Adapting wasn’t that hard at all!
Going into the game on Wednesday I had some nerves - Reading were one of the form teams in the division. How would we cope without key players?
The game started scrappily. It was strange to watch a home team sit so deep and have so little of the ball - I can’t remember ever seeing this approach and it had me waiting for the counter-attacks that didn’t materialise.
We were trying to force things going forward, and when Simms went down injured I was scratching my head and wondering what shape we would adopt and where would the goals come from.
Enter Patrick Roberts, the forgotten man this season with so much promise and talent but not given the opportunities to show it.
His first goal was all about precision, not many would try to score from that angle but he calmly slotted it into the corner using the defender as a shield.
His second was down to quality and confidence - most would shoot early when in that position, but he glided past two defenders and picked his moment to again roll the ball into the corner past the outstretched arms of the keeper. By the end of the game, the Reading defenders were staggering around like drunk Mongolian shepherds looking for their goats.
Service, with style!
Embleton is a regular substitute and is often hit and miss in performance levels, but on this occasion he delivered with two assists, some neat touches and good link up play.
We played with attacking verve and swagger resulting in two of the best goals I’ve ever seen Sunderland score. I celebrated the goals like it was a cup final they were so enjoyable - I’d also built the game up in importance due to the run of games coming, and the injury situation.
The team look to have found their level in the Championship, whereas last season was a struggle at times against poor opposition and refereeing standards. The quality players are being allowed to flourish and get more time on the ball.
How often do we score the goals that our all-round play merits, and enjoy comfortable viewing without nerves or nail biting?! So far this season we’ve lost our star centre half signing, our left back and our best centre forward, and still we sit sixth in the league. Imagine if we had gotten what we deserved in the QPR and Norwich games!
I’m really enjoying playing with wingers, it stretches the game and makes for an exciting watch. For years we have packed out the midfield with slow, midfield sloggers and now we have creativity and pace to spare.
Jack Clarke’s laconic style can frustrate when he gets caught by his marker or doesn’t cross quickly but equally delightful when he skips past his man or caresses the ball into the corner of the net.
Building on the defence...
A special mention to Aje Alese who after a ropey start in the cup against Sheff Wed put on a complete performance that belied his lack of experience.
Also, Luke O’Nien again was composed and helped link play between defence and midfield.
If we can continue to play attractive, effective football and then introduce the injured players back into the team then the play offs don’t seem like a stretch.
The league is wide open and we have given the top teams a run for their money so far.
Saturday will be a different test against a strong side full of Premier League experience, but after Wednesday night's confidence-inspiring performance we will go in with expectation rather than trepidation.