At half time on Saturday, the message from Tony Mowbray was clear: Move it quicker. Much quicker.
In the opening twenty minutes or so against Rotherham, it was far too slow and far too pedestrian.
The visitors were comfortable in allowing us to move the ball from side to side in defensive areas, knowing that without a recognised centre forward, we’d struggle to go long or find routes in behind their defence.
Therefore, in allowing the game to be played in front of them, the away side were untroubled.
The chants of ‘ole’ from the away support after only twenty minutes epitomised the Millers’ control of proceedings, despite Sunderland enjoying the majority of possession.
When Hakeem Odoffin struck for the visitors, that proved to be the wake-up call and two minutes later, we were back level.
For all we were dictating possession, however, chances were few and far between and looking back, it seems that the half time team talk proved decisive.
From the first minute of the second half, the tempo was raised and our press was more ferocious as we looked to win the ball back further up the pitch and force Rotherham into defensive errors.
There was more intensity, gaps were found much quicker and we were much more attractive and enjoyable to watch.
This was epitomised by what proved to be the winning goal, as a quick reaction step forward midway inside the Millers half from Pierre Ekwah intercepted a Rotherham through pass and initiated another Sunderland attack.
As Tony Mowbray switched Jobe Bellingham and Bradley Dack in the second half, Dack was given the chance to link the play with Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts, and so we began to switch it quicker, and there was more joy to be found on the flanks.
As for Jobe?
A man of the match display from the younger Bellingham brother, with his first two goals in professional football as well as his first two in a Sunderland shirt, was just what we needed, especially after three matches where the need to find alternative ways of scoring was urgent.
Of course, this was a Rotherham side without a win in their opening two matches, and a team that many have tipped to be in and around the relegation zone come May, but nevertheless, the half time tactical tweaks proved decisive and this was an important win.
Without a clinical striker in the opening three games, we’ve struggled for goals, leading to questions about whether we could continue some of the fine attacking displays from the end of last season.
On the evidence of Saturday, particularly in the second half, it seems the answer could well be ‘yes, we can’.
We won’t truly know the answer until a couple more weeks of the season have gone by, but it seems as though we’re trying to find answers to the striker conundrum once again.
A rendition of ‘Tony Mowbray’s red and white army’ which rang out during latter stages of the contest signified that after two matches of attacking struggle, there’s cause for optimism again.
And after what was a more impressive second half display, it seems the characteristics of the 2022/2023 version of Sunderland, which had us all gripped, remain very much intact.