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Two Up, Two Down: What were the positives and negatives from Tuesday’s clash with Huddersfield?

Tuesday night’s draw with the Terriers did us no real favours as the race for the playoffs heads towards its conclusion. What did our writers make of the game?

Sunderland v Huddersfeild Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Martin Swinney/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says...

Luke O’Nien’s resilience

You’ll never get rid of O’Nien!

It doesn’t matter how or why, but whenever he’s forced to drop out you can bet he’ll be back in the starting lineup soon enough, and that’s a testament to his talent and attitude.

He can always be relied upon and he once again slotted into the back four brilliantly whilst also adding an extra dimension when he stepped out with the ball.

He’ll be needed again at West Bromwich Albion, particularly if Danny Batth is out.

Rock on, Tommy!

It’s always great to see academy products being given a chance and whilst Tommy Watson was only on for a few minutes, I think we’ve another talent on our hands if handled correctly.

The only downside to our late playoff push is that we’ve had fewer opportunities to give certain players minutes, so for him to be involved at all at his age speaks volumes.

When to pass and when to go long

I know it can be nervy viewing and that we may get caught out at some point, but it doesn’t help the team to hear so many people moaning about us passing the ball across the back four during certain periods in games.

I understand where it comes from, because we don’t want to see keep the ball for the sake of it, but if teams like Birmingham City and Huddersfield Town are purposely sitting in, the best option sometimes is to just keep possession, keep it moving and wait for the opposition to switch off.

Forcing it with long balls from the back four will not work too often in our current system so there needs to be more patience perhaps, and a little less uneasiness being allowed to spill out.

We’re all enjoying the free-flowing football but games rarely pan out like that for the full ninety minutes, so you have to build from solid foundations.

I know that’s harder to swallow after a failure to beat a relegation-threatened side at home, but I’m trying to look at the wider context whilst also acknowledging that Huddersfield were never going to be a pushover.

First half good... second half not so good

Joe Gelhardt scored a cracking goal and in the main we played very well in the first half, but after the break it felt a bit flat at times.

We weren’t having to hang on as such, but Anthony Patterson had to take some tricky catches and the back four were tested at times.

They stood up well to those challenges and could well have wilted in times gone by, but after the opening forty five minutes, I did think we looked set for more.

Sunderland v Huddersfield Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Dan Harrison says...

Joe Gelhardt impresses again

Gelhardt’s off the ball work was as important as ever, but his goal was taken fantastically well following a quick break, a lovely ball into his path from Amad and a sublime first touch that allowed him to strike early into the bottom corner to give us a first half lead.

A solid performance from Anthony Patterson

Despite conceding in the second half, Patterson looked assured and confident, and he collected numerous Huddersfield crosses with relative ease.

He can feel aggrieved with a wicked deflection on the ball for the equaliser but on the whole, the England U21 goalkeeper looked more of an aerial presence than he had done earlier in the season.

Poor shape out of possession

Despite Tony Mowbray’s clear game plan of allowing Huddersfield to hold onto the ball far more than they’d usually expect to see, things backfired in the second half as a lapse in concentration allowed Josh Koroma to fire a deflected strike past Patterson.

It’s the second time in successive home games that Mowbray has resorted to his 4-1-4-1 formation with Dan Neil as his sole holding midfielder.

Holding a solid rest defence is something that works far better with two holding midfielders and so it can be argued that Mowbray got his tactics wrong for the second half.

Danny Batth’s worrying exit

Sunderland’s never-ending list of injuries seems to continue to lengthen.

Here’s hoping it was precautionary, but Danny Batth was substituted as the clock hit ninety minutes following an earlier collision that left him on the ground.

We could do without the prospect of heading into the final three games with no central defenders fit, but Dennis Cirkin will be available following his one match suspension so a makeshift back three may have to be deployed against West Brom on Sunday.

Joseph Tulip says...

Gelhardt looking the part

A fine finish following good work from Alex Pritchard and Amad was a confidence booster for Joe Gelhardt.

After his goal, he was more of a presence up front than he’s been in previous games, using his strength to good effect, taking more responsibility on the ball and even holding it up at times.

The games are running out but if Gelhardt can retain this level of performance and grab himself another goal or two, it could be crucial during the run-in.

Entertainment from start to finish

We frustrated at times last night, missing several chances and making poor decisions in the final third, but there’s no question that much of our play in possession was a joy to watch, regardless of the result.

Failure to grab the opportunity

The game was there for the taking, especially starting the second half a goal to the good, but we failed to score a second goal and never managed to really control the game.

Despite our possession, we were unable to kill the game and ultimately a draw was a fair result.

Neil Warnock gets his way

Huddersfield pressed high and set out to make life difficult for us.

They’ve got form for snatching results with this approach, and ultimately, we ran out of ideas going forward and had to settle for a point.

Sunderland v Huddersfield Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by John Early/Getty Images

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