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Sunderland v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship

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Matchday Musings: Another quality strike from Clarke isn’t quite enough for all three points

The Black Cats took on The Robins at home but didn’t quite come away with a win, against a team happy to play football (for a change). Malc shares few musings after full time…

Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Very little separated the sides in the first 45

The game got off to a scrappy start, as was the case away to QPR in the week. For the first ten minutes, passes attempted by both teams went astray or out for throw ins more than to the intended player.

Sunderland showed they may fancy a counter attacking threat as early as five minutes in though, when Amad broke away only to be unable to slot a pass across to Clarke, who was in loads of space across the pitch. Gelhardt then shot a couple of minutes later when he probably should have passed wide to Jack Clarke, who was doing a great job finding space to support our offensive moves.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland : Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Approaching halfway through the first half, Sunderland were saved from going behind once again by the goalkeeping abilities of our number one. A couple of missed tackles allowed a capable-looking Memeti to drill a shot low and hard at the far post.

Sadly for the Bristol wide man, the Mackem Maestro in nets got a strong left hand to the ball, pushing it onto the post and back across the goal, thankfully out of reach of any Bristol players who would have had the simplest of tap-ins.

While Memeti continued to do well against a usually very dependable Hume, Bristol didn't really create anything hugely convincing post the Patterson save. Michut continued to establish himself well in midfield and bossed things in a controlled and calm manner, while ahead of him, half chances for Amad and Clarke proved too hard for either of them to convert.

Sunderland v Fulham: Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay Photo by Richard Sellers/Getty Images

Joffy Gelhardt probably had two of our best chances of the first half in the last ten minutes before the break. For the first chance, he struggled to get a touch to a ball fizzed very nicely across by Jack Clarke, though he was well marked by a sliding Bristol defender so had plenty to do. A few minutes later he found space well for a cut back from Roberts, who had dribbled beautifully to the byline, but the pass was half a yard behind him and he couldn’t quite get a shot away before being closed down.

Michut and Ballard both put in nail-hard tackles to try to enforce our late dominance, which was far more evident in the period approaching the ref’s whistle, but the lads went down the tunnel 0-0.

Probably a fair result for a half where Bristol in truth had the best clear chance.

Sunderland v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

We get a good foothold in the game, then Jack just did what Jack does…

Bristol started brightly after the break, getting one on one with Patterson only a couple of minutes in, however our Anthony showed good pace and awareness to sprint out and gather at the attacker's feet. From about the 50th minute on the game really started to open up, with both teams having a go at one end, only to quickly have to then defend at the other.

Paddy Roberts fizzed a great ball across the six yard box on around 52 minutes which unfortunately nobody was there to finish. He was then unlucky to be dispossessed a minute later after a great run, which he couldn't quite turn into a shooting chance.

Sunderland v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

After Michut shot when he arguably should have passed just before the hour, on what was a very wet night and a pitch which in places was bobbling and not running true, it started to feel like these two teams who both like to play good football may cancel each other out. That was until yet another bit of Jack Clarke magic.

A minute before the hour mark, Gelhardt fed a lovely ball into Jack, who chopped onto his right foot in the box as he shows he can time and again, then beautifully despatched a curling shot into the top right corner.

As has become a regular occurrence, after a game where at certain times he took too many touches or was barged off the ball while dawdling a little in possession, he came up with a moment of wonderful composure to score yet again, and send the Mackem fans into celebratory overdrive.

1-0 to Sunderland.

Sunderland v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

This game of fine margins sometimes doesn’t go all our way

Before Clarke broke the deadlock, Pritchard and O’Nien were already warming up, and they came on for assist maker Gelhardt and growing midfield maestro Michut a couple of minutes past the hour.

While Roberts and Amad both had multiple sniffs of goal in the middle of the second half, the closest we probably came to doubling our lead was around 78 minutes, when a scorcher of a shot from Patrick was saved well, low down to the keepers left. The rebound looked promising but it narrowly missed young Amad.

Roberts stung the goalie's hands again a couple of minutes later when smashing one from distance, which the keeper saved with his right hand, seeming to know very little about it until the actual stop was made.

Bristol rode the storm well, though not as well as Luke O’Nien when grabbing a piggyback and a yellow card, stopping a rapid break by the Robins. The Lads from the banks of the Avon almost drew level six minutes from time though, when a cross was headed back across our goal, only for the chance to be spawned.

Sunderland v Bristol City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Sadly, when well into stoppage time, the win proved not to be ours.

Despite great defending late on by players like Amad and Alese, Bristol got past the normally very reliable Hume down our right. As Trai attempted to block the run, he fell and caught the player in the box bringing him down, giving the ref no choice but to award a penalty a couple of minutes into the five minutes of stoppage time.

Patterson went the right way, low and right, but could not keep a very well-taken penalty from nestling into his bottom right corner. The teams traded a few more blows in the final moments of stoppage time, but the game ended 1-1.

Final thoughts

  • Hume has had an epic few weeks, establishing himself in the Sunderland back four and contending for man of the match many times. Even he will make the odd mistake when facing a decent opponent however and he did today as Alese did at QPR, though this time young Patterson could not quite save our skins. What must not be forgotten is that these young players will learn and grow from these errors. They have both prevented way more chances than they have enabled, and will be right back at it in the next game.
  • Patterson may not have saved the penalty but he once again had a great game. He came and punched challenging crosses clear, pushed what looked a certain goal onto the post, and followed up his QPR performance with another cracker. If England are watching, he has done himself no harm at all.
  • Michut was an absolute monster in that first half. His potential to be a huge footballer of the future is becoming easier to see with every game he takes part in. He oozes class and composure, and carries himself around the pitch way ahead of his years of experience and his physical stature. The guys holding the purse strings are seeing more and more evidence that the buy-out clause is very much worth the money. I’d love to see that clause activated tomorrow, as he is something special, that is for sure.
Sunderland v Reading - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images
  • While some may see this as two points dropped, which it disappointingly was in truth, both sides were in good form coming into this game. A draw was probably a fair result to two teams who really wanted to let football do the talking, and in the past we may well have lost games like that. We go again in midweek and build on what is a good point against a good side. We are fifth in the Championship with 14 games to play, and a couple of teams above us have started having a bit of a wobble. This playoff chance is doing nothing but becoming more and more plausible.


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