Hull City's successful scouting mission and some deeply concerning data: Behind the scenes at Wigan 2-1 Sunderland
Thousands of Sunderland fans will have watched the defeat at Wigan 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 successful scouting mission to some deeply concerning data that emerged from the reverse:
Sunderland’s squad have plenty of ties to the North West, and it was no surprise that there were plenty of friendly reunions at Wigan Athletic.
Max Power, who of course enjoyed a successful spell at the DW Stadium, was saying hello to everyone from coaching staff to the tunnel steward – while Conor McLaughlin also caught-up with some old acquaintances at half-time.
The Northern Irish international was forced to withdraw from the squad early in the warm-up, but was at least able to watch the game from the stands alongside fellow teammates.
A SUCCESSFUL HULL CITY SCOUTING MISSION
There were plenty of interested observers in the stands for this one, with a number of coaches and scouts taking advantage of what was only a partial League One fixture list catch a glimpse of the Wearsiders in action.
Fleetwood Town coach David Dunn was in attendance, as too was former Sunderland recruitment chief Tony Coton – who was last reported to be working with Manchester United.
And it was little shock to see Hull City manager Grant McCann perched among the scouts watching the Black Cats.
The Tigers, who currently sit top, were without a game which allowed McCann to get an early look at Sunderland before the two sides meet next weekend.
He will no doubt have felt this a successful scouting mission as – while he showed little sign of emotion as he headed towards the exit when the full-time whistle was blown – the final result in the North West considerably boosted his club’s chances of automatic promotion.
THE 19TH MAN CALLED INTO ACTION
Sunderland have regularly travelled with 19 players to away fixtures this season – and the trip to Wigan showed exactly why.
It’s common practice for clubs to travel with an ‘extra’ player when on the road, in case of late injury or illness.
At Peterborough, in the Black Cats’ last away game, Chris Maguire was that man. Josh Hawkes, Oliver Younger and Dan Neil have all regularly been the 19th man in games this term, too.
Carl Winchester was the additional man at Wigan, and was quickly called into action when Conor McLaughlin withdrew from the warm-up.
The midfielder had to quickly warm-up on his own before joining the rest of the side for the latter stages of their preparations.
THE SUNDERLAND COMPLIMENT THAT IS BECOMING A REGULAR OCCURRENCE
The quality of Aiden McGeady’s delivery is little secret, and was again reinforced by his superb cross that led to Charlie Wyke opening the scoring.
But teams are becoming savvy to the threat posed by Sunderland set-pieces – particularly when you factor in the likes of Power and Jordan Jones can also deliver enticing corners.
So as was the case with Charlton Athletic on Saturday, Wigan sent every player back to defend visiting corners during the early stages of the game.
It’s a compliment to Sunderland and their set piece takers in many regards, but it’s certainly making it difficult for the Black Cats to fashion any real chances from corners and free-kicks.
Indeed, the only set piece that led to anything meaningful was one which was played short by Jones to McGeady in the first-half, with the latter then forcing the home stopper into a good save.
Similar invention may be required moving forward if teams are to keep defending in numbers against corners.
KYRIL AND MAURICE LOUIS-DREYFUS IN ATTENDANCE
The new Sunderland chairman has scarcely missed a game since he purchased a majority stake in the club from Stewart Donald – and Louis-Dreyfus was once again in the stands for the trip to Wigan.
He was joined by twin brother Maurice and the duo, along with Sunderland’s other directors, could be heard urging the team on in the dying minutes.
Ultimately though, it was the Wigan directors who were celebrating at full-time – and vociferously at that.
It was a big win for the Latics as they look to retain their League One status, and that was echoed in the roars that greeted the full-time whistle.
SUNDERLAND’S DEEPLY CONCERNING DATA
There was plenty of focus placed on Sunderland’s defensive lapses at Wigan, and rightly so after they conceded two soft goals for the second game in quick succession.
But equally concerning should be the lack of a cutting edge at the other end.
The Black Cats registered just two shots on target during the whole game, and – despite making a host of attacking changes and seeing plenty of the ball after falling behind – failed to register an attempt on goal during the second period.
Goals win games, and while the Wearsiders weren’t good enough in their own box so too did they lack the necessary quality in the opposition box.
While Hull and Peterborough continue to put teams to the sword, Sunderland are finding goals somewhat hard to come by. Indeed, they have only scored more than two goals in a league game once in their last 12 games.
In contract, Hull have scored more than two goals on five occasions over their last twelve games.
That should be a concern for Lee Johnson, who may now also be re-evaluating Sunderland’s Plan B given the tactical and personnel changes deployed at the DW Stadium did not have the desired effect.