Defeat at Stoke highlighted Sunderland’s lack of quality and conviction

John O'Shea in action

John O'Shea in action

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Any hope of a Sunderland improvement after a two-week absence were dashed at Stoke on Saturday, where the result and performance were as depressing as any of the games before the international break.

The bad news started even before the game kicked off with Lamine Kone and Jason Denayer being ruled out after picking up injuries while on international duty.

There can’t be many things more frustrating for any manager, especially as they left Wearside fit and well.

Saying that, Sunderland produced a performance that underlined exactly why we are bottom of the table, with just one shot on target all game telling its own story.

Stoke went into the game just one place and one point above Sunderland and I’m sure David Moyes’ game plan would have been to keep things tight defensively in the early stages, which would have increased the pressure on Stoke.

But by conceding so early, all of that pressure on the Stoke players was lifted.

Even then, if they had gone in at the break just one goal down they would have still been in the game but by conceding just seconds before half-time meant it was game over.

Stoke didn’t have to get out of second gear in the second half, it was comfortable for them as Sunderland looked a team totally lacking in quality and conviction.

Yes, injuries have decimated the team with Patrick van Aanholt just the latest to be added to the list, but while I think Stoke are in no danger of going down, they are mid-table at best yet the scoreline could have been bigger if not for the woodwork and a couple of good saves from Jordan Pickford.

The one positive of the day was that once again there was a sell-out away following, that gave great support considering how little they had to cheer but unfortunately the fans are not being matched by the team on the pitch.