Since returning to the Championship, Sunderland have enjoyed plenty of highs and perhaps less lows than many of us would have expected. We are a team solidly set for another promotion push after falling just short last season.
One that plagued us last season was our less than average home form, which was a stark contrast to how we’d do on the road. Seven wins from 23 at home compared to 11 away wins were enough to get us a playoff place, just about, but a stranger home form and who knows how much higher we could have finished.
As we prepare for Birmingham City, our eighth game at the SoL this season, we’ve a very Jekyll & Hyde record on Wearside. Four wins and three defeats are evidence of inconsistency, but it does show we’re improving our disappointing home record from last season. We won seven on home soil all of last season- we’ve won four from seven already this campaign.
Our first seven home games from last season make for a different story to the seven we’ve played this year. Two wins, four draws and just the one defeat was a good indicator of us being tough to beat, but also evidence of how we struggled to find the cutting edge. The two wins came against a side who finished bottom of the league (Wigan) and a side destined for a relegation scrap this year (Rotherham).
This year, the absence of draws has been surprising. Two of the three defeats have been by one goal margins, and of course the Middlesbrough game was a shambles, but no draws is a sign that we’ve been both successful and unsuccessful at times in breaking teams down.
Taking a deeper dive into our performances at home, most have seen us play good football and get our just rewards. The 5-0 against Southampton was of course the standout, but there have been positive moments in all four of our winning days out on Wearside. What I find positive is that we’ve come from behind twice at home this season to win.
Of course, it’s not a habit you want to make, but having the grit to come back and get all the points from a losing position is a handy skill to have. Especially pleasing is that it has come against two of the poorer sides in the division, who are more likely to try and park the bus when taking the lead.
The no draws at home is further evidence of us becoming more outgoing at the SoL. In October last season, we drew 0-0 twice in four days and looked as though we could have stayed on the pitch for all the days in between and we’d still not find the back of the net.
Our home form isn’t the finished article yet of course. Three defeats in similar but also different circumstances is frustrating. Against Ipswich and Cardiff we had plenty of chances to get a result, but, much like the 0-0 draw at Swansea, we couldn’t take them.
Three points against Birmingham would see us into another international break potentially inside the playoffs. It would leave us on 26 points and five wins from eight home games and suddenly, our home form would start to look much more consistent. This season is all about trying to build momentum, we did it earlier in the season, now it’s time for Tony Mowbray’s side to do it again ahead of a tricky looking start to December after the break.