The first victory was in the Carabao Cup while the second refreshingly came after a complete capitulation to a rampant Peterborough side in the League. Sunderland host recently relegated Rotherham United at the Stadium of Light this evening and tantalisingly could top the table come full time depending on results elsewhere. Let’s have a look at what could happen in a potentially tasty match up with a side who will be aiming for promotion.
The Story So Far
Sunderland went some way to restoring the faith that had been significantly soured following the abject performance against Posh before the international break. Beating Accrington Stanley 3-1 once again at the Wham stadium, which seems to be a happy hunting ground for us Wearsiders of late, was a relief but didn’t go uncriticised from certain sections of the support and press.
Accrington opened the scoring with a smart finish from Jordan Clark, beating Jon McLaughlin from relatively close range to set Sunderland hearts nervously fluttering.
The anxiety didn’t last long though, Lynden Gooch pulled off some serious acrobatics to connect with Denver Hume’s cross from the left to pull the lads back level – an effort which earned him a goal of the weekend award.
The game then ebbed and flowed at a strange pace but the quality of Sunderland’s players told in the end, McGeady and McNulty finishing the job, but neither side seemed to control proceedings and it this that seems to have upset the Sunderland faithful.
Despite being treat to three goals of mesmerising quality Black Cats fans were unhappy with the overall performance, with most criticism seeming to come from the idea that Sunderland should be walking this league with a set of floral shorts, a shit vest and some wayfarers in tow to add some panache. This just isn’t true, the fact that Accrington edged the possession stats yet still conceded three goals shows that we boast quality that is the envy of most League 1 sides but everyone must remember that this Sunderland team is a League 1 side.
We are not a Premier League outfit, we are not a championship outfit. We are a League 1 outfit. League 1. I’m not saying that’s where we belong as a club and I’m not trying to lower aspirations, expectations or suppositions but I feel that we need to bring some realism to the analysis and criticisms that are swirling around red and white pubs, clubs, Facebooks and twitter.
Accrington played okay, us a little worse, but I can’t help but think we may be getting a little ahead of ourselves by writing off that performance completely. A weeks break following a heavy and first defeat of the season isn’t ideal preparation when the opposition has been slowly building some momentum, so to go away from home and get the job done deserves at least a little pat on the back.
The second half was a bit boring with both sides struggling to be clinical but the most important part of Saturday was that it leaves us in 5th place with a game in hand and a chance to top the league tonight.
Rotherham looked to be on shaky ground after a really mixed start to the season which saw them trade a win or two for each loss or draw. But most worryingly they were defeated by Doncaster 2-1 who so far have been the only team they have really played who are expected to be challenging near the top of the table, so I was looking at that result as a real acid test for what damage the Millers can be expected to do following their fall from the Championship.
What has proven to be most intriguing is that they followed that loss by absolutely smashing nearly dissolved Bolton Wanderers at home 6-1, whoa mama! But I’d still rather have the results and points that Sunderland have accrued so far as opposed to one big win over a side most are expecting to really struggle to retain their League 1 status. So the Millers are really inconsistent and I’m not sure what to expect as they’ve struggled at times this season but have retained the bulk of their Championship squad, albeit a squad that was part of the reason they were relegated, but should still generally possess higher quality than most teams that Jack Ross and Sunderland will come up against for 2019/2020.
Jack Ross had a bit of a rage on, which I felt was rightly justified, claiming that he felt the constant criticism of his team despite the positive results was acting like an ‘anchor’ on progress.
"One defeat in nine this season, six wins in the last seven. That’s rubbish.
“It’s tiresome and it’s part of the problem at this club. We win 3-1 away from home, and always want to improve on what we do, I just fail to see sometimes what will make people satisfied.
“To continue to be critical of any sort of performance and result is negative and is almost like an anchor stopping the club moving forward
“So I take issue with it. I sit here often enough, and I’m polite and pleasant and I’m courteous. But we’ve won a game 3-1 away from home in the league and that should be it.
“If you win football matches it’s how you win leagues and win promotion. It’s an absolute fallacy to believe a team that wins promotion or a league title plays good every weekend. It’s absolute nonsense. In reality they probably play well in 50% of their games and then grind out wins in the other games.
“Nobody should ever forget we’re in an absolute results driven business. It’s about winning football matches and gaining points, and to date we’ve done that reasonably well.”
Ross has also been speaking about how he has targeted this month for points to set his team up for the winter months.
“We knew that this month was important for us,” he said.
“We have a number of games which we believe we can take points from starting obviously from Saturday’s fixture and then we will move on from there.
“We know if we are successful during this period then it will put us in a very good position going forward into the winter months.
“That’s been the target and aim for us and if we can reproduce elements of the game on Saturday then ultimately, we will come out of this month in a good place.
“We are going have to play well on Tuesday evening, but I’ve repeated often enough about our record inside the Stadium of Light for the last 15 months and we want to repeat that tomorrow night.
“To score 18 goals in nine goals is healthy so the quality of what we do in the final third is unquestionable. It’s just about making sure we have enough of the ball inside those areas of the park to do that.”
Millers manager Paul Warne is wary of the threat that the Black Cats pose but is hoping that his side can continue their away form into tonight’s game.
“They (Sunderland) are mobile, fit and organised and it will be a good test as it is against most teams in League One. But they have a bit more quality than most teams.
“But our away performances, in my opinion, have been better than our home performances, so we can look forward to the game.”
What could go down
Sunderland will probably be trying to look after the football a little bit better than against Accrington, I find that sides start to create chances against us if were not controlling the pace and flow of the game, something which Rotherham will look to do.
I wouldn’t mind swapping Leadbitter for McGeouch for this one as well. The Scot is intelligent with the ball, reads the game well and is far more mobile than the club captain. Our attacking quartet of McGeady, Maguire, Gooch and one of Wyke/McNulty have enough talent to cause any defence in the league problems and I think they will tonight – Rotherham were caught out by a simple short corner against Bolton and after the cup game against Burnley we all know that Jack Ross has a few tricks up his sleeve when it comes to corners.
I think the game plan of stretching the opposition icing our fullbacks to overloads the wings is a solid game plan against a team that haven’t enjoyed too many results so far this season.
Rotherham will be hoping that Freddie Ladapo and Carlton Morris continue their goal scoring exploits that they exhibited against Bolton. Rotherham certainly don’t lump it up front and hope for a result, they like to use their midfield to open space for their strikers in the middle, not so different from Sunderland’s way just without as much width. But in all honesty if we shut down those two the Miller’s attack will be significantly blunted.
I’m hoping it’s a good game and we exert a bit more control against a side which on paper has decent pedigree in its ranks. I know Paul Warne thinks his side can continue their goal happy form but just to piss on his parade with a strong, harsh dose of reality Bolton have been beaten by a five goal margin four times off the belt.
To spell it out they have shipped 20 goals inside of four fixtures, so it’s not like Warne’s side have smashed a top 6 contender in a blaze of glory. Rotherham have been pretty bang average in every game they’ve played against half decent opposition so I’m expecting a Sunderland win (surprise, surprise).
3-1 to the lads, just because we always win 3-1 these days! I’d love a clean sheet but in Morris and Ladapo Rotherham have decent finishers and we love giving up a chance or two in every game at the minute.
Ha’Way the Lads!
Tell me what you think @WeAreWearside @JimRiddler