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Bristol City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Two Up, Two Down: Analysing the positives and negatives from Sunderland’s win over Bristol City

Alex Neil’s team came from behind to bank all three points on Saturday afternoon. What did our panel make of our efforts in the West Country?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says...

Two up!

Ellis Simms

What a debut from the Everton loanee!

Two goals, loads of promise, and finally someone who can play alongside Stewart. A top-drawer performance.

Nathan who?


We are at a new level and we went behind in the game, but we came back and held on for a win. We haven’t finished in the transfer window, but showing that kind of resilience early in the season is encouraging.

Two down

Defensive frailties

We looked shaky at the back, and Lynden Gooch was particularly unconvincing. We need to be stronger in defence, although the second half performance was better in places.

Midfield issues

In the first half, we had nothing in the engine room.

I’m not sure if this was a shape issue or a personnel issue, but we need to work out how we establish more dominance in that area.

When Alex Pritchard and Dan Neil got on the ball, we did very well. We won’t always win games if we don’t do as well in the middle, so there are lessons to learn.

Bristol City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says...

Two up!

Playing on the front foot

Before kickoff, it looked if Alex Neil was going for it with two up top, and that proved to be the case.

Changing the team, having found a weak spot in the opposition, worked well, and at times we played some lovely attacking football.

We’ve shown that we can create chances at this level, and the likes of Ross Stewart, Ellis Simms and Jack Clarke (who I thought had one of his best games for us) will trouble most Championship sides on their day.

Bouncing back

One of the things that Neil will have been aware of is the fact that Bristol City struggled to hold onto leads last season.

It was good, therefore, to see us keep our cool and not panicking after going behind in the second half. Drawing level so soon afterwards was a massive boost, and from that point we took over.

Hopefully we’ll see more of that mental strength in weeks to come.

Two down

Some nervy moments

We saw some really good last-ditch defending on Saturday, but a consequence of being so attack-minded is that we will concede chances, and that is no good for the old heart rate.

There may even be games where we lose playing like that, but that will be par for the course for any side that likes to be open wherever possible.

I’m pleased that Sunderland are going out and trying to win games, even if it means that we bite a few fingernails as we watch them do it!

Radio ga-ga!

Before the game, I was contacted by a relative who asked for help in getting the match commentary on radio. Unfortunately, as a result of Radio Newcastle shunting all Sunderland games onto DAB, they had to miss out.

I know this has been the case for a while now, but it is still a deeply frustrating and insidious decision that points to a much wider problem. The quicker Radio Sunderland goes live, the better.

Bristol City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Kingsley Reavley says...

Two up!

The form of Jack Clarke

Ellis Simms will get a lot of the plaudits, and rightly so, but Clarke was excellent down the left hand side.

He had the beating of his man nine times out of ten, and his final ball and decision making is improving all the time. The way he manipulates the ball, draws in the defender and then jinks away reminds me of Aiden McGeady at his best.

This could be a huge season for Clarke. There is enormous potential there, and you can see why Tottenham paid such a large fee to sign him from Leeds.


After many years of journeymen and chancers, this game showed that we’ve finally got the makings of a vibrant team, with some young players and experienced heads who genuinely care about the future of the club and are all pulling in the same direction.

They might not get it right every week, but we can see desire, hunger, work rate, commitment, and bodies being put on on the line.

All of these may seem like givens, but they have often been in short supply in recent years.

Two down

Light in central midfield

We need an strong and experienced midfield enforcer to back up Corry Evans.

It would have been ideal to bring on such a player on Saturday, to calm the nerves and break up play as the game became stretched and we were clinging on for the win.

Luke O’Nien hasn’t played in the Championship, and he still seems to be a jack of all trades and master of none, so he isn’t the answer.

Hopefully there is someone lined up.

Issues at full-back

Has Alex Neil decided that Dennis Cirkin and Lynden Gooch are his preferred full-backs for the season? It appears so, and I can’t be the only fan who is slightly concerned by that.

We have been crying out for specialist full-backs for a while now, and the way that Gooch got caught out for the first goal was reminiscent of an attacker trying to defend, which is effectively what he is.

Bristol City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Michael Dunne says…

Two up!

Ellis Simms

What else can you say apart from ‘what a debut’?

I genuinely wasn’t expecting that sort of impact from Simms, and he completely surpassed my expectations. He played the perfect striker’s role, and his two goals were finished sublimely.

He could have even had a hat-trick, which would’ve been madness for his first game. The impact he made was huge, considering all of the rumours around Nathan Broadhead, and hopefully he can maintain it.

Our defensive duo

Dan Ballard and Danny Baath were superb on Saturday.

Although we conceded two goals, they probably prevented a couple more and Ballard in particular was immense. I love how close he gets to the player he is marking, and how he doesn’t give them a moment’s peace.

In addition, his distribution from the back is better than expected thus far, and I think we might have a steal on our hands with this guy.

Two down

Sunderland’s midfield

I do worry a little about our midfield, and we could certainly use some reinforcements there.

We often look a bit lightweight in that area, and I felt we were overpowered at times by Bristol’s midfield.

We often struggled to implement our gameplay on Saturday, especially in the first half, and I do think that we would benefit from someone with physical presence, and who is comfortable on the ball in the middle of the park.

Sloppy goals conceded

We have been a bit careless with the goals we have conceded so far.

The Championship is clearly a tougher league, but Alex Neil would have been very disappointed at the ease with which the goals were scored.

With QPR, who netted three against Middlesbrough on Saturday, our next opponents, it is something that Neil will doubtless be analysing over the coming days.

Bristol City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images


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