“Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” was no doubt Tony Mowbray’s thinking going into Wednesday’s clash with the automatic-chasing Sheffield United. Naming an unchanged line-up from the inspired win at Carrow Road seemed a sensible decision after the super-handymen of Abdoullah Ba and Luke O’Nien swooped in just as Sunderland’s boiler was on the brink of collapse.
With Sheffield United’s form faltering of late, and the Stadium of Light being more akin to a welcoming homestead than an imposing fortress to visiting sides, it was anyone’s guess as to how this was going to play out.
Neutralising shit-hot talisman Iliman N’Diaye and attempting to disrupt their rhythm while putting our foot on the ball against a midfield that consisted of Premier League standard Sander Berge, was paramount if we were going to get anything from the game.
Faites un pas en avant, monsieur Michut. After being pegged back for the vast majority of the first half, our French Prince of Bel Air coolly slotted home from another French prince’s assist. Unfortunately, while we neutralised N’Diaye, we forgot about McAtee whose neat run and subsequent finish weren’t picked up in the dying embers of the first half taking us in all-square at the break.
With a much improved second-half display, a 1-1 draw would have been a fair result. Unfortunately, an early goal, that Anthony Patterson should probably have dealt with from yet another set-piece cost us. Although, frustratingly with VAR or a linesman and referee with half-competent eyesight and the goal would have been chalked off, but that is Championship officiating for you... shite.
We can certainly take encouragement from the performance, and it’s worth remembering the Yorkshire club are where they are in the league for a reason.
A little like the reverse fixture at the beginning of the season, their class ultimately shone through, and their possessional dominance eventually hit us where it hurt. Despite the three goals, it was actually a game of relatively few clear-cut chances, and while Roberts, Clarke, and Ba did Roberts, Clarke, and Ba things, once again, the lack of a focal point was our undoing.
We’ve bounced back from that 5-1 drubbing two weeks ago with two sturdy showings against quality opposition. Now, eight points adrift of the play-off spots, it’s perhaps realistic to think our chances of extending our season, are all but over. And that’s ok, the fact there are any remnants of disappointment is just testament to how far we’ve come in less than a year, and until it becomes mathematically impossible, there’ll still be slim hope.
On a lighter note, has a Christmas present ever seen so much use?
There are two things we know will pique the interest of Tony Mowbray: Revels and Hugo Boss gilets. While we can only speculate, I maintain a strong suspicion that Tony Mowbray showers in that sleeveless Boss jacket, and may even make passionate love to his wife while sporting it.