The pre-match atmosphere
I thought the atmosphere inside the ground before the game was brilliant, and it reminded me just how much of a miss these games are from our regular schedule.
Games against Newcastle are special and are treated as such, which is why there was such a heavy police presence but most importantly, why there was a heavy emphasis placed upon getting right behind the players and the club ahead of kick off.
Regardless of how things played out, we did ourselves proud with the way we hyped the occasion.
Luke O’Nien’s performance
Most of our players were missing in action but one lad who certainly wasn’t was Luke O’Nien, who gave a real captain’s performance and did everything I’d expect of him on such a massive occasion.
The tackle on Lewis Miley was unfortunately too late and had something like that happened in the opening few minutes of the game, it might’ve helped to swing the pendulum in our favour.
That said, I thought O’Nien played like a real warrior and again, he showed why he’s so important to this team.
Pierre Ekwah’s concentration
After a twenty minute half time break during which Michael Beale will have been pretty clear in what he expected from his side after going a goal down, I imagine the last thing he expected was for one of his players to have a brain fart thirty seconds into the second half.
His predecessor Tony Mowbray often remarked that he felt he needed to slap Ekwah about the face to wake him up before a game and unfortunately this seems to be true.
Pierre is a cracking player, but he needs to learn very quickly that he can’t just coast through games if he wants to play at the highest level. His poor concentration is what lost us the game.
Our key players fail to shine
I love Jack Clarke and Dan Ballard and I think they’ll both go on to play at the highest level, but they did nothing to prove they’re capable of it with their performances against Newcastle.
Clarke was wasteful and easily taken out of the game, and Ballard was at fault for two goals and although I really rate him, I wonder what the reaction to his mistakes would’ve been like if a less popular player had scored an own goal and then conceded a penalty.
Maybe this was the reality check that some of these lads needed.
Ian Bendelow says…
A gulf in quality highlighted
Michael Beale suggested post-match that some of these players think they’re better than they are. However, during the ninety minutes, everyone was given a stark reminder that this squad is nowhere near being ready to compete on a consistent basis against Premier League opposition.
Time and again, Newcastle demonstrated their top flight class on the ball and their reading of the game shut off any openings for Jack Clarke and company to exploit.
The fact that the midfield battle was won so comprehensively by those in black and white highlights the need for Sunderland’s younger players to grow.
Put simply, they lack experience, but they need time before they’re ready and they must be supplemented by new signings running through the spine of the team.
If this match has helped to ram that point home, it’s a good thing. Sunderland can succeed, but not with the current personnel alone.
We’re not them
As I watched some of Newcastle’s players effortlessly control the tempo and rhythm of a match they never looked in danger of losing, I thought to myself, ‘Would it be nice to have that amount of cash available to us if it meant giving up your identity?’
The answer, if you’re wondering, is no.
Bruno Guimarães, Alexander Isak, Anthony Gordon et al aren’t there because they love Newcastle: it’s because they were offered enough money to come.
I saw a club out there heaving full of blood mercenaries, built on the bones of the victims of their overlords. It’s actually not funny, because this is human life we’re talking about, and the way the Newcastle support has embraced it is beyond disappointing.
Follow your team of course, but actively supporting your abominable owners? You should be absolutely ashamed of yourself.
Michael Beale’s tactical errors
Congratulations to Beale, who managed to achieve something that I don’t remember seeing before.
Not only did we look woefully stretched by Newcastle down the flanks, with Trai Hume and Aji Alese given extremely rough rides by Miguel Almirón and Gordon, but in the centre of the park, space appeared time and time again for Bruno Guimarães and Joelinton to exploit.
Part of this was down to poor individual performances, but it was also because the setup was all wrong.
Jobe shouldn’t be shoehorned in the side no matter what the system, and this didn’t suit him. There was nowhere near enough use of Nazariy Rusyn’s runs behind the Newcastle defence, and as for the ‘playing out from the back’ nonsense? Come on.
You can’t say that it reaped more benefit than detriment. It killed the game within half a minute of the second half, for crying out loud!
You must have a plan B if your opponent’s high press is too intense, and we didn’t, so Beale must address this.
No trust in the bench
This is a big worry, because despite being two goals down with twenty five minutes left to play, Beale didn’t turn to any of his substitutes, and this tells you a lot about how he views the options he has.
The introduction of Abdoullah Ba was too little too late, as despite a difficult few weeks, the wee Frenchman looked most likely to make something happen.
However, for the league campaign it doesn’t bode well at all, and if Beale only trusts his first eleven, they run the risk of burnout while the rest of the squad will become increasingly disillusioned.
It’s his responsibility as an apparent wonder coach to get far more out of the players at his disposal, and he’ll ultimately be judged on this.
Jon Guy says...
Alex Pritchard’s performance
If his value to this side wasn’t recognised, it is now.
He represented most of what was good about this team and it also highlighted the need for more experience in the squad.
Areas for improvement highlighted
The fact is that we still have three weeks of the transfer window to go and for Kyril Louis-Dreyfus and Kristjaan Speakman, this should be a wake-up call.
We know the model, but we can’t assume the club will progress unless the squad is given more experience in order to support these young players.
Bring in an out-and-out striker!
A learning curve for our players
There are many of our players who’ve been talked up for moves and with the exception of Dan Ballard and Dan Neil, those players showed few signs that they can make that step up.
It may well be a hidden plus as it might flatten some of the interest this month, but the way we set up and the tactics employed were questionable, given the way we played a few weeks ago against Leeds.
All three goals were down to poor decisions
Trai Hume went to ground too quickly for the first, Pierre Ekwah tried to beat a player at the edge of the box, and then Jack Clarke left the ball and Luke O’Nien dived in for the third.
Kelvin Beattie says...
A positive atmosphere
The noise and colour, in the first half especially, was a credit to us all as we backed our team with gusto and passion to the extent that I never heard the away fans until they scored.
Despite the result, there wasn’t a mass walkout from the Sunderland fans and thirty seconds after the penalty was scored, it was the sound of ‘Sunderland ‘Til I Die’ that was filling the stadium.
Dan Ballard impresses
What a game our centre half had.
It’s not often you can say that about a player who scored an own goal and gave away a penalty, but he was everywhere, winning headers and tackles, interceptions and making a nuisance of himself at free kicks and corners.
He certainly looked like he could handle the step up.
Goals win games!
There was an element of creating our own problems with all three goals and the timing of the first two took the wind out of our sails.
If Ballard hadn’t got his foot to the ball, I’m pretty sure Alexander Isak would have, while Pierre Ekwah’s error will be one that he can learn from and he certainly threw himself into the second half afterwards.
Pushing on to try and get a goal led to the penalty, but it would be harsh to criticise the players for trying to go forward.
Some tired Sunderland legs
Some of our young players do look tired and Jobe, Trai Hume, Dan Neil and Jack Clarke could probably all do with a rest and hopefully the squad can be rotated to facilitate this as more players return from injury.
It’s a bummer of a result given who we were playing.
We were very competitive for a half without threatening their goal unduly, but by next Saturday teatime, it’ll be history.