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Cardiff City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Two Up, Two Down: Sunderland nab all three points in an Easter Monday nailbiter!

Despite dominating the first half against Cardiff, it took a goal from the returning Dennis Cirkin to secure the victory for the Lads. What were the positives and negatives from the game?

Photo by Ian horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Gary Engel says…

Improved game management

Sunderland’s failure to see out the game against Hull highlighted some naivety and it’s a frailty that’s dogged us in spells throughout the season.

However, as nervy as the last few minutes could’ve been away from home, we managed well.

Cardiff’s best spell came after we scored but the last few moments didn’t herald any real onslaught as we kept reasonable control of the ball.

We need to keep it going in order to take some momentum into next season.

A decent Easter, despite injuries and reshuffles

We can see from our bench that we’re down to the bare bones, due to a horrendous and growing injury list.

It’s giving fringe players like Pierre Ekwah game time and Trai Hume the chance to play in other positions, and it’s proved how much faith Tony Mowbray has in his young charges, given their errors for Hull’s third and fourth goals.

Those mistakes aside, four points isn’t a bad return from two potentially tricky fixtures.

An ongoing injury crisis

We’re only four points off the playoffs, which is bound to raise expectations somewhat.

I get it, after last season's excitement and fairytale final, and a repeat of that would be wonderful, although not realistic.

I’ve been saying for weeks that we’re going to fall short at the end of the season.

My grounds for that were Ross Stewart’s injury and our lack of a direct replacement in January, and our growing injury list will likely be the deciding factor in how our season will end.

It also highlights how much depth we really lack compared to many of the top six, and we’re obviously carrying a few more injuries within our starting eleven.

The enigmatic Lynden Gooch

I can’t normally complain about Gooch.

He’s stepped up a level this year and showed massive improvement, but he’s also a bit of a mystery and he often seems to struggle with playing a number of games in the same week.

To me, that appeared true against Cardiff and if anyone was caught out on Monday, it was normally him.

It almost appeared as though he’s more comfortable on the left than the right and although it didn’t hamper us too much, he probably would’ve been torn apart against a better side, which is something to perhaps address in future fixtures.

Cardiff City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images

Michael Dunne says…

A vital win!

After dropping two precious points on Friday, our heads could’ve been down going into this fixture.

However, we controlled the game throughout, without really creating many chances. The win was the most important thing and with results going in our favour, it keeps us in the mix going into the final few games.

A win against Birmingham would really set the tone for the final fixtures.

Amad’s performance

I feel like we’re seeing Amad at his best once again.

He was our creative spark throughout and there were times when he could’ve taken a shot on instead of the extra pass. On top of that, his hunger and desire to get back and defend in order to help his teammates was superb.

It’s great to see him playing near his best as he really can set the tone for us.

More dodgy refereeing decisions

In the latest episode of bad EFL referees, we should’ve been ahead in the first half where Jack Clarke’s goal looked to be onside.

Furthermore, it seemed like the referee was bringing the idea of ‘let it flow’ football to the next level.

Some of the tackling by Cardiff in the first half was borderline and we could’ve done with some protection from the referee.

Imagine if we had a striker!

Our football was really positive at times but we lacked a focal point.

I feel like the overriding feeling will be ‘what if we’d had had Ross Stewart fit for the season?’

Paddy Hayes says…

Key players keeping the top six push alive!

In the first half especially, Dan Neil was exceptional.

He dictated play, picked out some sublime passes and demonstrated why he still has so much untapped potential.

Amad, meanwhile, just does Amad things and after a dip in form, he certainly looks to be regaining the kind of fearless confidence we’d become accustomed to seeing.

This win, along with several other results going our way, keeps us well within reach of the playoffs and it also gives the players something to play for in the closing weeks of an impressive return to the Championship.

A vital victory

The win at Cardiff was our first in five and only our second in ten.

If we’re to stand any chance of a late snatch and grab in terms of the playoff places, getting into the habit of winning and seeing games out will be fundamental.

A lack of cutting edge

The game in South Wales seemed to accentuate a key weakness of ours: the lack of a focal point up front.

In the first half, we knitted together some tidy pieces of attacking play but due to the absence of a recognised striker, we failed to really test their goalkeeper with shots on target.

Nerves on edge during the final twenty minutes

It was inevitable that Cardiff would sit back for the majority of the game in the hope of grabbing a last gasp goal.

Our goal forced their hand somewhat, and while they were still relatively blunt going forward, we allowed them back into the game, which is something we simply can’t afford to do against better sides.

Cardiff City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images

Toby Phipps says…

Amad impresses

It’s good to see Amad back to his best after his recent layoff, and everything seemed to go through him as we pushed for a goal.

This positive influence was shown by the robust style Cardiff used to defend against him, despite the referee allowing most of these challenges to go unpunished.

Keeping our playoff chances alive

Yesterday’s results left us four points off the playoffs and in the Championship, anything can happen, especially at this stage of the season.

If we can use this result as a springboard for the remaining games, we may just be able to sneak into the playoffs.

The lack of a striker hurts us again

Despite some excellent buildup play at times, it felt as though we needed something more in the final third to put the ball in the back of the net.

Someone to get into the box and onto the end of crosses could’ve made it a much more comfortable affair.

More questionable refereeing

Every week, there seems to be some sort of problem with the referee and this week, it concerns the issue of ‘letting the game flow’.

Cardiff occasionally went into tackles too hard, but it didn’t stop the referee from allowing the likes of Amad and Jack Clarke to be kicked from pillar to post all afternoon.

Something really should be done about teams that play like this, in order to prevent it from happening.


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