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Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship

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Two Up, Two Down: Picking out the positives & negatives from Sunderland’s win v Boro!

In a highly-charged atmosphere, the Lads performed brilliantly and eventually ran out 2-0 winners against Michael Carrick’s team. What did our writers make of the game?

Photo by Martin Swinney/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says...

Growing up quickly!

To lose our captain and then to have to make another injury-enforced change was far from ideal, but despite their inexperience, the players handled the game well for the most part.

It was a team effort and the senior players did their bit, but it was particularly pleasing to see some of the youngsters stepping up and growing into their roles.

Trai Hume, for example, is doing brilliantly, and the central midfield pairing of Dan Neil and Edouard Michut was a joy to watch.

Triple A

Amad’s reaction to a couple of missed chances in the first half was superb, and to respond with a goal and to continue the understanding with Patrick Roberts shows good mental strength.

In defence, Aji Alese was brilliant on his return. Hopefully, the problem that forced him off isn’t serious, but with the transfer window closing soon, it’s worth remembering that he arrived as a relative unknown and is proving to be a great buy.

We may sign a few more unfamiliar names, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing and if they’re of a similar quality as Alese, we’ll be laughing.

A few too many chances missed…

Middlesbrough’s goalkeeper looked a bit suspect to me, and I would’ve liked to have seen a few more shots being taken at him if it was possible.

Don’t get me wrong- we were at it from the start and looked to attack even when it was eleven versus eleven, but there were times when instead of playing an extra pass, a shot may have been on.

When we did shoot, some of our finishing was a bit wayward and although it’s easy for me to say, we play such lovely stuff at times and often deserve a bit more from it.

…and a few too many chances conceded

Although we managed the game well overall, there was a period at 1-0 where we gave up a few too many openings.

I don’t want to say we were casual, so maybe ‘overconfident’ is a better description as there were a couple of instances where we tried to do too much and would’ve been better off just tightening up and playing it simple.

We got sucked into chasing the ball and not the man on occasions too, but these are minor criticisms. It’s nothing that can’t be fixed, the desire to do well is clearly there, and I’d much rather that than have players not putting the work in.

That’s the beauty of this squad: even with a massive injury list, we’re capable of beating good sides but there’s still more to come.

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

Malc Dugdale says…

Game management

There have been times when we’ve had chances to win games and we didn’t close it out but we were very much in control on Sunday, even before the red card for Middlesbrough.

The win was achieved as much through great game management as anything else.

It’s easy not to make the most of the extra man but we were patient and clinical when the chances came, and once it was 2-0 we never looked back.

Men of the match

It was a performance that could’ve resulted in any one of six or more players being given the man of the match award.

Trai Hume and Dan Ballard were fantastic, Edouard Michut stepped in really well when needed, and Dan Neil had a stonker of a match. Elsewhere, Patrick Roberts and Amad were brilliant, and Ross Stewart was ace as well.

The players are all playing for each other and performing so well, and I’m thinking that we could finish in the top six this season.

A scare for Corry Evans

It was a shame to see Evans go off injured, and we have to hope that it isn’t a long-term issue.

That said, every cloud has a silver lining and Michut may now get a run of games, which can’t be a bad thing. He did very well when he came on but I hope Evans is back soon, as I’d prefer the option of playing him against some of the more physical sides in the league.

Michut still needs to be built up a little before he becomes a go-to player, but that’ll probably come with playing more, too.

Some nervy moments for Anthony Patterson

Patterson made some good saves but he also made a couple of mistakes, and it’s a growing concern for me.

He’s our best option, however, and we came through with the clean sheet in the end, but if he keeps making errors, we may well see another goalkeeper brought in during this window, and I think that could be a wise decision.

Ant Waterson says...

Total dominance

From the first minute to the last, we controlled the game and we simply didn’t allow Middlesbrough to get into it.

We won every single battle, played to our strengths to great effect, and could’ve easily won by more than two goals.

A complete performance.

Allez, Edouard Michut!

When Corry Evans went down with what looked like a bad injury, you could understand the worry because he’s a player who makes us tick.

However, Michut came on and it allowed Dan Neil to dictate the play.

He was clever and stylish with his passing and movement. It was the best we’ve seen from him so far, and he looks like a proper player.

Patrick Roberts and Amad

These two are just wonderful, aren’t they?

They link up beautifully and the goal from Amad was absolutely brilliant. On his day, Roberts is one of the best players in this league and his connection with Trai Hume is looking strong.

Amad should’ve scored earlier but he made up for it in the second half with his tricks and a superb goal.

The fans

Our support on Sunday was immense.

Given that it was a lunchtime game being broadcast live on Sky Sports, 42,000 was a brilliant turnout and the noise was great, particularly during the second half.

Hopefully we can have more of that towards the end of the season!

Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Martin Swinney/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Kingsley Reavley says...

Dan Neil impresses again

Despite some excellent performances all over the pitch, Neil stood out.

He was full of energy, he was always looking to get on the ball and play, and he just oozes class.

There’s also been a bit of defensive bite added to his game and even in the 92nd minute, he was still sprinting back to recover possession on the edge of his own box.

It’s remarkable, considering he’s still only twenty one and it’s his first season playing at this level.

Maturity when ahead

The composure and maturity we displayed when we went ahead was brilliant, and apart from the occasional hairy moment, we were dominant.

The intricate ‘keep-ball’ we played towards the end, which saw Middlesbrough becoming increasingly frustrated, felt that much sweeter after what Swansea did to us last week .

Corry Evans’ injury

Even though Edouard Michut came on and did a commendable job, it was still a concern to see Evans go off.

He’s one of the few members of the squad with Championship experience and we can’t expect a nineteen-year-old who’s primarily used to playing French youth football to become our midfield lynchpin.

Hopefully there’s some action in the transfer window over the coming days to give us greater depth in midfield.

Greater interest in Ross Stewart?

The form of Stewart continues to be a double-edged sword.

The more he continues to score and to dominate quality Championship defenders, the more likely it is that the vultures will be circling for his signature.

Let’s hope there’s a plan in place to secure his long-term future at Sunderland, because he’s the best striker we’ve had for many years.

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