Gary Rowell: Sunderland lost mental battle against Wigan

Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist
Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist
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I HAVE always been a glass half-full sort of fella, but even I feel like I’m looking into the dregs at the bottom of the glass at the moment.

It has been a horrible, frustrating, stop-start season so far but Saturday was the lowest point of the campaign.

What we saw at the Stadium of Light on Saturday were two clubs – one of which has spent so much of its recent history punching above its weight; the other which has spent far too much of its time punching under it.

And unfortunately for us, that proved true to form.

Wigan arrived offering little but left with everything.

Sunderland promised everything and ultimately delivered nothing.

It was a game in which we should have been out of sight by half time, such was our domination and the number of chances we created.

But as soon as Wigan converted what was undoubtedly a soft penalty just before the break, the signs were ominous.

I’ve played in games like those and it’s a kick in the teeth when you desperately need to win, you think you’re going to be ahead at the break and then suddenly you’re not.

After failing to go in ahead at the break, especially in those circumstances, the game becomes a mental battle.

Sunderland needed to show the mental resolve to roll up their sleeves and do exactly what they’d done to Wigan in the second half as they’d done for most of the first.

It didn’t happen though, the pressure seemed to get to Sunderland and Wigan grew in confidence and capitalised.

If you’re a bit of a flakey team or you lack confidence, your opponents will sense it and captalise. It happened to Wigan in that opening half-hour but sadly for Sunderland it happened to them in the second half.

To say we were fragile was an understatement and you feared for us.

I won’t claim that I could forsee the farce of that 93rd minute Wigan winner but you could feel that the game was unlikely to have a happy ending for a Sunderland side whose self-belief just seemed to be oozing away with every passing minute.

If the situation wasn’t so serious, the final goal would have been laughable.

A game we should have had wrapped up long before half-time, a game we would have been disappointed with a draw from, ended in defeat with us gift-wrapping all three points for Wigan at the death.

Man for man we were a better side than Wigan, but mentally we lost the battle.

READ the full column in today’s Echo