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Norwich City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Two Up, Two Down: What were the biggest positives & negatives from Sunderland’s win at Norwich?

The Lads responded brilliant to last Saturday’s hammering by playing with discipline, resilience and commitment to secure a vital three points in Norfolk. We asked our writers for their thoughts on the game

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says…

All boxes ticked

This was a complete away performance.

We knew when to get up the pitch in numbers and when to just sit in, and for every bit of technical skill we showed, it was backed up with work rate and commitment.

We’ve got players that can move the ball around brilliantly but to see them do the dirty work and throw themselves into challenges and blocks was just as important.

Norwich were in great form but we made them look vulnerable in defence and toothless in attack. Considering our own results of late, this could’ve been very different, but the reaction to a painful loss against Stoke City was first class.

The senior lads shine

Singling people out is tough because it was a team effort, but I do think some of the older lads deserve credit.

We seemed a lot less flakey than of late, and having the likes of Luke O’Nien and Lynden Gooch involved gave us a bit of nous, or devilment even, and allowed the younger players to concentrate on their game.

The O’Nien ‘kiss’, for example, will get the social media treatment but it served a purpose and Gooch was the same when he came on, showing some physicality and generally winding the opposition up.

We’ve been vicitims of that plenty of times, so to turn it round and stop ourselves from being bullied and manipulated is a massive thing.

We’ve got an exciting young side and we all know that dips will happen, but our senior players showing the way will help us through.

A strong captain makes a difference too, and Danny Batth is a superb leader. He was faultless on Sunday and alongside the other older heads, is a major part of the side (mind, how the referee saw that as a yellow card offence against, him I’ll never know).

One or two good chances missed

We threatened to put two or three past Norwich in the first half. We were all over them at times and were playing some lovely stuff.

It had the hosts rattled and they started making sloppy errors, but not being able to press that home could’ve come back to haunt us. As it was, the defence worked extremely hard to shield Anthony Patterson and in reality our goalkeeper had little to do, but there’s always the risk of a deflection to catch you out.

We made it bitty and hard for Norwich to get any momentum in the second half; from an organisational view, we were excellent and whilst a clean sheet is good for confidence, I’m always a nervous watcher at 1-0.

Ongoing injury concerns

It seems, touch wood, as though we’ve come through without any further injuries but confirmation beforehand that both Amad and Alex Pritchard were unavailable shows once again how unfortunate we’ve been this season.

Aji Alese’s absence makes it four first teamers out for the season now, and the amount of chopping and changing we have to do because of various other niggles makes things much harder.

It would be great to see this squad at full strength!

Norwich City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Jon Guy says…

Three excellent points

It was a good win against a side who were unbeaten in five, and you could see what it meant to the players at the end.

They needed to dig deep, and they could and should’ve had two or three more goals to make it safe.

A real boost at the start of a tough run of games.

Luke O’Nien shines again

He was thrown in at left back but was so solid and stepped up when we needed it with some crunching challenges that lifted the fans and the team.

I’d like to see him in front of the defence rather than at left back, but we’re better when he’s on the pitch and giving his all.

More awful refereeing

The officials were horrendous yesterday.

Again, they seemed determined to be the main talking point rather than the two teams who were playing the game.

If Tim Robinson had been consistent with his decisions, it would’ve been OK, but you simply couldn’t understand some of them.

It was a really poor performance but it seems to be the norm.

Ross Stewart’s absence casts a shadow

We created four pretty clear chances and converted one, and the game could’ve been so different had we scored two more of them.

Joe Gelhardt will be kicking himself on the way home, and it could’ve been a very different story if Norwich had been more threatening in the second half.

We need to convert more of these chances or we’ll be made to pay.

Michael Dunne says…

A superb response

Between the head coach and the players, it was the perfect response to last week’s debacle.

I was very impressed with how Tony Mowbray set us up defensively and it showed that there is more than one way we can play.

You have to give credit to the boss and to the players for their application. It was a proper team effort!

A big moment for Abdoullah Ba

Of all the young players we’ve brought to the club, I’ve always felt that Ba was the one who was ready to start.

He proved it yesterday with a decisive moment and a fantastic finish, and I think Mowbray needs to start giving these lads regular game time so they can prove their worth.

Ba made a serious case for himself yesterday.

Take a bow, EFL referees!

Do I need to say much about them?

Another bad day at the office for the referee, and this time it was Tim Robinson who made some questionable calls throughout

A sub-par contribution from Pierre Ekwah

I’m not going to criticise the lad too much but players like Ekwah need a lot more game time to get up to speed.

I felt his performance was error-ridden and it shows that he needs more minutes, but in fairness, he can only get better from this point on.

Norwich City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Mitch Marshall says…

Sunderland’s talent comes to the fore

Plenty has been said about our recruitment recently, and we have to give praise where it’s due once again.

Despite an increasingly lengthy injury list, we still have a team with quality throughout. Whether it’s Patrick Roberts’ dribbling, Danny Batth’s steely composure or Abdoullah Ba’s fine finishing, we got an overdue reminder that we’re a quality side.

We might’ve forfeited much chance of getting into the playoffs in the past couple of weeks, but on this showing, we can be hopeful of an enjoyable run-in with some pressure off the players’ shoulders.

Tenacity in spades

The Sky Sports presenters couldn’t stop referring to our combativeness, and rightly so.

The aforementioned Batth, chosen as man of the match by Sky, led a defensive unit that was rock solid. From Trai Hume’s no-nonsense tackling to Luke O’Nien’s usual exuberance and with Ballard and Batth safe as houses in between, we deservedly picked up an away clean sheet against one of the league’s most expensively assembled attacking lines.

That this team had capitulated in extraordinary fashion eight days ago seems even more incredible now, so huge praise goes to Tony Mowbray and the players for picking themselves up, dusting themselves down and getting stuck in from minute one to ninety seven.

Joe Gelhardt’s missed chance

This feels a bit churlish, but Gelhardt should’ve put the game to bed shortly after our opening goal in the first half.

I’m sure nobody needs reminding of his tame effort when through on goal, but I’m going to defy the premise of ‘two up, two down’ and turn this into a positive, because he continued to harry defenders and get on the ball to decent effect after the miss.

He won’t be many people’s star of this team, but he made his fair share of a contribution towards the victory and I commend him for that.

Having Abdoullah Ba next to him also looked like a good sticking-plaster solution to this problem. It might not work every week, but credit goes to Mowbray for answering the questions that were posed after the Stoke disaster.

Controlling the game

Ultimately, we saw the game out.

Our aggressive approach and the way we did a bit of winding up and time wasting when we needed to was good to see.

That said, we did end up a tad deeper than I would’ve liked and we had a few close encounters with giving the three points away. It worked yesterday but we won’t always play an attack who were as lackadaisical as Norwich were at times.

However, I’m scraping the barrel for a negative here, because I was chuffed with the performance overall.

Hopefully we can get back to looking forward to watching the lads play again after a bruising run of games and with tougher tests to come.p


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