Liam Bridcutt fails to shine as nervy Sunderland edge closer to safety

Liam Bridcutt in action for Sunderland against Leicester City.
Liam Bridcutt in action for Sunderland against Leicester City.
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ON the eve of their Survival Showdown with Leicester City, Sunderland were dealt a double injury blow.

Wes Brown and the much-improved Jordi Gomez ruled out for the rest of the season.

Bridcutt worked hard, with a lot of huffing and puffing but like the team performance overall, lacked real quality.

The reaction of Sunderland fans was two fold.

Firstly, disappointment, that two players behind the previous weekend’s 2-0 win at Everton would miss out.

And secondly, a fair bit of head scratching, as it quickly became clear Head Coach Dick Advocaat was to hand Liam Bridcutt a start at the Stadium of Light.

It is fair to say Bridcutt’s inclusion didn’t go down all too well, especially on social media, with Twitter lighting up as fans tweeted their views.

The loss of Gomez to a fractured knee cap was a hefty blow but Advocaat insisted ex-Brighton man Bridcutt could cut the mustard, rather than shoehorn Adam Johnson into a central role.

Prior to Saturday, Bridcutt had made just two substitute appearances under Advocaat.

But the ex-Holland manager had no hesitation naming Gus Poyet’s summer signing against the in-form Foxes.

It was a lightning fast start in front of a near-capacity crowd and the pace, inevitably, didn’t last much beyond the opening 15 minutes - with the remaining 75 minutes hardly one for the purists.

Before the game Advocaat had described Bridcutt as “aggressive” but it was his midfield partner Lee Cattermole that set the tone.

One crunching, sliding tackle, in particular, almost saw him end up in the Sunderland dugout. But it was perfectly timed as he stifled the Leicester attack.

Bridcutt though, who started on the right-hand side of a midfield three, was struggling.

Struggling to impose himself on the game and struggling to find his teammates when he had possession.

There were loud groans around the stadium at one stage as he simply played the ball straight out of play, under no pressure at all.

He did make an excellent run and pass early on, which almost put Jermain Defoe in, but it was too few and far between as Sunderland struggled to keep possession in the right areas.

‘Infuriating’ was a popular word on social media to describe Bridcutt’s performance.

It was a big chance for the 26-year-old to impress but he failed to shine as a nervy Sunderland side played out a goalless draw with Nigel Pearson’s side, who secured their Premier League survival with the point.

Bridcutt, booked after a late challenge on Jamie Vardy that saw the midfielder actually come off worse, was subbed after an hour.

He received a warm embrace from his manager as he left the field, with Adam Johnson on in his place.

And Sunderland looked a far more dangerous outfit with Johnson and Advocaat must be strongly tempted to start with him against Arsenal.

Bridcutt worked hard, with a lot of huffing and puffing but like the team performance overall, lacked real quality.

He wasn’t the only one, Connor Wickham didn’t enjoy the best of games either.

But question marks remain over where Bridcutt best fits into the system and ultimately whether he is good enough.