Is there a decent corner in Sunderland and five other things we learned

Jermain Defoe on the attack for Sunderland. Picture by FRANK REID

Jermain Defoe on the attack for Sunderland. Picture by FRANK REID

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If you were one of the 17,000 Sunderland fans inside the Stadium of Light you deserve a medal the size of a bin lid.

The expression ‘poor fare’ barely sums up Saturday’s eventless third-round tie. At the first glance of the two teams, this reporter was excited at the prospects of a cracker. Alas it was anything but and, after some barrel-scraping, here are six things we learned from Sunderland 0 Burnley 0.

It would have been nice to see Moyes let his hair down and bring on one of the young fellas

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Clean sheet boost:

Dull it may have been, but it was not all doom and gloom.

Seven days after taking a caning at Burnley in the Premier League, seeing a 0 after Burnley at full-time came as a welcome boost.

There was a clean sheet and Sunderland did NOT lose – that’s only one defeat in six now at the Stadium of Light and it keeps things ticking over nicely for the visit of Stoke this Saturday.

Momentum is an oft-used word in the world of sport and the home form has not been damaged.

Centre-half cover:

Jason Denayer arrived at Sunderland on loan from Manchester City as a centre-half with the ability to play elsewhere.

Having played at Rochdale in the Checkatrade Trophy, his senior appearances have predominately been in midfield where, to be fair, he has played well.

With Lamine Kone in Africa and John O’Shea rested, Denayer was handed a start in the heart of the defence alongside Papy Djilobodji.

The Belgian was my man of the match, not putting a foot wrong. One little collision with Papy aside, their new partnership went smoothly and it could become a permanent fixture .

On the rare occasions Djilobodji erred, Jason was there to cover, and some of his own defensive work was top drawer.

Poor corners:

Alas, this topic could get more repeats than Dad’s Army.

Sunderland’s set-pieces are woeful – seven corners were won but the hosts may as well have just let Burnley re-start play with a goal-kick.

Not one caused any threat.

Now, while Burnley are strong at set-pieces, it was not like the Cats were playing Wimbledon in the 1980s with nine six-foot-plus players.

Sunderland were reluctant to play corners directly into the box, trying a variety of angles – and failing.

Get the ball in.

Get the keeper tested:

Even though Burnley had their third-choice goalie between the sticks, he barely had to stretch.

Aside from Jack Rodwell, there was a distinct shyness to have a pop at goal and the only acrobatics Nick Pope had to perform was to tip over a 57th minute strike ... from Rodwell.

Was Pope feeling any nerves? Did he have any deficencies? Sadly, we never got to find out.

Substitutions:

There can be no quibbles about bringing on John O’Shea late on.

With Sunderland starting to creak and Burnley looking the only side likely to find a winner, bringing on the veteran defender to ensure the hosts did not lose was a shrewd call.

But it would have been nice to see Moyes let his hair down and bring on one of the young fellas sat behind him on the bench.

He could have brought on George Honeyman, Joel Asoro, Josh Maja and said ‘go on, son, make a name for yourself’. Burnley injected life into their side with three changes, including the introduction of Jeff Hendrick.

The aforementioned trio are U23 prospects not seasoned internationals, but, with several players tiring, there was nothing to lose by throwing on a bit of youthful vigour.

Take no risks:

As David Moyes said afterwards, it’s better to have a replay than be out of the cup. It is hard to be critical of Moyes in terms of his selection.

He picked a strong starting XI, including Jermain Defoe, and took the competition seriously.

However, a Tuesday night at Burnley’s Turf Moor stronghold, sandwiched between vital Premier League games against Stoke (H) and West Brom (A), may dictate team policy for the replay.

As he showed at the Stadium of Light, Sean Dyche has a little bit more leeway in terms of experienced replacements – a luxury Moyes does not have.

The Scot might have to be, how can we put this, pragmatic with his selection.

He gave it a go at home but he might take fewer risks in Lancashire.