A boost on the sidelines and a post-Oxford United tunnel change: Behind the scenes at Sunderland 1-2 Charlton
Thousands of Sunderland fans will have watched the defeat to Charlton Athletic via live streams – but there are those few moments that the cameras don’t capture.
We take a look at some of the moments you might have missed from the League One reverse – from a boost on the sidelines to a notable change in match day arrangements:
SUNDERLAND PAY THEIR RESPECTS
Across the country on Saturday, football clubs paid their respects to His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
And it was no different at the Stadium of Light, where the flags outside the ground were flown at half-mast in tribute.
Players on both sides wore black armbands while also joining in a two minutes period of silence prior to the game.
All EFL games next weekend will also be moved as a mark of respect, meaning Sunderland’s fixture at Blackpool is likely to be brought forward or pushed back by a few hours.
TUNNEL CHANGES AFTER OXFORD UNITED
There was a notable change to the match day arrangements at the Stadium of Light against Charlton Athletic.
Unlike in previous games this season, the visitors did not use the main tunnel to enter the pitch. Instead, Charlton entered the playing surface via steps in the stand just to the side of their dugout.
It was a change made by Sunderland in the aftermath of the Good Friday game, but is nothing unusual. At several grounds this season, the Black Cats have entered the pitch via alternative methods to the tunnel given the COVID-19 protocols which are in place across the country.
But nonetheless, it was an interesting switch to note.
THE BOOST ON THE SIDELINES
Sunderland’s makeshift defence has, for the most part, been impressive in recent weeks.
But having conceded four goals in their last three games, the returns of Bailey Wright and Tom Flanagan look to be timely.
While Flanagan is still a few weeks away from a return, Wright returned to training this week and could be involved as soon as the trip to Blackpool next weekend.
And both of the defenders were back among their teammates at the Stadium of Light on Saturday as they watched on from the sidelines.
Here’s hoping it won’t be long until they can start making a mark on the field.
A SET PIECE CONUNDRUM
Both of the goals Sunderland conceded against Charlton Athletic came from set pieces – the first from a corner, and the second from a throw-in.
And it’s far from the first time that the Wearsiders have conceded from set-plays this season.
Indeed, 41% of the goals conceded by Lee Johnson’s side since the turn of the year have come from set pieces.
Against Hull City, the visitors netted indirectly from a free-kick while Plymouth and Gillingham both benefitted from throw-ins to score against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
The Gills also scored from a long free-kick while Crewe scored quickly from a throw-in during the 2-2 draw at the Alexandra Stadium.
It’s an area that will need to monitored carefully in the coming weeks, as fine margins such as set pieces could prove decisive in the final weeks of the campaign.
THE COMPLIMENT CHARLTON PAID SUNDERLAND
Charlton manager Nigel Adkins admitted post-match that he felt his side could have some joy from set pieces in an attacking sense.
But at the same time, he was obviously wary of the threat posed by the Black Cats from dead balls at the other end.
Throughout the game, the Addicks sent every one of their players back to defend corners and free-kicks – in what was a major compliment to the quality of Aiden McGeady’s delivery.
While McGeady’s delivery throughout the game was good, unfortunately Sunderland were not able to benefit from it on this occasion.
They undoubtedly will before the end of the season, though.
TWO VOCAL TECHNICAL AREAS
Both sets of dugouts were equally as vocal throughout the game, which was perhaps no surprise given how high the stakes are at this point of the season.
Adkins was an animated presence on the sideline, and looked as if he was kicking every ball at some of the tenser points during the game.
One of his most regular shouts was ‘SHAPE!’, as he urged Charlton to regroup as they looked to frustrate Sunderland.
This was particularly the case in the early stages of the first half where the hosts began brightly and had three golden chances to take the lead.
After a shaky opening, his side seemed to heed that warning and were fairly well organised throughout – particularly as they defended a slender one-goal lead in the dying minutes.
In the other dugout, Johnson was far from pleased with the opening goal and voiced his displeasure to referee Anthony Backhouse as Charlton wheeled away to celebrate.
THE FRIENDSHIPS REUNITED
There were plenty of links to be drawn between the two camps on Saturday, as plenty of friendships were rekindled at the Stadium of Light.
In the Sunderland ranks, Aiden McGeady was quick to speak with Adam Matthews after the game – with the two known to have been good friends on Wearside.
And in the Charlton dugout, recently-promoted coach Jason Euell had plenty of old friends to catch up with while on Wearside.
Euell chatted with Grant Leadbitter and Andrew Taylor pre-match, both of whom he will no doubt be familiar with after his brief spell in the North East with Middlesbrough during his playing career.