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Rotherham United v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Matchday Musings: Sunderland were very poor at Rotherham, but perspective is probably needed

Sunderland chose the wrong time to have an off-night and were mostly terrible at Rotherham, but perspective is probably needed given it’s our first stinker in a while. Gav mumbles and muses after the defeat in South Yorkshire...

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Why do we always seem to take our eye off the ball against shite teams?

It’s just frustrating, isn’t it? I don’t get it.

I actually think in the end that we were robbed by a poor refereeing decision - the goalie runs into Luke O’Nien and gets nowhere near the ball, yet the foul is given and the goal doesn’t count.

In truth, had we scored the goal we probably wouldn’t have deserved it - that was about as bad as we’ve played all season, and against a team who are really struggling.

Take nothing away from Rotherham’s first half performance because they were better than us in every way, but we made it very easy for them.

We sat off, we struggled to compete physically, and nothing was sticking up front.

I didn’t understand the rationale behind the team selection from Tony Mowbray in going with Dan Neil and Edouard Michut in a game where we’d need to win lots of second balls and get stuck in - Rotherham smelled our vulnerability and took full advantage, by which point the game was gone and we’d already lost it.

Danny Collins after the game said he felt that we were carrying five or six lads, and that’s probably generous - we were poor all over the park for the first time in a long time.

It’s not necessarily Mowbray’s mantra to make half time changes but this felt like an occasion where it was warranted. The failure to make those changes arguably cost us the game, as the mistake from Dan Neil which led to Rotherham’s second killed it off - and I’d argue Neil was lucky to still be on the pitch having had such an awful first 45.

Rotherham United v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - AESSEAL New York Stadium Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images

Predictably, the subs changed the game for us and we looked loads better. Cirkin was terrible and was going to get himself sent off, so on came Aji Alese who gave us a lot more. Trai Hume helped to link the play better down the right, ably aided by Patrick Roberts who was our best player on the night, and must be wondering like the rest of us why he didn’t play from the start. When he’s on the pitch he makes things happen and, crucially, makes us tick - the rest of the team is far better when he’s out there, and you can help but think that the game would have gone differently if he had started.

Collins also remarked that Tony Mowbray doesn’t have a crystal ball in his office to predict what will happen when he picks his team, and whilst that’s correct I’d suggest that what ended up happening was entirely predictable.

Sunderland were not set up well enough to compete physically against a team who only really have the physical edge over us. Ekwah and O’Nien may not have played together but they are both strong lads and I just wonder what the difference would have been with them in the centre, stopping the second balls from dropping to Rathbone.

Rotherham United v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship - AESSEAL New York Stadium Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images

But, perspective is needed. This is our first loss on the road for ages and our first proper stinker since we played Cardiff last year. These things happen.

What’s important is how we react on Saturday, against a much tougher opponent.

Coventry will not allow Sunderland to be as careless as Rotherham often did, and we’ll be made to pay with much harsher consequences if we start as poorly as we did at the New York Stadium, giving them a head start before we eventually wake up and turn it on later in the game.

Loads to ponder, not just for the players but for Tony Mowbray. But, we move on.


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