Luke O’Nien’s magic moment
This is easy to say after he scored a fantastic last-minute winner to put us into the fourth round for the first time since 2015, but I thought O’Nien was arguably our best player yesterday.
As his teammates often struggled to get out of second gear, the combative O’Nien snapped into tackles and generally looked right up for it.
The form he’s in right now was summed up not only by the confidence and class he showed to seal victory. I was delighted when he swept in the winner at the same end where he scored his first ever Sunderland goal, and it was no less than he deserved.
There’ll be no player more excited for our next round tie than O’Nien, no matter who we’re drawn against.
No League One nostalgia
Another takeaway from this game is how glad I am that we’re not in League One anymore.
As nice as it was to see some of our attacking players dance round the Shrews when they felt like it, the rough and tumble rearguard action mounted by the home side made it quite a tiresome watch at times.
I’m not blaming them for doing it, because what else could they do against the likes of Amad? But it hardly made for scintillating viewing.
Some of our play, especially in the first half, was an unpleasant reminder of how sloppy we used to be during the League One years.
We were lucky not to go behind after an admirable effort at a chip over the stranded Alex Bass, and I dread to think what kind of timewasting antics might’ve ensued had they scored early.
Another game at this level any time soon? I’ll pass, thanks.
On that note, the refereeing at times yesterday was also reminiscent of our spell in the third tier.
Everyone will have different opinions on which of the Patrick Roberts or Edouard Michut penalty incidents should or shouldn’t have been awarded, but I think it’s hard to say at least one of them didn’t warrant a spot kick.
This was part of a general trend of some very lenient officiating in my eyes. I can hardly remember Shrewsbury picking up a yellow card despite persistent and purposeful spoiling tactics, and at times the referee wasn’t even giving fouls for those acts.
We still complain about the standard in the Championship, but this was a good reminder that things could be much worse.
Stewart delivers again!
We looked so much more dangerous with Ross Stewart on the pitch.
His runs are difficult to deal with, and ultimately, Shrewsbury’s big bruisers couldn’t cope with his physicality. By giving us a focal point, he also helps our other creative players flourish.
I thought it was wise to start with him on the bench, a decision which was ultimately vindicated. We simply can’t afford to lose him to injury- or any other way, for that matter.
We brought him on, he avoided a knock, and he helped to send our magnificent away fans home happy.
Another young prospect emerges!
Finally, a quick word on debutant Chris Rigg.
He’s now our youngest ever outfield player, he played his part in yesterday’s turnaround, and hopefully the experience will persuade him that he can progress at Sunderland.
He’s in and around a thriving Championship squad, and the grass isn’t always greener where the bright lights are shining and the cash registers are jangling with reckless abandon.
Here’s hoping that whoever is advising the young man has the foresight to see just that.