Heading into Saturday’s clash in South Wales, the travelling red and white faithful were tasked with making one of longest journeys of the season, a gruelling twelve hour, 578-mile round trip.
With the Lads making the same journey, albeit in the more luxurious confines of a private jet, we were hoping that we’d see a better display than the last time we were on the road on a Saturday.
Naturally, anticipation was relatively high after we eased past Norwich at home and with Swansea languishing in mid table, we went into the game as marginal favourites.
With Tony Mowbray electing to field the same XI that won convincingly last week, there were few complaints as Nazariy Rusyn led the line once again.
The game gradually came to life and there was little to separate the two sides in the early exchanges, but we gradually began to assert our dominance, stringing together some lovely passages of build up play.
Both Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts were finding joy down their flanks, but their hopeful balls into the box were met by a cluster of Swansea defenders who continuously crowded out Rusyn and eventually forced Roberts to have a go himself, although he was subsequently denied by a top save from Carl Rushworth.
As we eased through the gears, it felt like a matter of time before we breached Swansea’s defence and when Charlie Patino was dismissed after a second yellow card, even the most pessimistic supporter wouldn’t have been able to see past all three points.
Unfortunately, wave after wave of red and white attacks were thwarted and on the stroke of half time, a penalty was awarded to the home side when Luke O’Nien brought down Liam Cullen in the box.
Luckily, Anthony Patterson’s record speaks for itself, and he was on call to deny Jamal Lowe with a brilliant save.
Following the break, it took a while for us to get going again and by that time, Michael Duff had his side’s stall firmly set out.
Mowbray made some uncharacteristically early changes, with Rusyn making way for Hemir, Jobe for Alex Pritchard, and Niall Huggins for Bradley Dack. However, despite our fresh legs, territorial supremacy and utter dominance, we were unable to make the pressure count.
Abdoullah Ba hit the woodwork, Trai Hume came close with a speculative effort, and countless other attempts were denied by Rushworth, who was having the game of his life.
Frustration is the main takeaway from this unspectacular meeting in South Wales, as we huffed and we puffed but were a blunt object going forward.
Whilst the opposition being reduced to ten men almost always serves to benefit a side, it seemed to hinder us. Playing against a full strength team suits the way we play, getting in behind and picking teams off on the counter.
There was more space for us to do this before the red card, with Duff’s side committing more men forward and allowing room for Roberts and Clarke to fashion a string of opportunities. Unfortunately, Swansea were far more defensively compact once Patino was sent packing, soaking up our offensive barrage with relative comfort.
At the final whistle, our stats bore a resemblance to the Barcelona side that lost 2-1 at Celtic, despite having registered about 80% possession and twenty three attempts on goal. However, the most concerning statistic was our shots to shots on target ratio, recording twenty five shots, with just three of those on target.
Although we’ve seemingly been unaffected by the lack of a goalscoring striker, it’s become apparent that we’re in desperate need for one of Hemir, Rusyn, Mason Burstow or Eliezer Mayenda to start finding the back of the net. The last time an out-and-out striker scored for Sunderland? Ross Stewart, in January.
With O’Nien and Dan Ballard both suspended for Saturday’s meeting with Birmingham, we’ll see an untried and untested centre back pairing for the Blues’ visit to the Stadium of Light.
After a number of below par displays from O’Nien, who was at fault for giving away the penalty, it may do him some good to be taken out of the firing line.
Although this draw ought to have been a win, there are positives to take, but what’s glaringly obvious is that we’re crying out for goals and a ‘Plan B’ for when teams shut up shop to foil our attacking prowess.