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Sunderland v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship

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Two Up, Two Down: Sunderland show fighting spirit in Norwich defeat

After a full-blooded affair at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland were edged out 1-0 by Dean Smith’s side. What did our panel make of the game?

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

Tom Albrighton says...

Two up!

A strong response

Our performance was sublime and given what has happen every during the last twenty four hours, it was more than we could have hoped for.

After suggestions of player revolt and the real possibility of heads dropping, everyone gave their all in a battling performance that ended with Sunderland, unfairly, on the wrong end of the result.

The return of Neil (Not that one)

Dan Neil’s return from suspension was a joy to behold. He played like a man with a point to prove and a fire in his belly.

It was good to see that his silly sending off against Sheffield United hasn’t affected his confidence.

Two down

Legs eleven!

Taking so long to make changes killed Sunderland at home once again, because it was clear for ten minutes before conceding that we needed fresher legs on the pitch.

Whether it’s down to fitness or game management, we have to be more forthcoming with changes during the ninety minutes, especially in midfield.

Hopefully, the acquisition of Edouard Michut will allow for more rotation in that area.

Scraping the barrel

If I’m honest, it’s hard to find two negatives.

On the back of a tumultuous twenty four hours, the response to everything that had happened was brilliant. The application from the lads and the unwavering support from the stands reinforced just how special this club is.

If it wasn’t for a lack of luck and some inspired defending, Sunderland would have ended up as comfortable winners, and why you would want to leave a project with such exciting potential and fanatical support is beyond me.

Sunderland Ladies v Birmingham City Women: Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Ashley Allen - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Mark Carrick says...

Two up!

Commitment from the players

The players gave their all, and had one or two attempts been marginally more accurate, we’d have seen off a side who many expect to win the league at a canter.

We created opportunities, and the pre-match talk of players giving up was not borne out.

Hope for the future

Before the game, the club addressed the Alex Neil situation in part, and we also saw the exciting Edouard Michut in the crowd, waiting to sign for Sunderland.

There are signs that we will improve the squad before the end of the transfer window, and if we replace Neil quickly, the feeling will continue to be one of optimism.

Two down

Poor game management

Our game management certainly needs improving.

We could see the need for subsitutions about ten minutes before Norwich scored, and the new gaffer has to work out how to make the right changes at the right time, in order to turn positive performances into three points.

Disciplinary issues

We continue to rack up yellow cards at an alarming rate, and this is something we perhaps need to work on, otherwise the squad will be tested beyond its limits when injuries and suspensions hit.

Sunderland v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Paddy Hayes says...

Two up!

First-half intensity

Coventry, QPR, and now Norwich have all failed to deal with our vigour, as well as our high press, in the first half of games.

Our initial energy levels have been unmatched so far.

Competing well against a quality opponent

Bar Ellis Simms, this is the same side that won promotion from League One last season, and we’ve gone toe to toe with a team who were playing Manchester City and Liverpool only a few months ago.

For large parts, predominantly in the first-half, we looked like the better side, which is testament to how well these players have adapted to a new league.

Two down

Fitness concerns

We always come racing out of the traps during the first forty five minutes.

The crowd feeds off the intensity, but it completely fizzles out by the hour mark, and in our first three home games, we’ve been caught out every time, conceding two equalisers and now a costly winner.

Luke O’Nien’s discipline

It isn’t the first time, nor the last, but he is a walking booking and an inevitable red card, which will ultimately cost us dearly relatively soon.

It’s rather telling that they are the only negatives I can muster, because in general this team has been a credit to the club during the past six games.

Sunderland v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Matt Smith says...

Two up!

Moving on from Neil

The furore around Alex Neil’s impending departure threatened to derail the game, dilute the atmosphere and disrupt the players’ mental readiness for the task ahead.

However, the crowd reaction and the intensity of the players’ response offers hope that the Sunderland edifice remains robust enough to cope with the loss of a talented yet, with hindsight, insufficiently committed head coach.

Midfield dominance

For seventy minutes or so, we controlled the centre of the park against a team that will most likely be among the automatic promotion contenders this season.

Pivotal to this was the performance of Evans and Dan Neil.

With the former recycling possession well, in addition to adding an unlikely goal threat with a couple of perfectly struck shots, and the latter pressing and intercepting intelligently, we largely kept Norwich pinned in their own half and nullified any threat through the middle.

Two down

Anthony Patterson’s distribution

It might be scraping the barrel to find negatives in a performance that deserved at least a point, but Patterson’s kicking was a bit wayward at times.

He got away with one when dallying and delaying his clearance, which cannoned off Josh Sargent, and there were a few attempts at finding players on the touchline that ended up meekly surrendering possession through his wayward radar.

Questionable discipline

I was actually impressed with how we responded to some worryingly early yellow cards.

Luke O’Nien in particular timed his interceptions to perfection once he’d been booked and went a long way towards easing my own fears of him becoming a walking red card.

As it was, the early yellow cards for two thirds of our back three didn’t have a noticeable impact on the tenacity of our defensive duties and they consistently remained on the right side of legality.

I’d be a lot happier if they didn’t have to walk that tightrope for so much of the game, though.

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

Andrew Smithson says...

Two up!

The players’ reaction

There have been a few members of the team who have started the season well, and that continued on Saturday.

The likes of Dennis Cirkin and Danny Batth have gone about their business very well, and after Friday’s goings-on, it was good to see everyone sticking in.

There wasn’t a whole lot more we could have done to score, and I think we were very unlucky not to come out with at least a point. Had the excellent Corry Evans enjoyed a little more good fortune, for example, things might have been different.

Play like that against Rotherham United and we should be fine.

Fan reaction

I doubt whether much graft got done during the build-up to the game, due to fans constantly refreshing and trying to keep up with the quickly developing saga, but normally the whole point of working hard during the week is so you can enjoy yourself on match day.

Following football is supposed to be fun, and after all the stress, it was just nice to get to the Stadium of Light and get behind the team. It was obvious that the vast majority feel short-changed by Alex Neil, but they turned that energy into something positive and made it clear that those that do want to be here will be backed.

I can think of a few Championship clubs that would love to have the same level of support as Sunderland, who sell out away ends, enjoy great numbers at home and of late have really stuck with the team.

It isn’t everything, admittedly, but any manager, head coach or player should revel in that atmosphere and use it to drive them on. If they don’t, we’ll move on.

Sunderland AFC shouldn’t have to beg, and whilst it would be a shame to see anybody else go now, because I like a lot of this squad, it will only add to the ‘us against the world’ mentality I could sense - and that is no bad thing.

Two down

TV scheduling over fans’ convenience?

A lunchtime kickoff surely made things difficult for Norwich fans, and I wonder whether a different game could have been selected for this slot?

However, those that did travel got to see an entertaining encounter, and after they went ahead, the Canaries shut things down very well.

A tale of two cities

From the moment the referee let Liam Gibbs walk off across the pitch instead of at the nearest point, only to then stop Alex Pritchard from taking a corner until he had checked the ball placement, I could tell it was going to be a day of muddled thinking.

I’ve moaned about poor officiating previously, so instead I’ll focus on two results today that seemed very harsh.

The Lads did more than enough to win, and whilst the Lasses were not as dominant, the three late goals they conceded to Birmingham City put a very unfair reflection on their game. All very disappointing, but hopefully we can move on.

Sunderland Ladies v Birmingham City Women: Barclays FA Women’s Championship Photo by Ashley Allen - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

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