Luke O’Nien’s time at right-back is surely up – Sunderland need defensive changes

Luke O'Nien.
Luke O'Nien.
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The coming weekend is one that will shape our season. Easy to say with five games to go yes but come Monday evening we will have an indication of where we are likely to end up.

The past couple of weeks have been so quintessentially Sunderland we should have seen it coming, really.

After losing at Wembley, so cruelly on penalties, the lads showed great character to bounce back three days later at Accrington and then, in the last minute secured a successive away win at Rochdale.

That moment at Rochdale felt like a turning point – a 90th-minute winner, Barnsley losing, Luton dropping points, we moved level on points with Barnsley and had two games in hand. We also had three home games in a row.

Then arrived a very organised and competent Burton Albion side, who made life very difficult for us and left the Stadium of Light with a well- earned point. Still, second place, game in hand, all was well.

Coventry turned up, and with them an afternoon of total chaos. 3-1 down after half an hour, Sunderland conceded five goals at home in the league for the first time since 1981.

Incredible. Finally, in a strong position, we produce the most abhorrent defensive display,

Still, the third home game of three sees Doncaster arrive, and things still in our own hands. Win every game and it is promotion.

The past week though, understandably, has seen optimism somewhat fade. The alarming performances of the centre halves particularly, has had fans questioning the chances of promotion, and Easter weekend has to see six points, or I fear we will be reduced to the lottery of the play-offs.

Selection wise, something needs to change. 4-4-2 is great when we win, yet against Coventry and Burton, games when it doesn’t work, it looks absolutely horrible.

I can’t help feeling that the games at Accrington and Rochdale were won despite playing 4-4-2, rather than because of it. It leaves too many people too exposed.

Yes, Charlie Wyke and Will Grigg look to be developing something, but at the expense of what? There also needs to be a change in personnel, with the aforementioned centre halves the first to go. Jimmy Dunne, for all his faults, or the forgotten Alim Ozturk, should be considered for recalls to the side.

In addition, Luke O’Nien’s time at right-back is surely up. Playing there out of necessity, he put in some great performances to his credit, but we saw the flaws in his defensive game terribly exposed by a ruthless Coventry.

With Doncaster a side who will press in a similar way, we need to have a full-back on the right-hand side, either Adam Matthews or Denver Hume.

Lee Cattermole back into the side is a huge bonus, allowing Max Power to play further forward, and up front for me it is one of either Grigg or Wyke.

Here’s hoping for a return to form...and a Chris Maguire goal off the bench!