A win & clean sheet! Dawn of a Sunderland revival or are Burton just terrible? Our 5 first thoughts

Praise be for the miracle of the Pirelli. Sunderland beat Burton Albion to leap up

by Brandon_Rawlin Saturday, 25 November 2017 07:55 PM Comments

Praise be for the miracle of the Pirelli! Sunderland beat Burton Albion to leap up the league to third bottom in Chris Coleman's second game in charge. But are the Black Cats really showing signs of revival or is it simply that the Brewers were utterly terrible?


So the 1,500 Sunderland fans who made the trip to Staffordshire were rewarded for their efforts with two late goals to cheer them on their way back to the north east. Chris Coleman looked overjoyed at the full time whistle - and so he should, for the revival is on - or is it?

Difficult to draw too many conclusions from this afternoon's 2-0 win on the road perhaps, save from the obvious instant feeling of relief. Savour it a while - the sweet taste of victory, but here's our initial thoughts on Burton 0 Sunderland 2. 

The Championship's second worst team at home

It takes some doing to be almost as bad as Sunderland at home but Burton have managed just that this season. Nigel Clough's side have engineered a couple of wins at the Pirelli but not since September. They've now lost six in a row on their own patch and they've conceded way more than the rest of the division in front of their own fans. 

Burton had their chances in the first half before slowly running out of steam in the second. Three forced changes inside a 13 minute spell, resulting from injuries to midfielders Miller and Sbarra and winger Scannell, hardly helped Clough's cause; but there are few poorer sides in the Championship. Still, if we couldn't beat the worst that the league has to offer then tonight would have felt really bleak and the game still had to be won. 

A clean sheet 

That was the Black Cats first league clean sheet since May 6th - when somehow David Moyes engineered a win versus Hull once relegation had been confirmed. That's over six months, 29 long weeks or 204 days ago since Sunderland last managed to stop an opponent scoring. 

Robbin Ruiter only had a couple of saves to make and Burton really should have tested him more. Bryan Oviedo was again Sunderland's stand-out performer in the back four but Adam Matthews was equally composed in the opposite full-back slot. In the middle, Tyias Browning went about his task with minimal fuss but John O'Shea was largely found wanting alongside him and was caught out a couple of times. Coleman will surely be targeting a centre-half in the January window - especially if he can find a buyer for Lamine Kone. 

The substitutions changed the game?

Simon Grayson's in-game management was one of the more disappointing aspects of his brief failed reign, but Coleman managed to capitalise on Sunderland's growing ascendancy with three effective substitutions from 70 minutes onwards. And how many times have we been able to say that about a Black Cats boss in recent years? 

Darron Gibson proved once again he can look decent if he isn't forced through 90 minutes. His introduction into midfield aided the Black Cats in ticking the ball along as the legs of others tired in the middle of the park and his 70th minute entrance enabled Sunderland to take the play to Burton. 

Joel Asoro again looked lively at this level following his 80th minute introduction - more so than he has for the U23s this season - which perhaps proves the point he was at pains to make in the summer about his desire to make the step up to senior football. The 18-year-old beat his man to set up George Honeyman perfectly for Sunderland's second. And of course James Vaughan's 75th minute bow paid off with just his second league goal of the campaign and his first since September. His daft booking was annoying however, especially after he escaped similar punishment for celebrating against Hull. 

Central midfield continues to be an issue

Paddy McNair can probably still be excused a little following his lengthy lay-off but as the weeks pass and his fitness grows, questions will start to be asked with too many more of these performances. The Northern Irish midfielder again made little impact on proceedings and most Sunderland fans still have no idea what his game is really about. 

Lee Cattermole's afternoons are now restricted to sitting in front of the defence, such are the state of his ailing legs and inability to pick a pass. Coleman will need to find an answer to his side's central midfield achilles heel - a problem which David Moyes and Simon Grayson were simply unable to overcome. 

On an afternoon when Aiden McGeady was poor, George Honeyman had a quiet enough game bar the goal, but when the academy graduate is Sunderland's best player in midfield, you know Sunderland have issues. 

Bring on Vito

Next up is a bigger test and the return of Vito Mannone to the Stadium of Light. A mediocre Reading side are the visitors to Wearside next Saturday. The Royals held Sheffield Wednesday at home today and are just four places, and six points, better off than us. 

A result at home against lower mid-table fodder - a position we're now aiming for - will have us all believing the Coleman revolution is firmly on.