Rowell Report: A game of missed opportunities

Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist
Gary Rowell, former Sunderland player and now Echo columnist
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WELL I’ll say one thing – nobody can complain Martin O’Neill didn’t pick an attacking team against West Brom on Saturday!

Two strikers and two wingers from the opening whistle at the Hawthorns signalled an intent to be positive and get forward away from home.

I’m sure there were many fans in the build-up to the game who were absolutely convinced that the manager wouldn’t deviate from his 4-5-1 formation – especially away from home.

And those fans would have been surprised and delighted to have heard the line-up being read out before the game, safe in the knowledge that here was a match where there team were going to go for it.

Sadly, the 2-1 scoreline suggests it didn’t work on the day.

But as usual with Sunderland though, that wasn’t the whole story.

We struck the woodwork twice in the first half-hour and controversy surrounded two penalty appeals in the first half, with the luck going West Brom’s way as far as the ref’s decision-making was concerned.

They were two very similar incidents – both times the ball struck the defender’s arm – but Albion’s appeal was upheld and Sunderland’s was turned down.

The difference apparently was that Craig Gardner’s arm was further away from his body than Gareth McAuley’s – such are the fine margins in football.

Having said that, Sunderland so often this season are their own worst enemies and Saturday was no different.

There were far too many individual errors, we too often gave the ball away cheaply in good areas and our final ball was disappointing.

On top of that, two major errors had huge ramifications.

Titus Bramble’s under-hit back pass cost us a goal when he should have put it in Row Z and James McClean’s late miss cost us an equaliser.

That may be a bit harsh on McClean as he was only on for 15 minutes and had a hand in Sessegnon’s goal.

But too often – like in the Arsenal game the other week – we’ve lacked that ruthless streak and this was just another example.

On the quiet, these poor results are starting to mount up now.

That’s three defeats in a row now for the first time under Martin O’Neill at Sunderland.

That trend needs to be reversed, starting with Fulham this weekend.

To read the rest of the Rowell Report, please see tonight’s Sunderland Echo.