Simon Grayson's attention to detail, Wahbi Khazri's Sunderland future plus four other things learned from Derby draw

0
Have your say

Sunderland's Championship campaign is up and running with Lewis Grabban's penalty securing a point against Derby County on the opening night of the new season.

The Black Cats put in a solid performance at the Stadium of Light with both sides carving out chances to win the game.

Lee Cattermole sees his effort saved in Sunderland's draw with Derby County. Picture by Frank Reid.

Lee Cattermole sees his effort saved in Sunderland's draw with Derby County. Picture by Frank Reid.

In the end Simon Grayson had to settle for a point with the game ending 1-1. Here's what we learned from the start of the new season:

Simon Grayson's attention to detail:

The more eagle-eyed among you will have quickly noticed the pitch dimensions at the Stadium of Light had been changed in the run-up to the game.

Grayson ordered the changes to make the pitch shorter and narrower to shrink the size of the playing surface at the Stadium of Light.

Lewis Grabban and George Honeyman impressed against Derby County.

Lewis Grabban and George Honeyman impressed against Derby County.

His reasoning? "I just felt that what we have within the group isn’t suited to a too bigger pitch, we haven’t taken it in miles just a few yards either way. You are entitled to do that."

It could prove a shrewd move and just goes to show the attention to detail from the new boss.

Lewis Grabban catches the eye:

The Bournemouth loanee is up and running for the campaign after scoring on his competitive debut for the club.

Sunderland have shortened the pitch at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland have shortened the pitch at the Stadium of Light.

Grabban took over penalty duties from James Vaughan, who had twice missed during pre-season from the spot, and he tucked the ball away confidently.

It was good to see Vaughan was the first player to congratulate his strike partner, with the pair playing in a 4-4-2 formation.

Grabban, who impressed throughout, also hit the post with a fierce effort second half. He was a constant thorn in the Derby defence.

Lee Cattermole bosses the midfield:

What a performance from the Sunderland skipper. With Sunderland falling behind to an early Bradley Johnson goal, Sunderland could have crumbled.

But they didn't, they showed fight, desire and a hunger to get back into a game that they had been dominating. Cattermole was at the heart of the action.

The man of the match almost scored with a brilliant half-volley, it would have been a fine way to cap off a commanding performance.

Cattermole had 50 touches of the ball, three shots, 37 passes with a pass accuracy rate of 81 per cent.

Jason Steele bounces back:

The former Middlesbrough stopper endured a torrid debut in the pre-season friendly defeat to Celtic but he perhaps proved a few doubters wrong against Derby County.

There are still question marks over aspects of his game, he doesn't command his area the way other keepers do especially on corners and he got away with a first-half fumble.

But overall it was much improved, Steele making a key save late on to deny David Nugent snatching a late win for the Rams.

Steele now has real competition for the gloves after Sunderland completed the signing of free agent Robbin Ruiter which can only be good news for the Black Cats.

What does the future hold for Wahbi Khazri?

With Jeremain Lens departing to Besiktas, with his move set to be rubber-stamped this weekend, what does the future hold for one of his former teammates?

Khazri was named on the bench against Derby County and didn't make it off as Grayson opted against using any of his subs.

George Honeyman was selected ahead of him and the Academy product did his chances of a run in the side no harm at all with an assured display.

Khazri was one of three players expected to leave Wearside this summer alongside Lens and Lamine Kone but - as yet - there has been no firm interest in the winger.

Given his struggles last season, more time on the bench won't appeal but he clearly has his work cut out to get back into the Sunderland first team. Watch this space.

Sunderland support superb.

The attendance was much anticipated. Less than 30,000 were there - the official attendance announced at 29,578.

Not surprising given relegation from the Premier League, the game was live on television and it is bang in the middle of summer holidays but it was still well down on last season's figures.

Yet, at times, such was the support from the home fans it felt like the stadium was near capacity.

The atmosphere was brilliant, with Sunderland supporters fully behind the team and new boss Simon Grayson. They will have been encouraged by the performance.

Plenty of work still to be done on and off the pitch in the coming weeks but plenty of positives for Grayson & Co to take ahead of a busy run of fixtures.

Welcome to the Championship.