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Reading v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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“No striker - no problem!”

We all know it’s not ideal having no strikers, but how much does playing without one actually suit the players that Sunderland do have available?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Football is a fickle old game.

During the summer transfer window, any tweet from the official Sunderland Twitter account was met with a dozen “Announce Broadhead’ replies. It was paramount we brought in a striker to assist Ross Stewart, or at the very least, as cover.

When the club opted to acquire the services of Everton-loanee, Ellis Simms, the response was mixed, and inevitably halted the Broadhead bandwagon in its tracks.

Despite murmurings of discontent amongst fans, Simms seemed to be a viable option, with a proven championship pedigree, and glowing appraisals from his former clubs.

Bagging a brace on his debut away at Bristol City was a dream start.

All aboard HMS(imms) Piss the League!

Simms has gone on to grab three in six, not a bad return whatsoever, however following an electric start, since Stewart’s injury, the Simms’ ship has encountered troubled waters.

Sunderland v Rotherham United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Simms and Stewart had, what looked to be the makings of another SAS partnership before the injury curse struck. With Stewart fit, we’re undoubtedly a better side with the striking pair starting, with Simms benefitting from Stewart’s movement off-the-ball, and running into the channels, freeing up space for him to cause defenders particular trouble.

Following the early-season fruits of two up-top, Simms has cut a lonesome, isolated figure in recent weeks, and it is undeniable that we’ve looked a better side without a real, recognized striker.

After Simms’ untimely departure, most would have feared the worst away at table-topping Reading.

Cue Mowbray’s “False 9” masterclass, with the game tied at nil-nil, Sunderland enjoyed possibly the most free-flowing period of football we’ve had in years… with *THAT* Jack Clarke goal of the season contender.

A tough trip to Watford followed, and once again, despite a nervy first half, Roberts roamed freely in the Stewart/Simms role, and our play down the flanks through Clarke, Bennette, Gooch, and Diallo completely bamboozled their fullbacks.

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

With Clarke’s goal ruled offside, and Bennette’s equaliser shortly after, we were unfortunate not to come away with the three points.

With Preston up next, and in the absence of a recognised striker (with Simms still injured), if Sunderland can replicate the flair, creativity, and directness of our games in recent weeks, we’ll indeed cause the Lilywhites issues.

The Lancashire side has built a formidable defensive foundation, conceding just four goals in ten, the fewest in the league, so having an arsenal of attacking players rather than a predictable, sole focal point could certainly play into our favour.

As the side who’ve scored the highest number of goals in open-play in all four divisions thus far, Preston pose us a different problem.

They are a side looking to build from the back and shut teams out defensively, patience in our attacking build-up is fundamental and signifies a real test for our young players who mustn’t allow their heads to drop if we fail to break them down early on.

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