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Reading v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Hot Takes: Sunderland showed their attacking prowess on Wednesday - what a performance!

Despite losing Ellis Simms to an early injury, Tony Mowbray’s team responded impressively, consigning Reading to a 0-3 defeat - demonstrating their potential once again

Photo by David Horton - CameraSport via Getty Images

Lose your head coach twenty four hours before a game? Not a problem. Lose your one remaining out-and-out striker midway through the first half of what looked like a tricky away tie? Simply readjust, regroup, and score three goals en route to a superb victory.

Yes, there may be question marks about what is happening off the field, but on the pitch, Sunderland AFC of 2022 are a world away from the previous team to represent us in this league- a leaderless, disinterested rabble that took no fewer than twenty-five league games to rack up four victories, during the dismal season of 2017/2018.

Nowadays, there is professionalism, team spirit, and resilience in spades, and you can tell that these lads genuinely enjoy playing alongside each other and representing our club. That will be absolutely priceless as the season unfolds, not least because there are sure to be more dips along the way.

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

Make no mistake, this was another crucial early-season boost for Tony Mowbray and his team. His three games in charge have yielded two impressive victories, either side of a blip at the Riverside Stadium, and the team seems to be responding to his methods with aplomb.

After the loss at Middlesbrough and the frustration of seeing Saturday’s game postponed, there was a strange sense of pre-match excitement tinged with a hint of anxiety.

The Royals were in a strong position in the league, and boasted an impressive home record that had seen them defy pre-season predictions that had them marked as potential strugglers.

Fortunately, Sunderland showed absolutely no respect for any of that as after a reasonably slow start where a lack of cutting edge was visible and we couldn’t quite find the killer pass, we started to turn the screw, playing the sort of football that we’ve shown in flashes this season - eventually cruised to our fourth league win from nine matches.

After Ellis Simms departed with what looked like a toe injury (much to his obvious frustration) a quickfire double from Patrick Roberts gave us a precious half-time lead and when Jack Clarke finished off a scarcely-believable, utterly brilliant team move in the second half, it capped off a superb night all round.

It was difficult to highlight standout performances from the Lads because everyone acquitted themselves superbly, but it would be criminal to overlook the contribution of Roberts, who was borderline unplayable at times and ripped into Reading like a man with a point to prove and a personal mission to complete.

Reading v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

His class is not in doubt, and if he can rack up a solid run of games, he can certainly become a game-changing presence at this level. Roberts’ experience at a club like Celtic ought to stand him in good stead; he should have no problem with carrying a weight of expectation, and displays like this are proof of his enduring quality.

Other standout performances came from Aji Alese, who was an absolute rock at the back and who did his cause the world of good; Corry Evans, who turned in a typically industrious captain’s performance, and Elliot Embleton, whose introduction ultimately laid the platform for us to grab the game and run with it, such was his dynamism and keenness to drive the team forward.

It was also worth noting that Sunderland’s game management was superb on Wednesday - another promising sign that we are starting to master the fundamentals of life in this division.

We didn’t push too hard and burn ourselves out early; instead, we were smart with our tempo, took the sting out of the game when needed, and generally kept things ticking over nicely. Mowbray will doubtless be stressing the importance of physical fitness over a marathon season, and games like this are the perfect way for us to settle back into the Championship.

With the team due to remain down south ahead of Watford on Saturday, how we approach that game in terms of selection and tactics will be fascinating.

It will certainly be another tough assignment, and if Simms is ruled out we will have to adapt accordingly, but after a performance and a result like this there is absolutely no reason that we cannot pick up another positive result at Vicarage Road.

Another three points secured, another clean sheet, and one of those evenings that made the four year slog of League One seem like a distant memory.

Sunderland are making their mark in the Championship, and it should be a memorable ride!


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