Elliot Embleton's message to Phil Parkinson and the telling visiting reaction: Behind the scenes at Sunderland 0-1 Mansfield

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

Sunday, 8th November 2020, 10:00 am

We take a look at some of the moments you might have missed from the FA Cup exit – from a crucial touch to Elliott Embleton’s impact:

THE UNHEEDED WARNING

Sunderland’s starts to both halves were slow.

Sign up to our Sunderland AFC newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Elliot Embleton's message to Phil Parkinson and the telling visiting reaction: Behind the scenes at Sunderland 0-1 Mansfield

In the early stages of the first half they were asked some questions by a Mansfield side obviously keen to prove a point to the on-looking Nigel Clough - who was perched in the stands after his appointment on Friday.

The Stags won an early corner before Sunderland managed to assert themselves a little bit more on the game.

At half-time, one pundit within earshot pointed out that the Black Cats would have to learn from their start to the first half and start the second period on the front foot.

They failed to do that.

Within seconds of the restart, Shane McLoughlin had already forced Remi Matthews into a good save after some slack defending.

It was an early warning shot, but that caution went unheeded as George Lapslie arrived to head home a superb Kellan Gordon cross barely three minutes later.

Even for a five-minute spell after the goal, Sunderland struggled to impose themselves on the game.

Moving forward, they need to ensure they start halves strongly - rather than finding themselves on the back foot.

ELLIOT EMBLETON’S KEY INVOLVEMENT

On an afternoon that many would rather forget, there were some positives to take.

Callum McFadzean’s debut was encouraging, while Jack Diamond grew into the game and at times looked a real threat on the right.

But perhaps most pleasing was the return of Elliot Embleton.

Sidelined since sustaining an injury against Gateshead in the Black Cats’ first pre-season friendly, this was Embleton’s first proper involvement of the term.

And he quickly set about showing Sunderland what he can bring to the side.

Within minutes of his introduction, he sprayed a fine cross-field ball to McFadzean whose in-turn played a fine low ball across the face of goal; the kind that is just begging for a touch.

And then in the dying embers of the game, he carved out the Wearsiders’ best opportunity as his out-swinging cross was met by Charlie Wyke - who saw a header saved.

He delivered the kind of incision and creativity that Sunderland have been lacking at times this term, and may well have moved himself into the forefront of Parkinson’s thoughts.

A VITAL TOUCH

While Sunderland huffed and puffed for large spells of the game, they were perhaps fortunate the margin of Mansfield’s victory was not greater.

For while the Black Cats committed bodies up the field, the Stags were happy to play on the counter - and almost had some real joy in the latter stages of the game.

As Nicky Maynard and Jordan Bowery broke, the former looked to play the latter into the box with a fine whipped cross across the box.

Any touch from Bowery would have worked Matthews in the Sunderland goal, and you would have backed the Mansfield striker to find the net given the space and time he would have had.

But thankfully it didn’t get to that point, due to a fine interception from Conor McLaughlin.

McLaughlin has been impressive playing in the back three in recent weeks and was as good as any of Sunderland’s defensive players against the Stags.

He will though, of course, be missing for the Black Cats’ next League One game - which is something of a shame given his recent performances.

THE FULL-TIME CELEBRATIONS

It wasn’t quite Kenneth Wolstenholme levels of commentary, but one of Mansfield’s travelling media contingent was certainly going for it down the microphone when the full-time whistle was blown.

A ‘historic victory’, was how he described the 1-0 win.

On the pitch, too, the joy in the visiting dugout was visible and there were COVID-friendly fist bumps and hugs aplenty on the pitch between the visiting players.

Much of that celebration will be down to the fact that this was a major milestone in the Stags’ season, given they have gone without a win in the league thus far.

But it serves as a timely reminder as to the scalp Sunderland represents to clubs.

And with that reputation comes a change in tact from visiting sides.

Teams will come, sit in two banks of four, and frustrate the Wearsiders. We’ve seen it before, we saw Mansfield do it, and we’ll see it happen again.

Which begs the question - do Sunderland know how to overcome that? Do they have the ability to unlock those stubborn defences?

It’s a question that we haven’t really got an answer to over two years on from the drop into League One, and one which will likely be a key area of thought for Parkinson in the coming weeks.

JOSH SCOWEN’S EXTRA WORK

The midfielder has been impressive during patches of the season – even if a league goal has so far eluded him.

And while he was always arguably in-line to be rested for this game, concussion ruled Scowen out of the clash.

But he was out on the pitch post-match, doing some light work with Nick Allamby as he builds himself back up after that nasty blow to the head on Tuesday evening.

Here’s hoping he’s back in the fold for MK Dons.

A message from the Football Clubs Editor:

Our aim is to provide you with the best, most up-to-date and most informative Sunderland AFC coverage 365 days a year.

This depth of SAFC coverage costs, so to help us maintain the high-quality reporting that you are used to, please consider taking out a subscription to our new sports-only package here.

Your support is much appreciated.

Richard Mennear, Football Clubs Editor