Dear Roker Report,
So, a draw at Middlesbrough has probably given Michael Beale a little bit of breathing space from our fickle fan base, myself included.
I thought the team would be the same as last week and I felt that Jenson Seelt was unlucky to miss out, although Leo Hjelde did well on his debut and looks promising.
The enigmatic Abdoullah Ba returned and missed not one but three decent chances, which wasn’t good. I think Patrick Roberts is still a better option, or possibly Romaine Mundle.
Elsewhere, Mason Burstow was again very poor and his movement was non-existent, but as soon as Nazariy Rusyn came on, he was involved.
He was elbowed in the face and we should probably have had a penalty, and he was an almighty nuisance for Middlesbrough’s defenders and deserved his goal even though it was a goalkeeping error.
What does this guy have to do to get a run in the team? He had more touches and involvement in his first five minutes than Burstow had in the previous sixty five.
In a nutshell, we need Rusyn in the team and he was found brilliantly by Jack Clarke for his goal, so let’s see what happens and which team plays against Plymouth.
On another note, let’s hope Dan Ballard is OK, as he looked in agony after falling awkwardly.
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Philip. Thank you for your letter.
I fully agree that Nazariy Rusyn deserves an extended run in the team, and his contribution on Sunday, from his goal to his work off the ball, was crucial and it played a huge part in the result.
He seems to be settling into life at the club and hopefully the goal will give him the confidence to get on a run and show that he can be the goalscoring striker that we’ve often lacked this season.
Overall, I felt it was a mixed bag on Sunday.
Leo Hjelde impressed me and I thought Luke O’Nien was excellent as well, but the lack of intensity in the second half wasn’t acceptable and our midfield remains an area of concern, so I wonder whether changes might be coming for Saturday’s game against Plymouth.
It was a very positive result for Michael Beale, and four points from our last two games is a solid return, so there’s plenty to build on, without a doubt.
Dear Roker Report,
Sunday was another game where I was left bewildered by Abdoullah Ba and Mason Burstow.
This version of Ba, for roughly fifty out of the sixty seven minutes he was on the pitch, is the one that infuriates fans and his indecisiveness as to which foot he wants to use drives me up the wall.
Last week it was his right foot, and this week he wanted to use his left foot, but when the clear and obvious decision was to use his left foot to shoot, he smashed it into the side netting with his right foot!
I watched the game with four Middlesbrough fans and even they were questioning how he was starting or what he was doing, and Pierre Ekwah shouting at him on the touchline topped it all off.
There’s definitely a quality player in there but he needs to be so much more decisive and precise on the ball. He often had the beating of his man and then stopped running, so let’s hope the more he plays, the more direct he becomes, just like Patrick Roberts.
Now for Mason Burstow.
After getting his first goal, this was the chance to really prove the doubters wrong and put in a top class performance, but he barely broke a sweat.
I said at half time that he should’ve been replaced by Rusyn as he was offering nothing up top and I was right, because within two minutes of being on the pitch, he was hassling Luke Ayling and getting about the pitch. He even took an elbow in the chops, too.
Rusyn then scored a brilliant goal on the half volley from the edge of the box, and he even got back and defended.
Do you leave Burstow out of the team entirely for next week, bringing Rusyn in and having Tommy Watson on the bench? It was also great to see young Caden Kelly on the bench, because he was highly rated at Manchester City with some coaches gutted to lose him.
Elsewhere, Leo Hjelde looks like a player. He showed great composure and ability on the ball for the most part and I can definitely see him being a key player for us for the rest of the season.
Luke O’Nien was also class. He did everything right and he’s the first name on the team sheet for me. We also desperately need a defensive midfielder, because we were overwhelmed in the second half and ended up dropping very deep to defend.
Finally, the referee had a howler with the free kick decision on Dan Neil. Even Stevie Wonder could see it was a free kick to us!
I can’t wait to be back at the Stadium of Light next weekend with my Dad to see us take on Plymouth!
Haway The Lads!
Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Calum. Thank you for getting in touch.
Sunday, for me, was an absolutely classic Abdoullah Ba display.
He was full of energy and trickery but he also missed two glaring chances and it did show, once again, that he’s still got some way to go before he’s as polished and refined as Patrick Roberts. Had he taken one of those opportunities, it would’ve been a different game entirely.
I’d definitely be keen to see Nazariy Rusyn start the next five or six games, and I fully agree with your views on Leo Hjelde and Luke O’Nien.
It was a very promising debut for the Norwegian and once he’s fully up to speed, I think he’ll become a very important player for us. O’Nien, meanwhile, was his usual reliable self and he led the team extremely well.
Michael Beale is going to have some decisions to make for Saturday’s game, but that’s not a bad thing and after becoming the first Sunderland boss to take anything from the Riverside Stadium since Ricky Sbragia, it felt like another small step in the right direction as he tries to win over the doubters.