A change in the dugout and the moment that showed Sunderland were out-of-sync against Swindon Town

Thousands of Sunderland fans will have watched the win over Swindon Town via live streams – but there are those few moments that the cameras don’t capture.

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 10:00 am

We take a look at some of the moments you might have missed from the narrow League One triumph – from a change in the dugout to a moment that showed it may not have been Sunderland’s night:

GRANT LEADBITTER IN ATTENDANCE

The Black Cats are still awaiting a full prognosis on Leadbitter after he dislocated his shoulder in the draw at Crewe.

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A change in the dugout and the moment that showed Sunderland were out-of-sync against Swindon Town
A change in the dugout and the moment that showed Sunderland were out-of-sync against Swindon Town

He is due to see a specialist on Wednesday, but is facing a spell on the sidelines regardless of the outcome of that consultation.

But Leadbitter, although unavailable for the Swindon clash, was in attendance at the Stadium of Light.

He appeared pitch side shortly before the team news was announced at 6pm, wearing a sling on his shoulder and chatting with club staff.

Sunderland certainly could have used his vision in a tight game – and hopefully it’s not too long until he can return.

THE MOMENT THAT LOST ITS CHARM

In any other season, it would have been a clear highlight of the game.

As Sunderland broke forward midway through the first half, referee Peter Wright lost his footing – and promptly fell to the turf.

Yet without fans in the Stadium of Light to audibly voice their hilarity at the fall, it was a moment that seriously lost its charm.

It’s yet another reason why supporters need to return as soon as is possible.

SUNDERLAND’S FLUID SHAPE

We’ve seen the Black Cats play a number of different shapes in recent weeks, particularly since their defensive injury crisis which has seen Lee Johnson have to shuffle his pack.

And against Swindon, we saw further proof of the fluidity Johnson is keen to have in his side.

It’s been a criticism of previous regimes that Sunderland have been quite tactically stale – and certainly towards the end of Phil Parkinson’s reign they became one-dimensional and fairly easy to predict.

But under the new head coach, Sunderland are able to switch shapes seamlessly in-game – let alone between games.

Against Swindon, the Black Cats began in a 3-4-3 when they were in possession as Max Power played as an unorthodox right-sided centre back. But when Swindon countered – as they tried to do on a number of occasions in the opening period – Sunderland dropped back to something more resembling a 4-4-2.

Then in the second half, after struggling to break down their stubborn visitors, the hosts switched to a 4-2-3-1 with Lynden Gooch playing just off Charlie Wyke.

That’s a change that is almost becoming par for the course in games where Sunderland are struggling to create, with Johnson tending to push Gooch forward when goals are providing hard to come by – as he did against Fleetwood a week ago, too.

Such flexibility in shape will prove key for the Black Cats moving forward, especially with bigger tests on the horizon.

OUT-OF-SYNC GOING FORWARD

Little clicked for Sunderland against Swindon in an attacking sense, and it was perhaps telling that the only goal of the game came via a set-piece.

The hosts were far from their effective, incisive best in the final third and there were a few moments in the first half that showed the team were out-of-sync.

Perhaps the most obvious of those was when Gooch found Jordan Jones, with the Rangers loanee immediately playing the ball into space on the channel for Gooch to run onto.

But the run did not come, and the ball trickled out of play as a promising position was squandered.

It was perhaps indicative of a pair who are still forming an understanding of how the other works, but served to emphasise the wider lack of synchrony between the side on what was at times a frustrating evening.

A CHANGE IN THE DUGOUT

We’ve seen iPads in the dugout and plenty more as Lee Johnson attempts to bring some marginal gains to Sunderland in games.

And the latest addition to the dugout appears to be a television, showing the game on a brief delay.

That allows Sunderland’s coaching staff to re-watch key moments shortly after they take place, and they certainly seemed to be doing this against Swindon.

A BIG SHOUT FROM THE SWINDON BENCH

John Sheridan, who can at times be animated on the touchline, was fairly quiet at the Stadium of Light.

His side largely kept Sunderland at an arms’ length and he seemed quietly satisfied with his team’s performance.

That was until Charlie Wyke opened the scoring.

Sheridan wasn’t shy in voicing his opinions to his backline – both at the ease at which the free-kick that led to the goal was won, and at how simply Wyke got on the end of it.

THE CELEBRATION THAT SAID A LOT

Muted celebrations have become a trademark of Wyke’s fine form of late.

A little fist pump, maybe a jump, but little more – as he begins to treat his football like a ‘business’, according to head coach Johnson.

But that all went out the window against Swindon as a clearly relieved Wyke slid into the corner after heading home his 24th goal of the season.

Whether that relief was at securing what looked an elusive goal for Sunderland, or at ending his two-game goal drought, we don’t know.

But it’s certainly nice to see the striker back on the scoresheet ahead of some crucial fixtures.

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