Phil Smith's verdict: Sunderland's wretched winless run continues as Phil Parkinson's side continue to underwhelm

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It felt like a significant moment late in the second half, with a tepid game ambling towards its conclusion, that the Stadium of Light attendance was announced at just a shade over 30,000.

The reaction was one of mild derision. Plenty had stayed away as this numbing wait for a win continues.

There are two battles now for Sunderland. One, to turn around an increasingly alarming run of form and solve now chronic attacking issues affecting a side that not has scored more than once in a game since October.

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Perhaps even greater than that is to change the prevailing mood on Wearside as the team continues to labour. Apathy is understandably beginning to take hold and there is no greater danger to a football club.

Blackpool take the lead at the Stadium of LightBlackpool take the lead at the Stadium of Light
Blackpool take the lead at the Stadium of Light

It should be particularly concerning to Stewart Donald, whose ownership model and plan thus far has been built on supporters buying in, feeling energised and part of a club moving in the right direction.

From day one, their response was remarkable.

A surge in season-ticket sales, changing the seats, nearly selling out the Stadium of Light for Boxing Day. Digging deep for two trips to Wembley and then most remarkably of all, coming back for more in this league after the heartache of that late failure against Charlton Athletic.

Attendances and support have remained at a remarkable level and they were so again on this bitterly cold and deeply uninspiring Saturday.

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There has been much talk of what the mood would be like after recent results, but at kick-off there was a traditional roar and even after a woeful first goal was shipped, Sunderland defending their own box desperately poorly at a corner, the crowd stood firmly behind their team.

That continued right through the 90 minutes, a reflection of a desire to build some momentum but also the endeavour of the players, which was not in question here.

They battled, without a doubt, and it was to their credit that even after being reduced to ten men, they looked relatively comfortably in holding on for a draw.

That this felt like an improvement nevertheless feels like a rather large part of the problem.

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Unquestionably, Sunderland benefited from having Charlie Wyke leading the line, his goal superbly taken as he attacked a good corner from Chris Maguire. In the second half, he almost snatched a winner with a similarly thumping effort at the near post, this time stooping for a header that rattled the crossbar, Blackpool’s goalkeeper well beaten.

The response to that early strike from Matty Virtue was relatively good, and certainly far stronger than the implosion that greeted Burton Albion’s eventual winner last time out at the Stadium of Light.

The stark reality remains that Sunderland produced just two shots on target and only one of those from open play.

Despite more time to work on the training ground, a pattern of play remains just about impossible to discern and this is still a side that, even when the application is there, simply cannot create significant chances in open play.

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Though Blackpool themselves did not look as incisive as some of the teams who have beaten Sunderland on this wretched run, it was still a game they know they will feel they should have gone on to win.

Only the absent-mindedness of Armand Gnanduillet prevented his side from going straight back into the lead after Wyke’s goal, the centre-forward standing on the line and blocking James Husband’s goalbound effort.

He should have had a goal of his own in the early stages, getting away from Laurens De Bock far too easily and denied only by an excellent save from Jon McLaughlin.

Results elsewhere were generally kind to the Black Cats.

Coventry City and Doncaster Rovers saw leads turn into surprise defeats. Oxford United suffered a surprise defeat and Rotherham were held by struggling Southend United.

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It has given the table a slightly more flattering look, even if Sunderland now hold the joint-lowest position in their history.

There is the crux of the problem.

Though Parkinson suggested this week that the decision to exclude Aiden McGeady would lead to a better spirit and drive Sunderland on, the problems under his management clearly run far deeper.

The football has been gruelling to watch and that is getting better, rather than worse, as more time passes.

Defensively, they are neither tighter nor meaner than they were in the early stages of the season.

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While that continies, supporters cannot be expected to put their faith in a suddenly improved run of form.

Automatic promotion already looks to be gone this season and a fight for the play-offs is far from removed from the rhetoric both at the start of the season and again when Jack Ross was dismissed from his post, the Black Cats at that point six places higher in the table than where they now find themselves.

The sense is of a club drifting and perhaps even more dangerous than that, one accepting where it finds itself.

That applies to both off the pitch and on the pitch matters and if it continues, the growing apathy will only continue to take deeper roots.

Any football’s role is to inspire, excite and lift.

Sunderland is a club currently offering none of that to its support, and if that does not change soon, the consequences will be significant.