SUNDERLAND thoroughly deserved their point at Villa Park on Saturday and on another day they could easily have returned home with all three.
Emanuele Giaccherini’s miss and Fabio Borini’s header against the bar were both incidents that could have been match-winners for Sunderland, but instead we had to settle for a draw.
It’s great that we had the better of it away from home in terms of chances created, but I think Gus Poyet’s mind is clearly turning now towards upping Sunderland’s goals scored column.
Defensively we have improved dramatically.
There was never the remotest chance of a repeat of last season’s horror show at the same ground and the dangerous Christian Benteke, who did so much damage in that game, never really got a kick on Saturday.
The main reason for that, was John O’Shea and Wes Brown at the heart of a Sunderland defence that protected their goalkeeper to such an extent that he barely had a serious save to make.
Sunderland are looking so much more disciplined and organised at the back now with Wes Brown’s return being no coincidence in Sunderland’s improvement and Gus Poyet will be hoping his injury problems are in the past.
Villa Park was Sunderland’s best performance on the road this season, even allowing for the fact there’s not been too much competition with so many disappointing away days so far.
But at least now the sequence of five straight away defeats has been ended and he can look to build on our home record this week.
Since his arrival Gus Poyet has prioritised the defence and succeeded in making Sunderland harder to beat, but he now needs to turn his attention to getting more support to Steven Fletcher, who is still isolated too often and is feeding on scraps for much of the time.
I know these things take time and Poyet is totally reshaping the way Sunderland play but just a bit more of a cutting edge and we would have beaten a very average Aston Villa team on Saturday.
I bet not many fans would have predicted the starting line-up, when Poyet made three changes against Aston Villa which certainly surprised me.
But he said afterwards the reason was everyone he picked had scored a Premier League goal and so clearly his mind too is turning towards scoring goals as well as stopping them.
Whatever the reason, you can’t complain with the attitude and commitment of the players, who worked hard and came so close to pulling off a win.
I can’t be disappointed with an away draw to Aston Villa – in our position every point is vital.
But I have to admit I had mixed feelings as I left Villa Park on Saturday night knowing it could have been more had Giaccherini’s finishing been better or Borini had just a little more luck.