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Coventry City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Two Up, Two Down: What are the positives an negatives from Sunderland’s draw at Coventry?

The Lads took a decent point from a tricky-looking away trip on Saturday afternoon. What were the positives and negatives from the game?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Andrew Smithson says...

Keeping it clean

Having been unlucky with a couple of deflections and shipping a couple of avoidable goals, our first shut-out of the season should be a real boost for the defence.

Being able to name a settled back four is a real positive and I think the cohesion was pretty evident against Coventry. Anthony Patterson had a good game too, and the clean sheet was well deserved.

There’ll be times when the likes of Danny Batth are required, but the lads that have been playing so far have all warranted their selection and will hopefully continue to grow as a unit.

Breaking with tradition

You could normally put your house on a former striker that we’d been heavily linked with over the summer scoring against Sunderland, so whilst I have no issue with Ellis Simms, I was pleased to see him have an off day.

I assume Kristjaan Speakman was chuffed too, as he’d have got some real stick had Simms done us some damage - irrespective of whether looking elsewhere was the right call or not.

Silly season

On the subject of Speakman, now this game is out of the way, we’ll have to buckle up for the transfer deadline countdown.

We still need to do a few things in the market and there’ll be interest in some of our squad, but we could do without the usual hysteria and clickbait we normally have to endure when the window is about to close and a win against Coventry may have given us a bit of breathing space in that regard.

I think most of us would’ve taken a draw before kickoff and there were some clear positives, but the ‘failure’ to get three points opens the door to negative spin and I suspect we’ll see some outlets trying to stir up drama over the next few days.

Further injury worries

It was great to have Elliot Embleton, Jenson Seelt and Chris Rigg all available after their various layoffs, but we received news before kickoff that Jewison Bennette and Lynden Gooch are now out and whilst they’re only expected to be minor issues, I can’t help but feel that our bad luck with injuries is going to haunt us.

The timing of the international break makes Patrick Roberts’ absence a little easier to take and seeing Niall Huggins come on was a plus, but we always seem to be having to make do without key individuals.

The players that step in very rarely let us down, but Bradley Dack for example, who missed the chance of a proper pre-season, is having to play more minutes than he’d have anticipated at this stage, and it’s far from ideal when our options are always being restricted.

Coventry City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stephen White - CameraSport via Getty Images

Derek Carter says…

Resilience from Sunderland

Coventry had the upper hand in the first half, mainly due to the strong running from Kasey Palmer, but I never doubted that we’d come away with at least a point because this bunch of lads just doesn’t give up.

They play as though they’d bust a gut for each other and although their inexperience is glaringly obvious at times, they make up for it with sheer effort.

Superb travelling support

Yet another match where the travelling support was absolutely massive- both in numbers and decibel levels.

If we ever get a team to truly match that level of loyalty, then we certainly will be seen in Milan on a regular basis.

Unfair ticket prices

Yet another match where the hosts took advantage of our fans and hiked up the prices. It’s shoddy practice and needs to be stopped.

Football used to be classed as the ‘working man’s game’, but some clubs are taking the proverbial, especially during the current cost of living crisis.

Issues on the wings

I’ve read a lot of comments recently regarding our recruitment policy and the amount of players who can play wide that we seem to be linked with.

I think yesterday showed why we need that versatility, because for all his endeavour and fancy footwork, Abdoullah Ba wasn’t the answer.

I’m guessing that Lynden Gooch would’ve played if he’d been fit but as he may not be here after the window closes, we need to look at that situation.

Phil West says...

A solid point on the road

Given the premonitions of doom before the game on social media, combined with our dismal record at Coventry since 1985, taking a point from this game was a more than acceptable return and after last week’s victory against Rotherham, it’ll help to steady the ship after a bit of an iffy start.

A trip to the CBS Arena can often be a nervy occasion but on the day, I felt the Lads handled it quite well and showed some promising flashes of the resilience that we were often known for during 2022/2023. Mark Robins’ team are a tricky opponent who’ll certainly be in the playoff picture this season, and it was a genuinely fascinating game to watch.

A good result in the end, and plenty to build on.

Defensive solidity

At the back, the combination of Dan Ballard and Luke O’Nien provided a solid platform once again. The respective skillsets of the two players dovetailed nicely and it led to a deserved clean sheet against a useful Coventry attack.

Ellis Simms had a quiet afternoon and the combative approach of O’Nien ensured that any nervy moments were few and far between. Ballard, meanwhile, is looking more and more like the exciting prospect who arrived on Wearside in the summer of 2022, and his form and fitness will only improve with every game he plays.

Depth in central defence isn’t a huge issue for us, and if Danny Batth does remain at the club post-deadline day, it gives us another option should Tony Mowbray wish to change things up at some point further down the line.

Frustration for Abdoullah Ba

It’s common knowledge that Ba isn’t a winger, but with competition for the number ten position fierce and Tony Mowbray showing no signs of bringing the former Le Havre prodigy into a more central role, he found himself on the wing and tasked with the daunting assignment of trying to replace Patrick Roberts, and the results were predictable.

This was an erratic performance from Ba, and although not short of energy, his awareness and end product were woefully lacking and it played a major role in what was a fairly blunt attacking display from the Lads.

I think he’s a talented player who could thrive given time, but can the weaknesses in his game be smoothed out in red and white, or will he find himself being loaned out before the window closes?

It’s a borderline call and one that'll need to be made with his best interests in mind.

Sunderland aren’t quite clicking in front of goal

Although there was much to admire about our performance on Saturday, we’re still searching for fluidity and more importantly, a genuinely predatory presence in front of goal.

Bradley Dack is simply not a ‘false nine’, a genuine nine, or any other kind of nine, and Hemir is definitely not on the same wavelength as his teammates at this stage, and so goals are proving hard to come by.

The Portuguese striker hasn’t been managed brilliantly, but he’s often too static, too passive, and not impacting games in the way that we’d all like him to. That said, with patience and support from those around him, there’s no reason he can’t grow into the role.

The return of Ross Stewart and the debut of Eliezer Mayenda, both of which aren’t far off, according to Mowbray, will both be welcome, as would some breakthroughs in the transfer market this week.

We aren’t a million miles away from having a frontline that can turn these kinds of draws into victories, but there’s still work to be done and it’s going to be a key week ahead of the clash with Southampton on Saturday.

Coventry City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stephen White - CameraSport via Getty Images


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