McNair is mint & Sunderland system clicks; Five eggscellent reasons to cheer the Easter uprising

What a way to kick off a long bank holiday weekend. Sunderland were excellent at Derby and thoroughl

by Brandon_Rawlin Saturday, 31 March 2018 07:59 AM Comments
What a way to kick off a long bank holiday weekend. Sunderland were excellent at Derby and thoroughly deserved their 4-1 victory. Here's five reasons to believe in the resurrection. 


For a side who couldn't score

Sunderland hadn't scored in the three games prior to last night, so either the relegation-threatened Black Cats finally stumbled across a system which can fire the side to safety, or this was an awfully enjoyable fluke. 

There has been a growing suspicion that Chris Coleman's dogged insistence at utilising defensive systems has stagnated Sunderland, particularly at a key point in the season when his team really need to push on for points to keep the relegation battle alive. 

But at Pride Park, there was a new found 'flow' to the Black Cats forward moves which was refreshing after so many frustrating weeks. Aiden McGeady was a key man and Ashley Fletcher would have had a hat trick if he possessed as much aplomb for 90 minutes as he did for his first goal since signing for Sunderland. 

A front five until the end of the season

Too often this season Sunderland have stumbled across an occasional system which looked like it could possess promise, only for it to fail the following week. 

Lining up in a 4-1-4-1 going forward, the front five system of Fletcher supported by McGeady and Gooch on the flanks with McNair and Honeyman providing 'legs' behind them really seemed to suit the Black Cats purpose at Pride Park. 

Reverting to a solid 4-5-1 when in defence, this really seemed to work and for the first time in months, those in the light blue away shirt looked threatening and capable of taking play to opponents.  

Paddy McNair the key

Paddy McNair's career has stagnated since he was signed by David Moyes in 2016 as the Northern Ireland international has struggled to overcome the after-effects of his lengthy lay-off with cruciate ligament damage. 

But McNair was everything Sunderland have been missing in midfield of late and goddam it, the 22-year-old transformed the Black Cats where it matters. Adding an injection of physical presence and incisiveness on the ball, the former Manchester United youngster enabled what has been a stagnant middle section to compete with an opponent at long last. 

McNair could easily have had a goal to cap his impressive reminder to Sunderland fans what we've been missing had the Derby crossbar not kept his second half effort out. 

The long-time twosome taking the battle by the scruff of the neck

Much maligned and should have been binned years ago, that's the general conclusion on John O'Shea and Lee Cattermole this season. 

But the pair were unusually effective last night and reminded those watching what they can be capable of when the chips are down. O'Shea put in one of his best performances under Coleman and kept Kone sorted alongside him. Cattermole was back to the feisty levels he's capable of and was instrumental in applying pressure on the ball.  

The problem with these two these days is their inability to perform in consecutive games with the worry it will be 'business as usual' again on Monday. 

But, there was a suggestion following the greatest of great escapes under Gus Poyet that Sunderland's leading pair had taken the relegation fight off the hands of the Uruguayan and inspired the 2014 survival push. Could they do it again?

A win on Monday has the whole shebang back on

A win on Monday against Sheffield Wednesday will have Sunderland right back in the survival mix but we really need a favour off Mick McCarthy today. 

The former Black Cats boss has been pretty forthright this week in his dismissal of Ipswich's 'numbskull' fans as he announced he will step down at the end of the season, but us lot need that episode to galvanise the Tractor Boys to get a result at St Andrews this afternoon.