Phil Smith analysis: Moyes' substitutions (or lack of) likely to come under fire but Denayer's showing a big boost for Sunderland

Even if the FA Cup isn't quite what it used to be (and my, this afternoon showed that much), there is still something magical about the third round draw.

Saturday, 7th January 2017, 5:52 pm
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 11:53 am
Manquillo wasted a great chance for Sunderland

The evening where everything is possible, where dreams begin.

Sunderland v Burnley, it has to be said, was not a draw to get the pulse racing. With both sides fighting for their Premier League lives, coming off the back of a brutal festive period, this was always likely to have an 'after the lord's mayor show' feel to it.

Two strong ream selections raised hopes for a lively affair, but ultimately it was wretched viewing.

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Sunderland were disappointing in attack, particularly in a second half where they failed to create a single clear cut opening. In the opening stages, there had been some encouraging signs, some fluid movement, Adnan Januzaj and Fabio Borini supporting Jermain Defoe, Patrick van Aanholt getting into attacking positions on the left. They really ought to have taken the lead, too, had Javier Manquillo not blazed a cross into the distance with Defoe lurking at the back post.

There was none of that by the end, Sunderland clinging on and offering little incision or creation.

David Moyes will no doubt face criticism from the fans for only making one substitution. With the game slowing to a walking pace, O'Shea for Larsson was not the most inspirational move. Many would have hoped to see a glimpse of Joel Asoro or Josh Maja, but it was not to be.

In Moyes' defence, he is trying to build momentum and a feeling among his players that they don't lose games at home, a sense of stability and resilience, and O'Shea's experience was important as the tiring team around him tried to plug the gaps. Still, Sunderland's forwards had faded so much that there may have been little to lose by throwing on some fresh, enthusiastic legs. Even Jack Rodwell, who had impressed for so much of the game, looked to be moving on an empty tank by the end.

The clean sheet will be a big boost, undoubtedly. The Black Cats again looked worryingly vulnerable to simple long balls through the middle and crosses into their box, but they held firm however, and without a doubt the biggest positive was the excellence of Jason Denayer at the heart of the defence.

When others laboured, he made the game look easy, sweeping up the danger with encouraging consistency.

If nothing else, his display offers major hope for the coming weeks as Sunderland look to stay in touch with the pack while Lamine Kone is away with the Ivory Coast.