Sunderland can concentrate their efforts fully on Championship survival after being dumped out of the FA Cup by Middlesbrough.
Here's what we learned:
Jason Steele fails to take chance:
The ex-Boro goalkeeper produced some good saves in the second half but the game was over as a contest by then. Rudy Gestede and Martin Braithwaite scoring twice in the first half, Steele far from convincing.
For Gestede’s opener, Steele committed himself too early and rushed out when Billy Jones was covering and he flapped at Stewart Downing’s corner, Braithwaite slotting home.
It would be no surprise to see Robbin Ruiter back between the sticks at Cardiff City.
Ethan Robson produces assured debut:
There were few positives for Chris Coleman but the full debut of academy product Robson was one.
He produced an assured display in the centre of midfield and looked to move the ball quickly in possession.
Early doors he produced three crunching tackles on Adama Traore but the lively winger had the last laugh when he helped set up Gestede’s opener.
Overall, Robson didn’t look out of place.
Chris Coleman isn’t a miracle worker and needs help:
Without 11 senior players through injury, the game against a strong Boro side was always going to be a tough one.
Boro were comfortable throughout, Josh Maja hit the crossbar and Ty Browning almost scored with a header but by that stage Boro had taken their foot off the gas.
Sunderland were toothless in attack and lacking bite and creativity in midfield. Ethan Robson looked assured on his debut and George Honeyman tried to make things happen but those two aside, the Black Cats struggled. New signings are desperately needed.
Couple of strikers a priority for goal shy Sunderland:
Sunderland have scored just once in four games and the departure of 12-goal top scorer Lewis Grabban comes as a blow.
Coleman rightly stated he only wants players who want to be at Sunderland and pointed to a lot of Grabban’s goals being penalties or consolations.
But despite that, Grabban scored goals. Sunderland have offered little going forward without him and bringing in two new strikers is absolutely key.
Josh Maja lone striker experiment not working:
The teenager made a big impact off the bench against Fulham when he scored the winner but the two games he has started as the lone striker, he hasn’t had much of an impact.
First half against Middlesbrough he was left isolated and he did hit the crossbar second half before being replaced by James Vaughan.
The need for reinforcements up front clear.
Championship dogfight the priority:
Chris Coleman and Sunderland wouldn’t admit it, of course, but the third round FA Cup tie at Middlesbrough was a game they could have done without.
Battling a crippling injury list which ruled out 11 players, the priority has always been the Championship - and survival.
SAFC got through without further injury and Coleman will be hoping at least one or two of his walking wounded are back for Cardiff City.