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Rotherham United v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Don’t panic, Captain Mainwaring!

Sunderland’s reverse at Rotherham was a blow, but we need to keep the faith.

Off the mark. Gelhardt finds the net
| Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

What a difference a week makes. We go from the highs of Loftus Road to the lows of South Yorkshire with a bitterly disappointing draw against Bristol City in-between.

There has been much said about Sunderland’s performance at Rotherham and the result had the glass-half-empty fans fearing the worst.

The first 45 minutes was arguably the worst half of football this Sunderland side has produced this season and despite some bright spots it looked like too many of the team were having a bad day.

The second half was an improvement but the task was made harder by Dan Neil’s slip and Rotherham getting a classic counterattack goal against the run of play. Sunderland showed more of what we expect from the side in the second period, and we can honestly say that we had the chances to get something out of the game right until the death.

Tony Mowbray put his hands up and said the blame lay at his door, that his team shape was all wrong. A switch back to the more usual formation in the second half showed what we can do but it was too little too late.

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

The past 24 hours or so have been interesting. There are those who say that is it and our playoff ambitions are now over. However, we sit one point of a playoff spot, and yes we can all bemoan the loss of Rosco, but we are still playing a brand of football which has been winning plaudits from across the football community.

The players are still the same, and despite the result I think there were a lot of positive to take out of the game. This is a team that never lays down, and never quits, something we could not say in some of the darker years we have recently endured.

To see Patto in the opposition box for a late couple for corners speaks volumes for the fact that here is a team, and coach, who are happy to take a risk to salvage a win or a point rather than pay lip service to the need to score.

We may also have seen the game where Gelhardt starts to prove what he can do. Mowbray said the schedule has been such that the team have barely had a chance to train in between games since he arrived from Leeds and last night was his fifth start of the lads.

I thought he looked bright and the effort to make him the target man, a role he has rarely played during his short career, seems to have been refined, coupled with the rest of the team starting to understand his movement.

Rotherham United v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Martin Swinney/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

The chances are coming and we have to hope with his first goal for the club under his belt he can start to convert them with increased regularity.

Mowbray will have learned a thing or two in terms of what he can and cannot tinker with, including the shape of the team. You can say a lot about the players but we cannot accuse them of not putting a shift in, so while there was plenty of will on Tuesday, the gamble failed to pay off.

We have to recognise the level at which we are now playing and while Rotherham have struggled this term there are no easy games.

Coventry will provide another test, but one defeat should not define the rest of the season and it is likely we will see a different performance on Saturday at the Coventry Building Society Arena.


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