How Sunderland differ from Simon Grayson and Chris Coleman's regimes '“ bar one worrying trend

If there was one a recurring theme that could define Sunderland's Championship campaign, it was their home fixtures.

Friday, 14th September 2018, 6:50 pm
Wise Men Say

Matches at the Stadium of Light under both Simon Grayson and Chris Coleman would usually follow the same pattern - bright start, miss a crucial chance, concede a sloppy goal, proceed to fall to pieces.

As soon as Brentford’s striker or Preston North End’s centre half wheeled away in celebration, Sunderland’s heads would slump and the visitors would cruise to an easy victory.

Among the many frustrations last season brought, it was this failure to show any resilience to even the slightest set back that was the most infuriating among supporters.

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One of the most notable characteristics Jack Ross has brought to this current crop of Sunderland players is a never-give-up attitude.

When they have gone behind, they have not wilted and instead managed to galvanise and ensure they get something out of the game.

While it has been encouraging to see a side that doesn’t let its collective head drop after conceding, giving an early advantage to the opposition is becoming a slightly worrying trend.

Sunderland have conceded the first goal in five of their opening seven League One games.

While they have rallied to win four of these encounters, they have been hard-fought and, on occasion, been fortunate to escape with maximum points.

Both Gillingham and AFC Wimbledon missed guilt-edge chances to break Cats’ unbeaten start to the season, while they had to rely on Jon McLaughlin to deny Joey Barton victory on Wearside again.

The unbeaten run and ability to turn around a deficit has been a huge positive, but it is masking Sunderland’s growing habit of being slow starters.

Many of their opponents will have their visit to the Stadium of Light highlighted on the calendar.

For many players, it will be the biggest stadium they have played in and they will want to make their mark in front of crowds topping 30,000.

They will have been looking forward to this fixture for months and will have had their manager in their ears highlighting the importance of taking a scalp such as Sunderland’s.

It is no surprise that Charlton Athletic, Oxford United and Fleetwood Town flew out of the blocks to catch the home side by surprise.

Sunderland have been unable to effectively manage these opening periods and have found themselves a goal down, and even a man down, early on regularly.

While they have been able to dig themselves out of a hole on more than one occasion, they will come unstuck if they continue to labour at the beginning of matches.

The 3-0 victory against Scunthorpe United highlighted how they can diffuse an eager opponent from the start.

That day saw Sunderland playing slick attacking football, aggressively pressing Scunthorpe and forcing them into mistakes.

The visitors had no answers and found themselves a couple of goals down before the break, allowing Sunderland to effectively manage the second half.

No doubt Ross will be drumming the importance of a good start against Burton Albion this weekend.

The Brewers have not enjoyed life so far back in League One and another three points on the road will help to quell any of the murmuring concerns.