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Sunderland v Watford - Sky Bet Championship

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2 Up, 2 Down: What were the biggest positives & negatives from Sunderland’s win over Watford?

What were the biggest pros and cons from Sunderland’s performance on a wet and windy Wednesday night at the SOL? We dive into all of them...

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Jonathon Hawley says...

Inexperience? What inexperience?

Despite having an average age of about five, the way our team saw that game out was like watching a rugged, battle-hardened outfit of grizzled veterans. Watford were poor on the night, but the way we shut them down and dominated the ball at times after going ahead gave them no way back into the game.

The most nervous moments came from the ball skidding around on a slick Stadium of Light pitch rather than any quality play from the visitors - or brain fades from a young side! Otherwise, we took the sting out of the game and had a couple of chances to add a third goal, with Aouchiche inches away from putting the icing on the cake.

The way promoted teams play…?

Mowbray’s free-scoring Mackems

Going 10 games without a goal from a recognised striker would generally see clubs sacking managers, talk of relegation struggles, or otherwise dusting off and smashing the old Panic Button. For us, though, it’s business as usual.

We’ve scored just one goal fewer than Ipswich and Leicester in the league, and along with Norwich bagged more than any other side so far. Clarke rightly takes the headlines, but goals for Sunderland now come from all corners - Neil, Ballard, Ba, even the Huggmeister got in on the action!

When you can spread goals throughout the team like we can BEFORE a number 9 hits form, you’re in a very good place.

Pointless substitutions

It’s tough to find negatives at the minute, but Tony Mowbray’s continuing reluctance to take advantage of the dominant positions we keep taking up late in games is one of them. We’ve a squad full of hungry players champing at the bit to get minutes, and a mostly-settled first XI slogging through 2/3 games a week. Let the kids rest, man!

Being so comfortable, it baffled me that we gave Rusyn and Hemir just a few minutes against tired, disheartened defenders to show what they can do, not to mention the fact Jack Clarke could easily have been hurt when Andrews took him out for the sending off. Dan Neil has also played a lot of football, and with a crucial match against Boro in 3 days, I’d have liked to see some players given a much-needed breather.

Blunt up top

Yeah, I know, I just said scoring bundles without a striker is good - but we’d also quite like to see a striker score, please!

Mason Burstow clearly has ability, and shows some good touches and plenty of enthusiasm when leading the line. The issue is, he just never looks like scoring. Whether it’s on player or teammates, having a striker who doesn’t get chances to score isn’t a long-term strategy.

Perhaps it’s getting to the stage where Rusyn or Hemir need to be starting games instead, as we could do with solving this last puzzle to really kick a promotion push into high gear.

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

Malc Dugdale says...

Ba-rmy army

Abdoullah had a great game today and he more than deserved his goal, and the fact it was set up by another top performer in Jobe adds to the amazing form our youngsters are in.

He rose like a French salmon for the header, and was a right handful for Watford all night. Great to see him step in to help fill the Pritch-shaped hole, and do so well despite recently dropping behind Roberts for the starting 11. A cracking performance.

The amazing Huggmeister!

What a rise this lad has had in the last handful of games, and his goal tonight was an amazing display of quick feet, close control and clinical finishing. And the lad is a full back!

I honestly thought the player making that run was Patrick Roberts, as his control and directness were so impressive you would never expect a full back to make that sort of run. He more than deserved man of the match for me and is steadily coming good just as Cirkin and Hume have before him. Our system is working so, so well. And I love it.

First half struggles

Ahead of Huggins’ lone super strike we struggled at times in the first half, and I was worried it may be another one of those days for us. Loose passes and giving possession away when not really under pressure happened too much, and against better opponents we may have been punished for that.

Thankfully our poor spell coincided with them being even worse, so we got away with it and then kicked on, but there are lessons to learn.

More new blood, please!

The lack of game time for the likes of Rusyn and Hemir made no sense to me. The game was won after the Ba header, and these lads need first team minutes.

I think they could and should have got more game time and come the weekend, we may regret not resting some of the lads more.

Hopefully not, but to be honest I’m struggling for a second down after another extremely comfortable win where we didn’t really get out of second gear, and still had more than enough to beat a team who were Premier League a couple of seasons ago.

Sunderland v Watford - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images


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