Failure to replace Lewis Grabban haunts Sunderland as Cats find new way to lose
If Sunderland are to suffer another relegation then Saturday's defeat at Queens Park Rangers will be seen as the perfect reason why it has happened.
Going in at half-time all square, the players must have sensed there was something there for them as the first half saw two limited teams cancelling each other out with neither keeper having a worthwhile save to make.
A point at least should have been expected but with a bit of fight and know-how all three were available unless something ridiculous happens.
It always looked the sort of game were it was never going to be individual brilliance that would win it but more likely an individual blunder that would throw it away.
So, how predictable that barely five minutes into the second half Jason Steele’s rush of blood, were he completely misjudged an innocuous Rangers clearance, would lead to a red card and completely change the dynamic of the game.
The extra man was always going to be the difference and even though Rangers didn’t score from the sending off incident, I think every Sunderland fan knew in their gut exactly how the game would pan out.
When the referee rightly sent Steele off, it gave the rest of the team the sort of psychological blow they are incapable of recovering from.
So, from a game were they weren’t in too much trouble, it became one were you fear the worst and then the worst usually happens.
Sacrificing Joel Asoro took pace out of the team, which you need as an outlet when down to 10 men, although apparently he was going to be subbed anyway.
On the long journey home Chris Coleman will have been going over and over in his head what might have been – yet another opportunity lost and yet more points squandered.
I’m sure during the interval he would have told his players not to do anything reckless but poor struggling teams always find a way to lose, usually by their own efforts and no team does that better than Sunderland.
The heavy defeat to Aston Villa last week was just another miserable and depressing night for Sunderland fans who weren’t surprised in the slightest that Lewis Grabban opened the scoring.
The first goal in any game is always the most important, so it was just another kick in the teeth that Grabban would return and cause maximum damage.
Grabban wasn’t the perfect player at Sunderland – his work-rate could have been better – but he had that instinct of knowing were the ball was going to drop in the box and a cool head when it came to finishing.
When he left Sunderland it was supposedly to go back to Bournemouth so they could cash in and sell him but that didn’t happen and he ended up going out on loan again to Aston Villa, so his departure is confusing and definitely hasn’t worked out in our favour.
The bottom line is Lewis Grabban scored 12 goals in 18 appearances for Sunderland, so having played less than half the games he is almost certain to be top scorer come May.
He was never adequately replaced – a huge reason behind the struggles.