Gary Rowell: Why Adam Matthews wouldn't have scored that goal last season

It has been a mixed last week or so for Sunderland, starting with the Accrington game where they played over 70 minutes for nothing, then being knocked out of the FA Cup by Walsall in as uninspiring a game as you're likely to see.

Monday, 17th December 2018, 17:45 pm
Updated Monday, 17th December 2018, 14:48 pm
Adam Matthews celebrates his goal.

Thankfully, they then tasted victory against Bristol Rovers on Saturday. The three points against lowly Rovers was huge, and I’m happy as long as Sunderland keep winning, but there wasn’t a great deal else to get excited about in a game that the Black Cats laboured in for long periods.

Sunderland have returned to that bad habit of giving their opponents a goal start lately – they paid the price against Walsall but had to graft to get their noses in front against Rovers.

That sort of performance on Saturday against a better team could have ended in, at best, a point, maybe even a defeat, so we should be grateful we haven’t lost ground in the league.

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Josh Maja’s goal, not for the first time this season, won the points for Sunderland, but for me, Adam Matthews’ equaliser was just as crucial, if not more so.

There’s a big difference between going in at the break one down to going in on a high having just equalised a minute before and that lift carried on just after the interval for Maja’s winner. So those minutes just before half time and just after won Sunderland the points.

The rest of the game won’t live long in the memory but I’d still rather play poorly and win than play well and lose.

Going back to Maja’s goal, I thought it was technically one of the best I’ve seen this season. The way he took McGeady’s pass without breakingstride, then taking his time and keeping his composure before burying his shot was class – he needs to be signed up and quickly.

Matthews’ goal looked routine but full-backs scoring is always a welcome bonus, especially in the six-yard box. That shows desire.

The other thing I noticed when Matthews scored was that Sunderland had six players in the box so when the keeper parried it out, they had good odds of getting on the end of it.

That would never have happened last season when we rarely got one red and white shirt in the box.

Saturday’s win against Bristol Rovers wasn’t as good or entertaining a game as Sunderland’s last home win against Barnsley, but they still got the same three points and at the end of the season, and that’s all that matters.