Making sense of where Sunderland stand after 'very best and worst' on display: Phil Smith's verdict

This, quite remarkably, was Sunderland's seventh visit to Accrington Stanley in just five years.
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You'd have got long odds on that a decade or so ago.

And let's get it right, that owes as much to Stanley's outstanding rise as it does Sunderland's quite spectacular fall. Everything that has made John Coleman's side such an impressive force over the last decade was on show right from minute one.

When Liam Coyle flew into a crunching challenge on Alex Pritchard with barely a ball kicked, you realised this was never going to be as simple as Sunderland coasting through the game, proving that they are ready to leave the League One era well and truly behind them.

Ross Stewart goes close at The Wham StadiumRoss Stewart goes close at The Wham Stadium
Ross Stewart goes close at The Wham Stadium
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To end up on the losing side, just eight days out from the start of the Championship season, is clearly not ideal.

The strange thing, though, is that for significant stretches of the game they played with a fluency and quality that far exceeded anything they had produced at this ground in four years previous.

After a sluggish start, in which Accrington Stanley's intensity maybe caught them a little off guard, they dominated.

So much so, that you felt for a 45-minute period either side of half time that they would score every time they came forward.

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Ross Stewart ran the line well, Patrick Roberts and Jack Clarke drove into dangerous areas. Dan Neil and Alex Pritchard moved it quickly and incisively, and to underline the point at one stage Dan Ballard drove all the way from his own half, played an audacious 1-2 with Roberts before flashing a shot inches wide.

Sunderland looked sharp right up until the very last moment.

They were also denied, it should be said, by an outrageously good goalkeeping performance. Were it for Lukas Jensen then this game would have been done long before Bailey Wright hesitated on the ball, forced into making a foul on Sean McConville and allowing the hosts to level.

After that it was without question desperately poor stuff. Sunderland's defensive line was struggling to get on the same wavelength after Luke O'Nien replaced Lynden Gooch, while Ballard was also quite clearly having issues with a minor knee niggle that thankfully, he seemed to have run off by the end of the game.

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The unsurprising upshot was another soft goal gifted up from a long throw, and Coleman's side will probably feel they could have added another.

Neil, frustrated but sanguine, told his players afterwards that maybe this could be a good thing. The response to the equaliser wasn't good enough and perhaps it was a timely jolt as to how quickly you can be punished in football, and how quickly the game can turn when you don't execute the basics.

Neil was asked if he was satisfied with his team's progress a week out from the season. I'm never satisfied, he said in trademark fashion. I want more players through the door, I want more goals, few conceded and better performances.

Quietly, though, you felt he was happy enough with the bulk of the afternoon's work.

Really, it told you that there is much good in this squad, even if there is clearly an awful lot to do to make it fully Championship ready.

Now it's about calm heads and hard work.