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Sunderland v Hull City - Sky Bet Championship

From triumph to tragedy - a week in the life of Sunderland’s defence

Sunderland’s defensive performances went from good to bad in just a week, in two matches that seem to have summed up our season.

Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Just over a week ago, the news that Dan Ballard would potentially be out for the rest of the season was announced. It was a hammer blow, not least because it meant yet another defensive reshuffle was needed.

With a trip to high flying Burnley next on the agenda, our patched up back four looked like it might have its work cut out.

By 10pm on March 31, the full time whistle sounded and our defence of Trai Hume, Danny Batth, Luke O’Nien and Lynden Gooch became the first backline in over a year to stop Burnley from scoring at Turf Moor. With the length of injuries, it always looked likely that this defensive line-up would remain the same.

Lo and behold, there were no changes for the visit of Hull - at least not in the line-up. The performance on the pitch was so painfully the opposite from the 0-0 draw at Burnley - and far from in a good way.

Sunderland v Hull City - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

The defending in the bizarre 4-4 draw was riddled with errors and naivety from players along the back four. From the slow reaction to Hull’s counter attack for the first goal, to multiple poor decisions leading to the late fourth, it felt as though all of the good work of that Burnley game was chucked out the window.

Pierre Ekwah has received plenty of criticism for giving away the injury time penalty against Hull, but if you watch that goal back we had so many opportunities to stop the ball getting to that position. It is an example of how our game management this season has been dreadful on two many occasions.

A savvy team takes the ball forward and looks to run the clock down. Slowing down any Hull intensity kills that game dead. It also would have helped us get over the line in plenty of games this season, extra points which could have put us in that top six.

This is the cons of building a squad of young talented players. For all the raw enthusiasm and ability, there is a distinct lack of the type of experience which would have helped us see out that game on Good Friday. Knowing how to see these sorts of games is crucial in the development of these players.

Sunderland v Hull City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

These mistakes need to be made in order to learn from them. I would much rather they happen with us in a position of mid-table comfort rather than us relying on picking up points at either end of the table. That being said, recent frustration is totally justifiable.

It’s hard to process how the same defence can shut out the league leaders and then, just a week later, concede four of the most disappointing goals you’d ever plan on seeing.

With the today’s trip to Cardiff coming around fast you’d expect some changes across the board, but this may be just the one alteration to the defence.

Dennis Cirkin would be a welcome return to the starting line-up, and would hopefully go someway to making sure a repeat of the Hull shambles isn’t repeated.


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