Phil Smith's verdict: Familiar frustration but Sunderland support have a side to be proud of again

Ahead of the Peterborough game Jack Ross delivered his ten-game verdict on Sunderland.

Wednesday, 3rd October 2018, 8:37 am
Updated Wednesday, 3rd October 2018, 8:38 am
Josh Maja pulls off a fancy flick in the draw with Peterborough United.
Josh Maja pulls off a fancy flick in the draw with Peterborough United.

Off the pitch he was pleased, and clearly more than a little proud, of the spirit he had fostered within his squad.

On it he felt there were good signs but there was frustration too.

Josh Maja pulls off a fancy flick in the draw with Peterborough United.

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This pulsating, frenetic encounter will probably have done little to change his assessment.

Sunderland showed bags of character to take a point in the latter stages of the game and in the first half they played some wonderful football.

Injuries had perhaps forced his hand but Jack Ross selected an attacking XI and their fluidity was a joy to behold.

Their passing range was excellent and tempo of their play was unquestionably the best it has been all season.

Tom Flanagan battles for the ball.

Jerome Sinclair led the line tenaciously, Josh Maja showed his quality and Chris Maguire dictated proceedings.

They were certainly aided by Steve Evans’ decision to switch formation, his Peterborough side ill at ease and unable to cope with the movement of the home side.

The only downside to an enjoyable first half was that Sunderland had not built on their superiority and put the game all but out of sight.

Peterborough were never going to be as poor in the second half and the introduction of the immensely talented Marcus Maddison predictably changed the tempo of the game.

And yet.

Sunderland withstood the pressure, Tom Flanagan and Jack Baldwin standing firm at the back.

They had just about got themselves back in the ascendancy when Oviedo kicked out, giving Posh an injection of confidence and belief that just began to drain.

Then they responded superbly to that blow, and again in the latter stages as they pushed for an unlikely third goal.

The atmosphere, aided by the righteous anger at a woeful refereeing display, was the best it has been at the Stadium of Light in some time.

Ross’ team were given a raptorous ovation at the full-time, worthy recognition for their tenacity and determination.

The Black Cats boss had nothing but praise for his team afterwards. He accepted Oviedo’s error but in light of a mounting injury list, said he was determined to accentuate the positives.

Few home fans would quibble with that.

Yet it is another game where the win has passed Sunderland by and the second home game in which a red card has arguably cost them two points.

If Max Power’s against Oxford was contentious then there could be no complaints about this one.

For a player of Oviedo’s experience it was a poor loss of composure. Not for the first time, it felt as if Sunderland were the architects of their own frustration.

So eleven games in Ross’ assessment stands up to scrutiny.

Sunderland took the game to a strong opponent and in patches comprehensively outplayed them.

They showed a unity and a spirit in the squad to grind out another result when defeat could easily have followed.

But again frustration was the word of the day.

Sunderland are showing some excellent signs, and the response of the crowd showed that they have a team to be proud of again.

Still, Portsmouth have moved seven points clear and the need for a strong run of results is growing.