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Two Up, Two Down: What are the biggest positives (and negatives?) from Sunderland’s win at Stoke

It was fraught and it was tense, but Alex Neil’s men emerged from a tough game in the Potteries with a vital three points. What did our panel make of the game?

Stoke City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - bet365 Stadium Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images

Paddy Hayes says...

Two up!


We dug deep away from home and proved that even when we aren’t at our best and without several key players, we can still pick wins up at this level.

Dennis Cirkin’s performance

Cirkin was tremendous once again.

There have been incremental improvements to his game each week, and although there might have been some concern prior to the season that he may not cut it, he has certainly demonstrated that he is more than capable.

Two down

Reinforcements needed

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we need reinforcements through the door as soon as possible.

Whilst we won on Saturday, it is abundantly clear that sooner or later, the current crop are going to burn out as we saw last season, and it is crucial we get the final four or five additions right.

An iffy first half

We need avoid sloppy first-half performances.

We were fortunate that Stoke are pretty shambolic, but against a higher quality opponent, we could feasibly have found ourselves a goal or two down before the break.

Stoke City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Tom Albrighton says...

Two up!

We are lethal up top

After a sketchy first half during which Sunderland struggled to get a foothold in the game, it was once again our killer instinct that reared its head.

At the moment, it is pretty much impossible to keep the Lads out of the game due to our sheer strength up top. Ross Stewart and Ellis Simms are a constant threat, even against the run of play.

Seeing the game out

After conceding eight goals in four games, including two late goals at home to QPR, Sunderland’s leaky defence was starting to become a matter of concern.

With Dan Ballard injured, things only looked worse, but there were stellar performances from all on Saturday, especially Dennis Cirkin (again).

Holding out during a nervy final ten minutes will do our defence the world of good.

Two down

Yellow submarine

Sunderland’s penchant for yellow cards is becoming a growing issue, especially given the poor standard of refereeing and our thin squad.

Whilst a side that gets stuck in is something to be admired, we must temper our tenacity in defence by being disciplined, lest suspensions become a regular occurrence that will eventually catch up with us.

More players needed!

It is not exactly a secret, and whilst those who played on Saturday did themselves no harm, the fact that we ended the game with Lynden Gooch in midfield really showed how desperate we are for at least one more midfielder.

Stoke City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - bet365 Stadium Photo by Nigel French/PA Images via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says...

Two up!

Dogged determination

We were very unlucky not to get something at Bramall Lane in midweek, but the grit we showed on Saturday was no different to the sixty five minutes that we played with ten men against Sheffield United.

Great team spirit and a cracking three points.

Rossco continues to score!

He should have had two goals, but Stewart scored again and was the difference between the sides.

Another great performance from the big lad: half a sniff of goal, and he scores. He’s going to be a huge asset, along with Ellis Simms, this season.

Two down


I think the referee dished out way too many yellow cards, but we need to adjust to this level and make sure we are disciplined.

There will come a time when they will result in suspensions, and we need to prevent that from becoming a factor in our season.

A shabby first half

We lacked shape, control, and real effectiveness in the first half and this probably led to some of the cards.

It was great to see Corry Evans come on and calm things down in the second half, but we lacked a little bit of fire early on. No doubt it will return.

Stoke City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Kingsley Reavley says...

Two up!

Simms and Stewart…..again

We seem to say it every week, but it was another outstanding performance from our two strikers.

They epitomise the art of ‘defending from the front’ and they also caused havoc when we attacked. The percentage of first and second balls they win is excellent, along with duels, running the channels, and creating space for Alex Pritchard.

They are a nightmare for opposition defenders, and long as we keep them fit, I’m confident of a top-half finish.


The grit, determination and desire to grind that result out was commendable.

All eleven players gave everything for the shirt. Against teams like Stoke, it’s never going to be pretty, and it’s a case of getting over the line by any means necessary.

There was the odd hairy moment along the way, but I felt that we held out relatively comfortably in the end.

Two down

A lack of defensive pace

It may seem churlish due to the clean sheet, but it was impossible to miss Danny Batth and Luke O’Nien repeatedly being skinned by the pacy Stoke forwards.

We may need to take another look at how we’re lining up at the back, as future opponents could try to exploit it.

Poor discipline

The officiating in this league doesn’t appear to be any better than in League One, but we aren’t helping ourselves at times by conceding needless fouls.

Having half of our outfield players on yellow cards puts you on the back foot, and sometimes it forces Alex Neil into making substitutions that he hadn’t necessarily planned for.

If we had cut those out, it would have been a near perfect away performance.

Stoke City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says…

Two up!


No matter what, we’ve managed to score goals this season, and that always gives us a chance in games.

Ross Stewart is in superb form right now and all it took for him to turn things around was one opening. Prior to going ahead, it had been arguably our poorest league showing of the season, but we took the lead, and that changed the whole complexion of the game.

The Lads thoroughly deserved the win after their second half performance, and now we’ve got a free week to get everybody ready for the next match.

Bouncing back from defeat

So far, Alex Neil has been a perfect fit for Sunderland, and the only question was whether he would be able to keep things going after a couple of iffy results. It has been so long since the defeat to MK Dons that I didn’t know how the team would react the next time things didn’t go our way.

For various reasons, it has been a difficult week but I needn’t have worried, because the response has been excellent.

To get three points from two tough-looking fixtures is hugely encouraging and points to both an excellent team spirit and the fact we have a level-headed boss. The clean sheet was a boost, as was holding on having lost a couple of leads of late.

Knowing that we can respond well to the ups and downs that are bound to come our way is the biggest positive, for me.

Two down

The transfer rumour mill into overdrive?

We all know that we need a few new players before the transfer window closes, but with Neil saying he wants to avoid a ‘mad dash’, we can expect all sorts of rumours and ‘sightings’ during the coming week.

Some deals will come off and some won’t, whilst some were never on the cards anyway, so I hope people can just sit back, relax and take an objective view on things. I’ve already read one or two calls online for the club to ‘get the chequebook out’ and I just don’t see how it helps. The fans inside the stadium have been behind the Lads all the way this season, but on social media there are still one or two grumblings. That type of pressure serves no purpose.

The recruitment team have a plan and it has worked so far, and we know that it is a much safer path than simply lashing money on players to provide a quick fix, so I don’t want us to lose sight of it.

Performances so far have shown that we have enough to compete at this level, so I am fairly calm, and will try to take things with a pinch of salt. It wouldn’t be a bad thing if a few others followed suit.

That’s it, really!

I’ll be honest: I cannot think of much else!

There were a few scruffy moments and perhaps more bookings than necessary, but these types of things happen at this level. We have a young team, but the signs are that they can get there. We could lose our next match, but as long the team is heading in the right direction, it isn’t the end of the world.

It is nice to be in a position where the next defeat doesn’t have to be disaster, and having just witnessed an away win, we can worry about any negatives later.

We’ve even had a potential move forward in terms of fan interaction this week, so for me, the pluses far outweigh the minuses right now.

Stoke City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

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