Cat's Eye View: Tyias Browning a rock at the heart of an improving Sunderland defence

Mr Sunderland, Kevin Ball, knows a thing of two about winning at the Stadium of Light.

Monday, 18th December 2017, 12:00 pm
Tyias Browning keeps possession under pressure against Fulham. Picture by Frank Reid

The club legend and former skipper had simple but effective words of advice for the current squad ahead of Saturday’s visit of Fulham.

“Focus and concentrate on doing your own job and the win will come and take care of itself.”

To a man, they did. Sunderland winning courtesy of Josh Maja’s late goal to end a dire, record-breaking home run stretching back 21 games.

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This was a superb team performance, but one or two players stood out.

Darron Gibson again displayed excellent discipline, the midfielder organised, vocal, and made several key tackles.

Adam Matthews also produced his best, while Maja got the headlines because of his instant impact and nerveless finish.

Sunderland’s defence has taken a hammering on and off the pitch given the amount of goals shipped (38 in 22 games), but they have turned a corner under Chris Coleman.

Three clean sheets have been secured from five matches since the ex-Wales manager’s appointment as Black Cats boss.

Playing five at the back has helped and Tyias Browning caught the eye in the 1-0 weekend win against Fulham.

The 23-year-old Everton loanee was superb, brave in the challenge, calm on the ball, positioning excellent throughout.

He made some crucial covering tackles and blocks – the one to deny Tom Cairney five minutes before half-time proved pivotal.

Sunderland were feeling the pressure and under the cosh at that stage, but first Browning and then Robbin Ruiter kept Fulham at bay.

Browning didn’t have the easiest of starts to his season-long loan from Goodison Park; thrown in at the deep end as Sunderland battled a relegation hangover, he cost the Wearsiders a point with a mistake late on against Nottingham Forest at the start of September.

Between then and Coleman’s appointment, he only started two games, with a muscle injury hampering him.

Since Coleman took charge, Browning has started every game and has played a key role in the three clean sheets – against Burton Albion, leaders Wolves and Fulham.

Playing alongside John O’Shea has helped, with the experienced Sunderland skipper constantly offering advice, where he should be, when to press, when to sit tight.

Marc Wilson has slotted in alongside the pair in a back three to form a well-organised, well-drilled defensive unit.

That comes from time spent on the training ground.

There are positive signs going forward under Coleman, who has found the right blend of youth and experience from his injury-ravaged Sunderland squad.