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Middlesbrough v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Two Up, Two Down: Sunderland slip to Riverside defeat after a disjointed performance

It was a frustrating return to Middlesbrough for Tony Mowbray as we were edged out by Chris Wilder’s well-drilled team. What did our panel make of the game?

Photo by Mark Fletcher/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Tom Albrighton says…

A bad night for Ellis Simms

A player who has struggled for the last few weeks did absolutely nothing to calm fans when our greatest fears of an injury to Ross Stewart came true.

Poor movement, sloppy touches, out-battled and out-ran, it was a very sub-standard performance from the on-loan Everton forward.

No plan B

It is early days for Tony Mowbray, who is still getting to grips with his squad, but the lack of Plan B when ‘give it to Jack Clarke’ didn’t work was alarming.

It was clear from thirty minutes onwards that Clarke was in for a rough night and continuing to attack almost solely down his side became too much like hard work.

What’s wrong with Bailey Wright?

It was another abject performance from Luke O’Nien, who despite his best endeavours, just isn’t a centre back.

Riley McGree found acres of space when faced against O’Nien, who was almost constantly out of position, and it was a blessing when Chris Wilder removed him from the fray. It begs the question: with actual centre-backs on the bench, why do we continue to play a ’midfielder’ there instead of the experience of Wright?

Weak between the ears

This was the first time that Sunderland have really been up against it from the off and the lack of response was concerning.

For players used to a raucous atmosphere, it was surprising to see the Lads wilt when on the other end of it. Luckily, not many away grounds will be as intimidating (if you can call it that) as the Riverside, but if Sunderland are to find a home in this division, the players have to learn to handle occasions like this.

A disappointing night all round.

Middlesbrough v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Riverside Stadium Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Kyle Garrett says…

Two up!

Staying in the game

As bad as we were, we were always in the game and with one piece of quality, we could’ve stolen a point.

It wasn’t to be, but we still haven’t been totally outclassed in any game this season.

Anthony Patterson’s performance

Another good showing from our number one.

Commanding in the air, a few decent saves, and his distribution was also OK. We’re in trouble if he gets injured.

Two down

Our overall performance

It was a really weak and sloppy display from Sunderland.

Simple passes were missed and the final ball was bad every time. Again, with a bit of composure and quality, we could have got something out of the game which we wouldn’t have deserved.

Ross Stewart’s injury

This game showed how heavily reliant we are on our number fourteen, because his running and hold up play were sorely missed. Ellis Simms couldn’t get into the game and our on-loan striker didn’t show the qualities that he has done previously.

Middlesbrough v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Riverside Stadium Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Phil West says…

Two up!

Anthony Patterson proves his worth again

Games like this are crucial for Patto’s development.

In a raucous environment, against a team determined to take the victory, it was a real test of character and generally, he acquitted himself very well.

He was solid in the air, commanded his box well, and produced some smart saves into the bargain. A good display.

Alex Pritchard shows his class

His angry reaction at being substituted told its own story, because up until that point, Pritch had been our most influential player.

He missed a great chance in the first half when he blazed over the bar, but he never stopped probing, picking out passes, and trying to keep things moving for us. On a night when things didn't click for the Lads, no blame could be placed on Pritchard.

Two down

A sub-par team performance

Overall, Sunderland were not on form on Monday night.

In the first half, we were sloppy in possession, guilty of losing the ball cheaply, and Middlesbrough repeatedly hit us with pace and power down the flanks, something that we struggled to deal with. The loss of Ross Stewart before the game seemed to spook us, and we simply couldn’t find any rhythm.

In the second half, we kept the ball far more effectively, but there was a glaring lack of cutting edge, and we probably could’ve played for three hours and not scored.

An off-night for Jack Clarke

If the Rotherham game showcased the best of Clarke, this was the other side of his game, and boy, was it frustrating to watch.

There was no lack of effort or application, but his decision-making was poor and his final ball nowhere near accurate enough. In addition, he was regularly exposed defensively, which merely highlighted that he needs to work harder on that side of his game.

This is the kind of performance we will occasionally see from the former Leeds man. When he is on form, he changes games, but when he isn’t, it can be difficult to watch.

Middlesbrough v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Riverside Stadium Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Michael Dunne says…

Two up!

Danny Batth stands tall

I thought Batth was excellent, and he has been all season.

He showed real leadership and courage throughout, and he also put his body on the line for every challenge.

Batth was one of the few Sunderland players who can be proud of their performance on Monday.

We kept going until the end

It was great that we didn’t let our heads drop after conceding.

There is a real solidarity among this team, and they tend to keep going even if things are going against us.

We have built up a great team spirit and morale which will keep us in good stead throughout the campaign.

Two down

A lack of creativity

For all of the attacking talent we have, Sunderland looked devoid of any ideas, attacking-wise.

Patrick Roberts, Alex Pritchard, Ellis Simms and Dan Neil were all below par, as was Jack Clarke, who had a rough night against Middlesbrough’s right-back.

Unfortunately, all players will have bad nights but our attackers seemed to have a collective one.

Questionable substitutions?

It struck me that Tony Mowbray took Alex Pritchard off just as he was getting a foothold in the game.

Sunderland were building some momentum at the start of the second half and Mowbray chose to take our best performer and replace him with the ineffective Amad Diallo.

It was a bizarre call and it negated any sort of dominance that we had.

Middlesbrough v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - Riverside Stadium Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Kelvin Beattie says...

Two up!

Patterson reasonably calm under pressure

On a night when we had to soak up a bit of pressure, and apart from one calamitous attempt to clear the ball that almost rebounded into his goal, Anthony Patterson was very steady.

Given what was happening in front of him, this was a credible performance from our young goalkeeper.

The away support gave it their best

Fair play to our travelling support.

On a night when we collectively and individually delivered our worst performance of the season so far, they kept up a good level of vocal support.

Two down

Jack Clarke’s profligacy!

Clarke followed up his stormer against Rotherham with a very frustrating performance.

Getting into good positions and taking his marker on the outside, but wasting the final ball is something we have seen from time to time. He is a young player and he has to be allowed the space to make an error or two when attacking.

He was lucky on two or three occasions that he did not give the ball away inside his own half, and the number of overhit and misdirected crosses from good positions could have easily been in double figures.

First half gifts

The Middlesbrough midfield will not get as many presents at Christmas as were gifted to them in the first half, thanks to our wayward defence and midfield.

Thankfully this improved in the second half, and it needed to.

It was a difficult night and disappointing that we could not follow up our barnstorming performance against Rotherham. Ross Stewart’s injury obviously affected our game, but we have to be able to respond to these setbacks.

Onwards to Millwall on Saturday!

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

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