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Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship

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Television Review: the cameras keep rolling and the points keep coming for Sunderland

The Lads seem to be flavour of the month with the TV schedulers right now.

Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

There is a lot of talk about TV coverage and possible future streaming services as talks over the next set of broadcast rights start to ramp up.

These discussions may be of particular interest to Sunderland fans right now, who this season have seen their club become a regular option on Sky Sports and are getting used to being able to watch the Lads from the comfort of their sofa on a regular basis.

Away games, where allocations are often nowhere near big enough to meet demand, are always going to attract good viewer numbers and that is no doubt a big factor in the thinking on occasions.

It can however inconvenience travelling supporters that still want to be there in person, but at least the trip to Wales to play Cardiff City – never the easiest of journeys even without the added hurdle of it being on a bank holiday – kicked off at the scheduled time.

That was possible due to the match being on the red button instead of an individual pick, and whilst that can mean fewer camera angles and less production, I doubt too many people are fussed if they get to see the main action.

Armchair fans hoping to catch ‘the big game’ may enjoy that side of things but there is a growing number of people that would prefer to just be able to select their own club; this type of stripped-back service is becoming more commonplace anyway and could be how the majority end up taking things in.

No matter what the format, being on the box meant it was an Easter double for the club, who had already served up a treat for the neutrals on Good Friday against Hull City.

As for the Lads fans, there were several positives to take whether they were watching it from inside the Stadium of Light or on their screen; Jack Clarke has been working his socks off lately and built on that with a fantastic performance, whilst Joe Gelhardt had a good showing too.

In fact, Sunderland were superb as an attacking unit on the whole, so those settling down into their seats ahead of the Bluebirds fixture could be confident that if nothing else, they would at least see a side trying to go for the win.

Sunderland v Hull City - Sky Bet Championship
Good luck to the O’Nien’s by the way. Hopefully Luke got chance to watch the match in between parenting duties!
Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

What wasn’t so clear was how the team would react to letting two points slip right at the death against Hull.

They’d done brilliantly to twice come from behind but have had an intermittent issue with playing against teams from the lower half of the table – a fact that became very apparent when Cardiff visited Wearside earlier in the campaign.

In a season of relatively few lows, that home loss was arguably one of the worst performances we’ve seen so far and with the opposition still struggling near the relegation zone Sunderland needed to be switched on.

Thankfully, they were at it from kick off and seemed to cope with the changes Tony Mowbray made. The Lads penned the hosts back for large periods of the first half and despite being on the end of several niggly fouls tried to keep their rhythm up. Sunderland seemed sloppy for a few moments after the break but soon regained composure, and by the time the winner came they were clearly the better side.

Things got scrappy again towards the end, but the result was a fair one. Regular viewers and channel hoppers alike would probably agree on that point, whilst even the most casual observer would presumably say that Mowbray has a squad that is heading in the right direction; for every area of concern, such as an inability to pull the trigger on certain occasions for example, there are plenty more positives to take forward.

Despite several absences and a hectic schedule, the work rate was superb and some of the attacking football as good as ever.

It was pleasing too that Dennis Cirkin not only got the goal but also looked to have pulled off a brilliant block tackle late on – it has been a rough time for him injuries wise but this was a great return and one that I took in via SAFSee; I’m not a traditional Sky Sports subscriber and because my travel budget has gone on Burnley and Preston North End visits my best option was to buy a pass through the club (I believe Now TV customers that wish to use red button services must pay for a minimum of a month).

Not everybody wants to use large broadcasters and it is no bad thing if UK based punters are able to put money directly into their own team just as their overseas counterparts are doing.

Direct streaming might get utilised even more if rumours about the ‘TV blackout’ being ditched come to fruition, but in the meantime, there will still be plenty of chance to stick Sunderland on, with the fixture at West Bromwich Albion in a fortnight’s time due to be screened.

Form on the road has been good, and on this evidence, it could be another one worth tuning into…

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