Once again, the Lads got off to a flyer as Aiden O’Brien latched onto Charlie Wyke’s knock down and ran in on goal, slotting past onetime transfer target Matija Šarkić.
Similar to the last game against Shrewsbury, Sunderland did not turn up second half. Only this time they were punished. Twice.
Firstly, by a howler from Remi Matthews in the 52nd minute and latterly by the ex-Middlesbrough man Harry Chapman, who found himself unmarked at the back post in the 67th minute. As this was a bleak night for the Lads, I have only 1 good and 2 bad points for this game.
One thing that Sunderland were affective at last night was attacking set pieces. For much of the season the Black Cats have been inept at dead ball situations. Recently, there has been an infuriating repetition of short corners and free kicks which came to nothing.
Albeit without scoring the Lads posed a threat from set pieces last night with many of their 20 attempts coming from those opportunities.
It was very clear that Lee Johnson had drilled this into the players on the training ground, with Charlie Wyke and Bailey Wright making near post runs.
The Shrews defenders made more than a few goal line clearances. Although this was a poor performance, the plethora of chances created from set pieces was easily enough to win the game.
What on Earth was that second half?
Sunderland went down the tunnel after the first 45 with a one goal lead, having played some great football. In the 52nd minute Shrewsbury drew level and that signaled the predictable capitulation.
Shrewsbury constantly exposed the wide areas, and the Black Cats had no answer to it. The Salop took the lead through a ball coming from a wide area and some help from appalling marking by left back James Vokins. Several basic errors followed from most of the Sunderland players.
After the game, Lee Johnson alluded to a “soft underbelly”, this could not be clearer in the second half. The Lads struggled to make easy passes and looked completely inept.
The persistent formation problem reared its ugly head as the Sunderland players were set out far too narrow and could not pass the ball forward affectively.
The performances from both halves could not be more contrasting.
Last night’s match saw the shock recall of Remi Matthews to the starting eleven; he could not have announced his return in a worse way than his performance yesterday.
Lee Burge has looked shaky all season with many thinking that maybe he would acquire some more confidence as the season continued. Unfortunately, there has been no improvement in his game, and he has cost the team points of late.
Starting Matthews did not rectify things as Shrewsbury’s equaliser came through a poor piece of goalkeeping from him. A ball was floated into the box and he came out to claim it, but Matthews attempts to get the ball were weak as Shrews striker Curtis Main arrived first and wiped poor Remi out, leaving it for Ethan Ebanks-Landell to finish the job.
Part of me does want to feel sorry for Matthews as he was a decent prospect at Norwich City who has lost his confidence after suffering back-to-back relegations with Bolton Wanderers.
However, the series of mistakes he has made this season have been both inexcusable and unacceptable.
Matthew’s night was summed up by the hilarious second half error where he seemed to have claimed a routine freekick effort from Sean Goss only for him to roll over onto his back and spill the ball.
Consequently, the ball is bundled over the line. Matthews sat by his goal line in a heap only for an incorrectly called offside flag to spare his blushes. There is obviously no easy route out of this goalkeeping conundrum.