The final ten minutes of Sunderland’s 2-0 win over Watford in midweek were some of the most comfortable I’ve ever seen.
The Hornets were dishevelled, out of ideas and willing the final whistle to arrive, whereas we kept the ball extremely well as we saw the game out.
The dying embers of the match were comfortable for the Lads and they’d earned that right as a result of top class game management. We weren’t at our most fluid, but against a Watford side who are going backwards, we didn’t need to be.
The opportunity to play the final stages of a game at our own tempo is something we’ve already seen on multiple occasions this season, and the 5-0 drubbing of Southampton was perhaps the first chance we got.
At 4-0 up going into injury time, two of our eager-to-impress substitutes combined to score our fifth goal as we showed no remorse to the shell shocked visitors.
The 3-1 win down at QPR also gave us this opportunity, and holding a two-goal lead over a side down to ten men with over ten minutes left to play meant we could decide how to finish the match. In this instance, we tried to go for the kill and kept our foot on the accelerator.
In the recent past, a visit to a side rock bottom of the league and without a win would’ve had us all fearing the possibility of ‘doing a Sunderland’, but the 3-0 defeat of Sheffield Wednesday was just so easy.
At 2-0 up after eight minutes, it was basically game over and a professional display kept any Owls attacks at more than arm’s length.
ednesday night was a similar story, and our ability to sit on the ball and dictate the play is why we’ve won six games out of ten so far during this campaign.
The period following Abdoullah Ba’s goal was played by a team brimming with confidence and knowing that the points were theirs against an opponent who looked absolutely fed up to be standing on the pitch on a wet Wearside night.
We’ve played better teams than Watford and Sheffield Wednesday this season and we’ll play others who put these two clubs to shame, but you’ve got to beat what’s in front of you and in two games, we’ve scored five goals whilst barely being threatened by our opponents.
Teams who are chasing promotion and achieve this goal often win games in a similar fashion: without needing to be at 100% at all times.
Having players with an eye for a pass and impressive levels of composure, such as Dan Neil and Jobe Bellingham, helps with this, and when both of your centre backs make dynamic runs forward and pick their passes across the halfway line, you know the way your team functions is working.
We’re playing football at a level which we’ve not reached for some time and for many fans, myself included, it’s the most positive and composed Sunderland have looked in our lifetime.