The Story So Far
Sunderland played out a predictable and disappointing draw against Karl Robinson’s organised Oxford side at the Stadium of Light last weekend. Sunderland went behind leaving them to chase the game in a worryingly blunt fashion, the initial goal being scored following a heavy touch from new signing Connor McLaughlin.
If the referee hadn’t intervened following an Oxford corner the U’s could well have went back south with all three points in hand, Jon McLaughlin allegedly being fouled in the melee of the set piece.
The Black Cats seemed particularly fragile down the left hand side, young left back Denver Hume struggling to linkup with centre back Tom Flannagan defensively which Oxford exposed time and again on the break to cause Sunderland havoc in the final third.
Luckily for Ross, American international Lynden Gooch seems to finally be playing better after a disappointing second half to last season which saw him lose his place in the side in favour of on loan Celtic winger and former Jack Ross favourite Lewis Morgan. Gooch using his pace and direct dribbling to draw a foul in the area, coolly slotted home the penalty he was awarded to put both teams back on an even footing.
Sunderland then dutifully pursued the winner for the remainder of the game but were unable to hold their nerve when presented with ample opportunity. Ball after ball seemed to fly across the face of the Oxford goal without anyone to connect with, Will Grigg cutting a frustrated figure up top, despite showing some good signs of linking well with on loan Marc McNulty.
Ross brought the big guns on as the second half went on, Watmore, Maguire and McGeady entering the fray to little avail. The most frustrating aspect of last Saturday’s performance is by far the fact that the build-up play is good and the game plan is obviously to overload the wide areas to create space for inside forwards, but the lack of composure in front of goal is galling and something which Jack Ross desperately needs to fix.
The Tractor Boys managed a win thanks to a goal from Everton loanee Luke Garbutt, his shot taking a fortunate deflection into the corner. Burton had a man sent off and Ipswich saw a member of their back room team sent to the stands after he volleyed the lid off one of their cool boxes.
Despite the positive score line Ipswich have hardly roared out of the traps and Burton caused them problems throughout, showing that manager Paul Lambert still has work to do defensively.
Jack Ross knows that Sunderland need to stop drawing blanks in front of goal and has asked his players to take on the responsibility of being clinical and ruthless when the opportunities present themselves.
“I thought our general play was good, we had a lot of opportunities in terms of working the ball into the final third, it was just our final ball, either from wide areas or within the box, just wasn’t good enough.
“I said that immediately after the match and having watched it again it would be a fair criticism.
“So, a lot of our play and what we’ve worked on were good. The last part, which is the hardest part and also the most important part, we need to be better at.
“There’s a collective responsibility to score goals, but naturally your attack-minded players are the ones it falls upon more greatly.
“We put 34 crosses in the box, many not so good, but some which were good quality. It’s then how we capitalise on those good balls into the box.
“We have a number of players in the squad who we feel can contribute goals and over the season on average we need our top five scorers to contribute around about 55-60 goals between them. And that’s what we need to get from them.”
He went on to discuss today's fixture.
“We knew this would be a difficult fixture, regardless of when it would fall on the calendar.
“But for us, in order to be where we want to be this season we have to go and look to get the win.
“I think once the dust had settled on last weekend, the players looked back on the game and we spoke and they were of the same opinion as me, that parts of the play were good and if we could replicate those and add in that final quality we lacked, we have every chance of winning at Ipswich.”
Tractor Boys Manager Paul Lambert is hoping his side can keep their momentum following their win over Burton Albion last weekend, with the aim to breed early confidence in his squad.
Lambert said when asked if there had been a buzz around the club after last Saturday’s victory;
“Football's great because you never get too high and you never get too low.
“Winning breeds confidence, it breeds momentum and there's a really good feeling at the football club.
“One thing we have got is a lot of energy, we've certainly got that. And hopefully with the backing of the support we do play well and when we get chances we can take them.
“I said before, there are so many difficult games in this league, we'll win games and we'll lose games because we're slightly light in certain areas.”