“Amad Diallo... Sunderland’s number 9...?”
Us fans got a glimpse of what life will look like without Ross Stewart for the remainder of the season and whilst it may now look like there is only really a “Plan A”, all is not lost. Sunderland still looked dangerous with Diallo as a number 9. On the counter, the intricate passing and movement from the trio of Roberts, Diallo and Clarke threatened enough to worry the Premier League visitors.
Until his withdrawal, he both linked up well with the midfield, and ran the channels depending on what the situation dictated, and was deserving of the goal that could have been had his effort not been cleared off the line on 56 mins.
The plan B may only be a change in personnel rather than alterations in style or tactics, but putting if we perform as per the second-half against Championship opposition there will be no reason to doubt that we can’t make a charge for the playoffs.
More evidence of Jekyll / Hyde ‘keeper
In writing last weekend’s talking points I eluded to there being two Anthony Patterson’s and I’m going to bring it up once again at risk of being accused of having an agenda against him.
I certainly don’t. As I said last week, when we see the best of Patto, he is phenomenal young keeper. But even the biggest fan of our goalkeeper cannot deny that he is going through some patchy form and will certainly be disappointed in failing to keep Harry Wilson’s effort out.
There is some mitigation in that the ball comes through a crowd of three (his starting position could have been better!), but the ball wasn’t hit with any great venom. Having done enough to have got across the goal and have a full hand behind the ball, he’ll be as disappointed as me that he didn’t do better with it.
In any walk of life, lack of competition makes people comfortable. People who become comfortable begin to lose some of the inspiration and drive to continuously improve. Alex Bass clearly isn’t providing that and whilst I’m certain Patterson will not be consciously aware of it, there are signs he may be looking “too comfortable”.
Has anyone found the referee’s cards?
I’m not sure how the referee got to the SoL last night, but check the car-parks at the ground, the train station, the metro as a search party is needed to find both his nerve and his cards.
Now it might not have ultimately have had a direct influence on the result... but it could have! For in a five-minute spell at the start of the second half, Cairney should have been booked for a poor challenge on Ba Duffy also for pulling back Clarke on 54’ and that’s before I mention the “two-bookings-in-two-minutes” that Harry Wilson should have had for the poor tackle on Alese that followed his deliberate handball a minute beforehand.
Shane Duffy was the only booking in the game, for probably the most innocuous of the lot. Again, I’m not suggesting it’s the reason we lost, but the butterfly effect suggests that if Wilson is booked for the handball, he doesn’t risk the tackle on Alese and if he does, Fulham should be finishing the match with 10-men.
Premier League pace and physicality shines through in the end...
...but we showed more than enough to take great confidence that should the dream become a reality and we do somehow go up, we might just be able to compete.
After being softened up a little following a physical battle with Millwall at the weekend, we seemed off the pace and a little weak when trying to match up with our Premier League visitors. With 10-minutes left of the first half we began to click into gear and Marco Silva certainly felt threatened enough to make changes at the break
When the opposition can (and feels they need to) bring on their two best players to help them through a tie, we can safely assume we are doing something right. We were great value for the vast majority of the game, and even at 2-0 and 3-1 down we were never out of the match.
In the end the margins were fine - with the cumulative effect of the slight Premier League superiority in pace, power and fitness being the difference between progressing to the 5th round or not.
Be proud, Don’t worry, Be happy
We can analyse last night’s match as much as we please, it really doesn’t matter in the bigger picture of our season other than filling our hearts with pride. For Premier League and Championship clubs, cup runs mean very little unless you are setting your sights on winning the lot.
The financial gain of a cup run is a bit of a myth for teams in the top two divisions. Sunderland will have received £105,000 for their 3rd round win and victory over Fulham would have earned us another £120,000. Even making it past Leeds and into the Quarter-Finals would have only brought an additional £225,000 in. Whilst these are not small amounts of money to the average person, they matter little in the grand scheme of things to clubs in the top two tiers of English football.
So don’t despair, and take the two matches against Fulham for what they were - a chance to see how we stack up to a team exceeding expectations in the Premier League. It was a test we passed, and with much the football world watching on the BBC, the lads did us proud.
Be proud of the display across both matches, be optimistic at what we can achieve for the rest of the season and be happy that we are able to feel this way about our club again for the first time in a very long time!