Sunderland get the job done… eventually!
At this stage of the season, it’s all about winning, regardless of how deep you have to dig in order to do so.
We played some good football on Saturday, particularly during the second half, but aesthetics mean little in comparison to points on the board and we had to earn this win through graft, grit, and quality.
After the unforgettable draw against Hull City and Monday’s victory over Cardiff, the Lads showcased their impressive resilience yet again, as we didn’t let the loss of an early and extremely sloppy goal derail us.
Instead, we regrouped, grabbed an equaliser through Trai Hume, and eventually secured the three points thanks to another goal from our resident magician (more on him later).
Our home form has been distinctly average for much of the season, but this was the perfect time to change the record and with the visit of Huddersfield to come on Tuesday evening, consecutive home victories would be a huge fillip for Tony Mowbray and his players as we attempt to chase down and overhaul the teams ahead of us.
Amad steals the show once again
What else can you say about the diminutive, fleet-footed Manchester United loanee?
As we embark on what’ll hopefully be a successful end-of-season run, we need our big players to deliver when it matters and against the Blues, the Ivory Coast international did just that.
The trademark interplay between himself and Patrick Roberts was on display once again on Saturday and his winning goal, an emphatic finish after a raking pass from Jack Clarke, was Amad at his devastating best.
The combination of a positive environment, a head coach who believes in him, and a style of football that allows him to express himself has meant that his impact on Wearside has been nothing short of seismic. If there’s any chance of bringing him back next season, we should be pursuing it with everything we’ve got.
The ‘false nine’ experiment doesn’t yield success
I like Alex Pritchard a great deal but Mowbray’s decision to field him in a role that doesn’t really suit him was the source of some major frustration, particularly during the first half on Saturday as we carved out some decent chances without managing to find the breakthrough.
Pritchard can retain possession expertly and pick out passes at will, but he doesn’t have a finisher’s instinct and there were times when we would gain possession on the edge of the box but nobody would be in the right position to get onto the end of any balls played into the danger area.
Joe Gelhardt’s introduction in the second half did at least give us more of a central focal point, and although he didn’t get his name on the scoresheet, his movement offered us a little bit more and it feels like he’s nailed on to start against Huddersfield on Tuesday.
More concerns regarding spectator safety
The atmosphere on Saturday was superb, with ‘International Fans Day’ attracting Sunderland supporters from far and wide to spend a sun-kissed afternoon cheering on the Lads, and the occasion was certainly one to savour.
However, it was marred by yet more incidents of projectiles being thrown from the upper tier of the north stand, where the Birmingham fans were being housed, and down onto the Sunderland fans below them.
Photographs and videos circulating on social media during the game showed the remnants of flares that had landed in the seating area and frankly, it’s high time that this issue was addressed once and for all.
Given that it’s too late to move visiting fans for next season, surely the time has come for either far more robust searches of away supporters or for netting to be installed in order to prevent supporters being struck.
It’s happened far too often in recent years and the club needs to grasp the nettle and make the changes before someone is seriously injured or worse. The Stadium of Light needs to be a safe environment for all supporters, and that’s sadly not the case right now.
A top six finish is on, but we need to be faultless
From having ‘nothing to play for’ ahead of the Burnley game to suddenly being in with a real shout of grabbing a place in the the end-of-season shootout, Sunderland have offered real hope that 2022/2023 might just have the most remarkable ending of them all.
Yes, our margin for error is perilously thin and our squad is nowhere near as deep as some of our rivals, but we need to embrace the challenge and attack the final four games with everything we’ve got.
The players and Mowbray have done a superb job in getting us into this position as the season reaches its climax, and even if they fall short, that shouldn’t take away from how well they’ve played and the joy they’ve often brought us during this memorable campaign.
Let’s play without fear or inhibition, take the game to the Terriers on Tuesday night, and see what happens afterwards.