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Swansea City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Editorial: Frustration at Sunderland’s goalless draw is a sign of progress

It was ultimately frustrating but we can look at the positives, as well as a penalty decision that has been coming for weeks and an opportunity that’s been presented in central defence.

Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images

Born of frustration...

I’ve said it before and it will no doubt be said again, that football is all about fine margins - and there’s no more evidence you need than our goalless draw in south Wales.

If their keeper wasn’t on the ball, if the ball had spun a couple of inches to the left after he saved from Patrick Roberts, if Nazariy Rusyn had checked his run for a split second, if Jack Clarke’s free-kick had dipped earlier, if Abdoullah Ba’s effort was from a yard further out - we’d be having a very different discussion with exactly the same performance.

At the end of it all we know that football is a results based business and Tony Mowbray looked as frustrated as anyone as he gave his comments following the final whistle. But had we taken that goal, we’d be discussing a good performance away from home.

Even if we take in isolation the period before the red card, we made the long trip to Swansea City, who are certainly no mugs and a venue where we really struggled last season, and completely dominated them.

As frustrated as we are with not taking full advantage to take maximum points, it’s worth taking into account where we currently are and take it as another sign of how much we’ve progressed.

Swansea City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images

In recent weeks, Leicester City manager Enzo Maresca and Michael Duff following this weekend’s fixture have both shared their view that we are one of the best sides in the division.

In those early stages we actually dominated so much that in some ways the red card was a blessing for the home side.

Until that point they were expected to try and counter our dominance and be more positive in front of their home crowd, but the sending off gave them a perfect excuse to set up to defend and allow us to have huge amounts of possession.

Our window of opportunity was before half-time, when Michael Duff could get his side organised fully on how they were going to set up shop with five at the back on the edge of their own area.

From our point of view, we weren’t as good as we were at QPR when we were a man up, in terms of stretching the play with the wide players hugging the touchline to create overloads on either side. Having said that, this was a different level of opposition to what we faced at Loftus Road.

Just one goal is the difference between people lauding the performance and people criticising it - it’s the business of football as well as the world of social media that we now inhabit.

Swansea City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images

A penalty that was weeks in the making...

What is it with us defending corners? Last season we had issues because everyone over 6 feet tall seemed to end up on the treatment table which made it understandable, but now we have more players who would be classed as decent in the air and something still isn’t quite right.

The type of incident that occurred for the penalty at Swansea was simply a repeat of what we’ve seen during most games this season when we’ve been asked to defend a corner.

We all love it when Luke O’Nien is a sh*thouse, but there’s been a few times recently where I’ve found myself wincing due to the fact we might have got away with one, where if the ref had seen it we could have been in trouble. Unfortunately Saturday wasn’t one of those occasions and there wasn’t much complaints when the spot kick was awarded.

Perhaps being more aggressive in defending those corners is a direct consequence of trying too hard to dispel the growing reputation we’re gaining that we struggle to defend set-pieces.

Maybe I’m clutching at straws, but it would be nice to go through a period without fearing we’re going to struggle when the ball rolls out for a corner.

Swansea City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images

Yellow’s provide an opportunity...

As well as being frustrated with a failure to find the back of the net, the manager was clearly miffed with our two central defenders picking up ridiculous yellow cards on the same and as a result picking up a ban at the same time.

I for one have enjoyed watching the partnership between O’Nien and Dan Ballard this season, I think they go well together, but this is an eventuality it seems we planned for.

Jenson Seelt and Nectarios Triantis were added to the ranks in the summer to be patient and step in when required and although it’s never ideal to have both your first choice central defenders unavailable at the same time, it’s the reason you have a squad of players.

I think back to our inaugural season at the Stadium of Light when that opportunity was presented to Jody Craddock, who had recently signed from Cambridge United and Darren Williams, who had signed the previous season as a central midfielder from York City, and they took full advantage by forming a cracking partnership - so who knows?!

Soccer - Nationwide League Division One - Play-Off Second Leg - Sunderland v Sheffield United
Darren Williams (left) and Jody Craddock celebrate booking a place at Wembley in the play-off final after defeating Sheffield United
Photo by Michael Steele/EMPICS via Getty Images


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