After the elation of turning over Norwich in such clinical fashion, grinding out a hard fought draw at Hillsborough was probably a good reality check.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like reality checks. I would much prefer to live in the fantasy that we’re going to absolutely walk this league and will steamroll everyone. That isn’t going to be the case though and Sheffield Wednesday reminded us of just how much of a slog this season will be.
Not that things couldn’t have been different. The lads were so bright in the first half that if chances from Lewis Grabban and Brendan Galloway had been converted, we would have been looking at a similar result to the one we saw on Sunday.
With those chances not being taken, and the players looking fatigued in the second period, however, Wednesday were always going to find a way back in.
I can’t help but wonder though, had Simon Grayson made some changes a bit earlier than he did, could we have held on?
Lee Cattermole became invisible in the second half, with Didier Ndong doing the running for both players, while every time Aiden McGeady got the ball in the second half, he was reluctant to run with it.
Both men had looked good in the first half but clearly hit a wall. Had we given ourselves some renewed drive in the middle, and some fresh running out wide, Sunderland could have possibly made the game more interesting.
Not that I’m going to complain too much. Being unbeaten after three tough games is still admirable and it’s allowing Grayson to build a little bit of momentum.
More importantly, it’s allowing a positive feeling to grow around the club. I know an early goal always helps the atmosphere in an away end, but the travelling Red and White Army were in great voice at Hillsborough, as they once again responded to a team giving their all.
Hopefully that atmosphere will carry itself into Saturday’s game against Leeds United. A game against a historic foe, in a later kick-off, should make for a noisy affair. That noise will be ramped up even further if us fans witness the kind of commitment that we’ve seen in the past few games.
It should be remembered that Leeds will certainly prove a tough test – their start mirrors ours and they’ll be hard to break down, but going unbeaten in these opening four games would be a real statement.
When the fixtures came out, everyone mentioned how difficult our start was, so coming through the opening matches unscathed would show that Grayson is laying a solid foundation.
To keep that up though, the manager will also need reinforcements. I know it won’t be lost on Grayson, but we are need to add a goalscorer and, despite another impressive showing from Tyias Browning and Lamine Kone, there’s a lack of depth at centre-half.
Financial restraints will dictate what he can and can’t do, but, given what we’ve seen so far, this team only looks like it’s two or three players away from being highly competitive.
I’m not saying they’ll charge up the table and leave everyone for dust – a top-half finish which steadies the ship would certainly be a job well done – but, with more options at his disposal, Grayson could start laying the foundations for getting SAFC back on track.