Andrew Smithson says…
Return of the attack!
After the last few weeks, it’s easy to forget that watching football is meant to be fun, but there were signs against Stoke City that Sunderland are rediscovering their mojo.
Some aspects of our play were admittedly no different to recent weeks, but there was definitely a spell after the first goal where the confidence was flowing and the Lads looked very exciting going forward.
The second and third goals were very good, so long may it continue!
A captain’s performance
Many players stepped up and gave a good account of themselves, and in some cases made a welcome return to form.
There are also those that have been regularly producing the goods and continue to have a big influence. Dan Neil and Jack Clarke are both fantastic players and were superb on Saturday, but something that caught my eye was the leadership shown by Luke O’Nien.
He threw himself into blocks as always, but it was the constant encouragement that really impressed me. He makes a point of geeing up those having a wobble and makes sure he congratulates players when they do well or are being subbed off, particularly those that may be low on confidence.
We need our senior pros to set an example and help the youngsters through this tricky period, and we can always count on O’Nien in that regard.
The ‘against column’
I sit at the other end of the Stadium of Light so I didn’t get a great view, but something must have gone wrong for the goal we conceded and I really felt for Anthony Patterson and Jenson Seelt as they were otherwise brilliant.
It could’ve turned nasty had we fallen behind, but Patterson made some excellent stops at 0-0 and his handling of crosses into the box was fantastic, which is just what was needed in the circumstances.
Seelt too was rock solid. I like what we’ve seen of him so far, especially considering right back isn't his natural position, and I hope the own goal doesn’t unduly knock his confidence.
Pritchard casts a shadow
The Alex Pritchard situation will get plenty of coverage elsewhere and is too complex to properly go into here, but I must admit to being very disappointed by the timing.
Sunderland are under the cosh right now so I’d hope everyone was pulling together and not deciding to make themselves unavailable the day before a game.
We don’t know the full story and it does appear from the outside that he’s possibly been messed about a bit, but whilst I don’t begrudge somebody wanting to leave when it’s right for them to do so, there are ways and means of going about it so this route seems less than ideal.
Abdoullah Ba was very impressive, even more so if we’re to assume he’s been drafted in at short notice, so I suppose it didn’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things, but it’ll always leave a bad taste in the mouth if someone refuses to pull on the shirt as appears to be the case here.
It’ll be a busy few days until the transfer window shuts and I’d love to see the situation being dealt with amicably, but if not, the hope has to be that this actually unifies people.
There have been some split opinions over Pritchard’s contribution, role and situation of late, but nobody likes it when the club gets let down and supporters will invariably rally behind those that want to be here.
Tom Albrighton says…
Abdoullah Ba impresses
He’s back to his best and arguably getting better thanks to a bit of faith from the coaching staff.
It’s always felt like there’s a player in Ba and it’s become more evident as time has gone on. He’s had his critics and fair share of dull moments but his directness and end product was a joy.
He’s just fun to watch and that’s why you have to take the daft moments with the brilliant ones. Long may it continue.
An impressive second half display
The second half yesterday was almost like the clock was rolled back the best part of twelve weeks.
The ball went forward quickly but not always long, while passes were precise and we played higher up the pitch.
It felt like the obsession with possession and territory gave way to a style more befitting the youthful vigour of this side and as a result, we saw the best of our attacking play albeit against a dull Stoke side.
Luke O’Nien makes his point
I’m often critical of O’Nien but yesterday he put a sock in it.
It was the first game in weeks where he and Dan Ballard looked on the same level, keeping Stoke quiet for practically the entire game.
Some lovely long range passing helped us to get up the pitch when needed and the solidity he provided alongside Ballard was very welcome after some turbulent weeks
Burstowed with pride
Everyone’s been critical of Mason Burstow and although his time here hasn’t borne much fruit, it was wonderful to see him score.
Without heaping pressure on him, I just want to appreciate his work rate.
He used his presence well and battled for the ball up top, as well as providing a good foil for Jack Clarke and Abdoullah Ba respectively. Hopefully he can gain confidence and kick on from this, as it’s never been a lack of effort holding him back.
Maybe it’s fitting that Burstow demonstrated why patience is a virtue, even if it was just a solitary goal.