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Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light

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Trying to make sense of Sunderland’s dismal defeat to Coventry

In their final home game before Christmas, the Lads went down 0-3 after an erratic performance against the Sky Blues. What did our writers make of the game?

Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Gav says...

That couldn’t have gone much worse

If all you did was look at the stats you’d probably be left wondering what went wrong - Sunderland were dominant in possession and had twenty-odd shots, just most of them weren’t on target and the ones that were, were tame. The defending for all three goals was shocking, the atmosphere was pretty toxic in the ground for big chunks of the game, and I thought Beale’s tactical response to going behind was slow. It couldn’t have gone much worse for him on his first day on the touchline... if he wasn’t aware of it already, he’ll know he’s got plenty of work to do to ensure we’re back pointing in the right direction.

Where were the strikers?

I watched the U21s at Eppleton on Monday and with four strikers on the pitch, it was Nazariy Rusyn who took the initiative and managed to score a goal, with the new manager watching on from the sidelines. Yet, against Coventry we opted to play Abdoullah Ba up top - a lad signed as a centre mid who has been tossed from right wing to number ten and back all season. Was that ever going to work? We looked toothless. At some point we have to address this head on and give a striker a run of games.

Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Joseph Tulip says…

Up and at it from the off

We started both halves well, and in the first fifteen minutes of the game, we played our usual crisp passing game, and moved it around at a quicker tempo than usual.

It had Coventry on the back foot before they’d barely got out of their half.

However, it petered out as the half wore on as we became sloppy, gave the ball away particularly in midfield, and were second best too often for 50/50 balls.

The second half was a similar story.

Patrick Roberts and a potential change in setup

The end product wasn’t quite there, but Roberts showed just what a talented player he is, gliding past Coventry players at will.

He wasn’t hugging the touchline as he usually did under the previous regime; instead he was slightly narrower and was therefore more direct in his play, driving into the box and was perhaps unlucky not to win a penalty in the second half.

Striking options and a strange decision

With three strikers on the bench and the most recently used option, Jobe, deployed in a deeper role, Michael Beale opted to play Abdoullah Ba in a central striking role.

Had Ba’s gilt-edged chance in the first half found the net, this could’ve been a completely different game and outcome.

However, Ba, at least to my knowledge, isn’t a striker.

He’s struggled for form and confidence of late and from my perspective, was certainly not the man for that role against Coventry.

Perhaps Beale saw something in Ba’s striking credentials during the week but for the fact that he benched Nazariy Rusyn, Mason Burstow and Eliezer Mayenda, they must be already wondering whether they’re part of the new head coach’s plans, just as they were doubtless looking forward to a clean slate.

After his goal for the U21s on Monday, Rusyn in particular will be disappointed not to have even gotten a run out from the bench.

Another injury blow for Niall Huggins

It was devastating to see Huggins, who was certainly one of our best players on the day, stretchered off after all he’s been through with injury over the past few years.

During a pre-game conversation, it was mentioned how Huggins was getting his just rewards with a lengthy run in the team and was finally establishing himself after so long on the treatment table.

I’m sure I speak for everyone in wishing him a speedy recovery and without knowing anything about the extent of the injury, I’m hoping it’s not as bad as first feared.

Sunderland v Coventry City - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images

Kelvin Beattie says…

Home fan friction

The thousands who left the stadium following the second goal with a good twenty five minutes to go win the ‘deserters and bottlers’ award this Christmas.

I’m sure there’ll be the usual array of responses justifying this poor behaviour, from ‘I pay my money and it's my choice’, to ‘I’ve travelled from Timbuktu’ and ‘I always leave early to miss the crowds’.

It was very poor from the masses who did leave, because we pride ourselves on hard work and sticking with the team regardless.

Add to this the childish chanting for Tony Mowbray and I’d say ‘Hang your head in shame’.

Abdoullah Ba’s struggles

It’s clear that Ba isn’t in the best of form and he looks like his confidence is pretty low.

The best way to deal with this isn’t always straightforward, as a player can sometimes play himself back into form, so substituting or dropping them isn’t always the correct response.

However, irrespective of the player’s need, Ba should’ve been replaced at half time.

His contribution and touch had been poor and this was most definitely affecting the team, as attacks stuttered with his involvement and any pressure we were exerting was released.

I do think there’s a player yet to emerge, but on a day when many of the lads didn’t play well, Ba was incredibly poor.

An injury setback for Niall Huggins

At present, we don’t know the extent of Huggins’ injury.

Having worked his way into the team and having played consecutive games with some very good performances, we can only hope it’s not too bad and that he’s back soon.

Irritating opposition behaviour

Let me say straightaway that Coventry deserved their win on a day when too many of our players faded.

That said, and not for the first time, we had the tiresome, immature and potentially risky behaviour of a goalscorer goading the home fans, and I wonder whether the authorities will step in and deal with it.

I’ve got no problem with a celebration with your own fans, but running towards opposition fans whilst goading and gesturing can surely be legislated out of the game!

New head coach Mick Beale must already be wondering what he’s taken on. I did think he might’ve changed it sooner, as it seemed very clear that we needed to change something.

Not the best start for the incoming head coach, but this division isn’t won in December, and there’s still time to recover and move on.


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