Andrew Smithson says…
I think it comes down to a combination of things, none of which should be too difficult to resolve.
It sounds like an excuse but I’d say injuries have played the biggest part.
It’s not really a problem with the replacements either; just that it limits our options in terms of substitutions and it means we’re expecting big things of the other lads in the squad.
There have been plenty of niggles on top of the season-long absences, so there are bound to be individuals that have taken a while to get back up to speed or are currently playing through the pain barrier.
Another thing to consider is that for a lot of these players, this is still a relatively new level and whilst there are question marks over the general standard of the Championship, there are still some quality performers and fierce competitors in there.
These teams are not going to just sit back and gift us the points, so it’ll take time to learn how to overcome such obstacles.
It’s always frustrating to drop points but we all knew there would be ups and downs with this squad and as long as the general direction is good, I can live with the setbacks.
Let’s not forget that although we’ve let leads slip on a few occasions, there have also been several matches where we’ve come from behind, which is what happened against Birmingham on Saturday, and that’s sometimes been quite rare in the past.
We’ve also gone over a month without defeat since losing to Sheffield United, another game in which we’d initially led, so perhaps things are already getting there.
I think nine of our sixteen league wins have been by a solitary goal, so it’s not as if we find it impossible to defend a lead. There have also been times when Anthony Patterson, for example, has shown superb game management, so we do have something to build on.
Don’t get me wrong: aspects such as this could do with being improved going forward, but like our home form and occasional tendency to underperform against lower placed sides, I’d class them as relatively minor in comparison to years gone by.
We don’t have the fundamental weaknesses that have sometimes crippled Sunderland in the past, and the attitude and togetherness I see from the squad means I’m able to still remain positive, even if I was cursing to myself when Huddersfield Town equalised on Tuesday!
Malc Dugdale says…
I think we should look at this in a balanced way.
We may have lost nineteen points from winning positions at home but we also have one of the best away records in the league.
That’s an amazing statistic, given that we only came up from fifth place in League One less than a year ago. We’re like the young rock band that some of our players resemble at times- awesome live and on the road, and I’m happy with that.
If we’ve been naive, why has that not been reflected away from home, and the same applies to the injury issues or general game management.
If these areas left us wanting then how come we’ve done so well away from home with the same challenges, just in a different environment?
The story for me is that we’ve had an epic season despite immense injury issues and a change of head coach. Yes, we’ve done worse at home than away, but we’re still in with a slight chance of making the playoffs.
We’re also looking pretty likely to finish above the middle of the table. That’s not something to be sniffed at and it’s a cut above the two teams who were promoted ahead of us, at least one of whom looks destined to drop back down in a few weeks time.
The players and Tony Mowbray have done a cracking job.
Are there areas to improve? Yes. Is one of them our home form? Definitely. Will we learn and grow next season based on this? Absolutely.
I can’t wait to build on this season but for now, let’s see what we can do in our last few games.
‘Every day is a school day’ is a very apt phrase for our team of very talented kids who could bring a hugely positive future to our club.
I’m backing them to learn pretty quickly and to put this stat behind them with interest very soon.
Mark Wood says…
During home games this season, it’s glaringly obvious that we’ve suffered as a result of the lack of an out and out striker.
You’ve seen it in our approach play, with nobody to play up against the last man and hold the ball up, or with our wide players when they get in a good position to cross.
Jack Clarke in particular seems to look for a target to hit but then has to cut back on himself when there’s nobody there. It’s been stated by just about every fan that we’ve missed Ross Stewart but even Ellis Simms, who despite his physical presence was more of a striker who liked to run onto a pass, provided the outlet we’ve lacked.
Joe Gelhardt is neither a Stewart or Simms kind of striker but more of a number ten, someone who likes to drop back into the build up play and lay on a pass. Simms probably would’ve loved playing alongside him.
Despite the criticism that’s been levelled in the direction of Tony Mowbray for the way we’ve been set up at home or the so-called historical slumps in form of his teams, I think that he’s actually done pretty well to get us to this stage of the season and with a shout of the playoffs, and he’s done it without most of his defence in recent weeks, too.