Six things we learned as Sunderland caretakers Robbie Stockdale and Billy McKinlay suffer defeat at Middlesbrough

Sunderland miss another opening in the first half.
Sunderland miss another opening in the first half.
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Sunderland are rock bottom of the Championship following the 1-0 defeat to neighbours Middlesbrough.

Here's what we learned:

Lewis Grabban misses a glorious chance.

Lewis Grabban misses a glorious chance.

Another defeat but good to have Paddy McNair back starting matches:

Another defeat, Sunderland’s eighth of an increasing miserable campaign.

But there was one positive; Paddy McNair made his first start in 11 months following his serious knee injury and completed 77 minutes.

Robbie Stockdale deployed him in an advanced role, playing just off Lewis Grabban.

Aiden McGeady sends an effort wide. Pictures by Frank Reid.

Aiden McGeady sends an effort wide. Pictures by Frank Reid.

While it was good to see McNair starting games again, his impact was limited in that role. Injury to Duncan Watmore limited Stockdale’s options but McNair is most influential in a deeper role.

Black Cats need to move the ball quicker:

Sunderland have to start moving the ball quicker.

Their build-up play is pedestrian and one-paced. It gives opposing teams and defences time to gather their shape and reorganise which then makes it harder for Sunderland to break teams down.

Sunderland looked more compact against Boro, easier to achieve when you start four central midfielders. But the attacking play lacked incision and creativity, Aiden McGeady having an off day.

Compact Sunderland quickly ran out of ideas:

One of the big criticisms of the short and unsuccessful Simon Grayson era was the tendency to go long, often.

They didn’t do that against Middlesbrough.

Sunderland fell behind to a shocking early goal but overall they were more compact and looked better organised than in recent games and more competitive as a result.

They tried to play the ball around more on the ground but a lack of creativity and ideas cost them.

Ndong and Ruiter catch the eye in derby defeat:

Didier Ndong was Sunderland’s best outfield player, with Robbin Ruiter impressing in goal.

Ndong was deployed in a wide right role, with Callum McManaman dropped and while he was the busiest Sunderland player it did mean the Black Cats missed his energy in the middle.

The goalkeepers have come in for stick but Ruiter was the star man.

Duncan Watmore proved a huge absence.

The forward was missing after picking up a minor knee niggle towards the end of the week, not thought to be serious.

McNair didn’t provide the same level of support to Grabban and Sunderland barely mustered an effort second half.

Back-to-back relegations a real possibility:

League One football is an increasing possibility. No team is too good to go down and this Sunderland side isn’t very good.

Rock bottom after 16 rounds of Championship matches. They are exactly were they deserve to be.

Stockdale and Billy McKinlay clearly intended to shore up at the back but another horrendous goal gifted away left Sunderland on the back foot. They never recovered.