To be successful, it will be our response to such setbacks which counts.
The immediate reaction to Seni Dieng’s equaliser in the stadium on Saturday, one of anger and anguish, was totally understandable.
Rational analysis of a solid overall performance goes out of the window at moments like that, and the hurt can linger. Nonetheless, I was pleased with our response, as Sunderland went straight up the other end and were a lick of paint away from snatching all three points.
In the aftermath of the game, both Neil and the majority of fans seem to have accepted that, despite the disappointment, the result won’t overshadow the fact that we outplayed an established Championship side for long spells, and generally managed their periods of control, too.
Although I’m still not over the looping header dropped over the head of the stranded Anthony Patterson and into our net, I’m pleased that we have emerged from the experience with our sanity generally intact.
Now we have two challenging away games where our resolve will once again be tested, and I’m confident that we can meet those challenges to the best of our ability.