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Bristol City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Sunderland’s away days are following a worrying pattern

“Sunderland are developing an annoying habit during away games and it’s one of several issues that Michael Beale needs to address as he settles into the job,” writes Paddy Hollis.

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Sunderland’s 1-0 defeat at Bristol City was the latest in a run which is gradually becoming a bit of a concern.

It was yet another away game in which we had plenty of the ball, but no real idea of how to do anything useful with it.

Having plenty of possession has become a recurring theme for Sunderland these days, with only the dogged 1-0 win against Leeds being a recent exception. The winless away run is growing longer, and it’s a run that now stretches back to the end of September.

Perhaps the next example of our total dominance of a football game without being able to score was the 0-0 draw at Swansea.

The stats showed us having 71% possession and twenty five shots on goal against a team who were down to ten men for over half of the game. Controlling games hasn’t been a problem but too many times away from home, finishing chances has been a frustrating issue.

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

November’s 2-0 loss at Plymouth was another woeful example of not taking your chances.

We had over 60% of the ball and over twenty shots on goal, yet we came away without really troubling the home side. Converting total dominance in goals and points on the road is going to be a tough but important task for Michael Beale.

The loss at Ashton Gate was a similar story, with 66% of the ball and eighteen shots on goal, only to lose to a penalty caused by a moment of madness. It’s enough to make you either laugh or cry.

It should’ve been typical that as our home form improved, our form on the road dipped, but in contrast to last season, it’s our away form that needs addressing and two away trips during the festive period will pose two very different challenges.

Plymouth Argyle v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

Hull City are very much a promotion rival and a Boxing Day visit to the MKM Stadium will be easily our toughest test of what remains of the year.

Liam Rosenior has the Tigers moving in the right direction but as a team who’ll come out and attack, we may find attacking opportunities easier to come by than in other games this season. Our last four meetings with Hull have finished level, and who could forget that utterly bizarre 4-4 draw on Good Friday?

Rotherham are our final opponents of 2024 and look set to be rooted to the foot of the table for the foreseeable future.

A mere two wins all season has them seemingly destined to drop into League One but at the New York Stadium, anything could happen. Our only two visits there have ended in defeat, and we could do a ‘textbook Sunderland’ by leaving South Yorkshire with no points, but only time will tell.

Cracking the code of how to start breaking down teams away from home is one of several big tasks for Beale and his coaching team.

Turning possession and shots on target into goals and points will keep us moving in the right direction. It’s easier said than done, but playing one of our strikers and getting the ball into them would be a good place to start.


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