Wise Men Say: Should Sunderland AFC dare to dream again?
Dare to dream? Again?
Another trip to Wembley is one step closer after a very impressive away win at Premier League Sheffield United on Wednesday night.
Apropos of nothing, fans of rivalry and statistics will tell you this was Sunderland’s second victory against top-flight opposition this season; which is more than some actual Premier League teams have managed so far.
On the face of it, victory against a team (which on paper at least) is far superior to any we can be expected to face in the league this season has to be a positive thing.
Following Max Power’s ninth-minute strike, Sunderland defended doggedly and posed an occasional threat on the counter throughout. Both debutants Joel Lynch and Laurens De Bock put in very impressive performances, and the team as a whole looked well drilled, finely balanced and most importantly confident in their ability to see the game out.
The Blades possessed a lot of pace upfront through Mousset and Robinson, but a couple of hairy moments aside this was dealt with comfortably enough. Attacking players with pace have been a near-constant thorn in our side throughout Jack Ross’ tenure, and keeping a clean sheet against a team possessing them in abundance is undoubtedly pleasing.
The Blades possessed a lot of pace up-front through Mousset and Robinson, but a couple of hairy moments aside this was dealt with comfortably enough. Attacking players with pace have been a near-constant thorn in our side throughout Jack Ross’ tenure, and keeping a clean sheet against a team possessing them in abundance is undoubtedly pleasing.
On the other hand, the game posed almost as many questions as it answered.
It looks as though Jack Ross is facing the deliciously clichéd ‘good problem for a manager to have’; thanks to strong performances from those who have either missed out entirely or been bit-part players so far in the league.
Elliot Embleton was very impressive in the first half and looked rightly frustrated to be forced off injured at half time. Lee Burge put in a top-notch goalkeeping performance, making a couple of excellent saves even before we took the lead.
The fact that this was our first clean sheet of the season has led to calls for him to be given a shot in the league, owing to some (in my view harsh) criticism of current number one Jon McLaughlin in recent weeks.
Dylan McGeouch and Max Power worked well in tandem in midfield – Power’s dynamism, strength and attacking intent dovetailing nicely with McGeouch’s reading of the game and calmness in possession.
Denver Hume came on for Embleton at half time and looked impressive on the left of midfield. Having less defensive responsibility seemed to suit, and he created a couple of decent chances from out wide.
After what was hopefully the low point of the season last week at Bolton, this performance was evidence that the players and management certainly haven’t given up yet. As it’s absolutely correct for us fans to criticise after poor performances, so it must be that praise is given when the team does well.
MK Dons are a tough but beatable opponent on Saturday and another big performance will see the unity start to return and with it a climb back towards the top two heading into the busy (but potentially fruitful) autumn period.