Sunderland boss Alex Neil delivers this very honest verdict on cup exit and what went wrong
Alex Neil took responsibility for his team’s first round Carabao Cup exit as his entirely changed side struggled to get going at Sheffield Wednesday.
Neil’s side lost for the first time in 18 games after goals from Dennis Adeniran and Sylla Sow either side of half time.
The Sunderland head coach felt his side was strong enough to win the game but with a number of players out of position and Jack Diamond leading the line, he felt there were mitigating factors for his players who had underperformed.
Neil ultimately rued defensive errors that allowed a Sheffield Wednesday side who saw less of the ball but threatened more to go through to the second round.
Championship attendance table: How Sunderland’s staggering following compares with Sheffield United, West Brom & Co
Sunderland transfer news: Winger departs on loan after making Cats debut at Sheffield Wednesday
Kristjaan Speakman reveals how Sunderland signed Jewison Bennette despite interest from other clubs
“I'm disappointed because I felt we were mostly the makes of our own downfall,” Neil said.
“We didn't really get carved apart too often, it was only really when we made a mistake for the goal, we give the ball away and then the lad chops onto his 'wrong' foot and sticks it in from 30 yards.
“They probably had their best spell for seven, eight minutes after that.
“We controlled the ball without threatening, but that's my responsibility and my burden. I've got Jack Diamond who is a wide player playing centre forward, I've got Harrison Sohna who is a midfielder playing left wing-back. I just felt with the physical output we've put in the last two league games, I didn't want to expose them. We've got a taxing schedule coming up.
“We know we can move the ball better. I've got standards and an expectancy of where I think we should be, but I think there were mitigating factors for the players we had out there.
“When we're playing, Jack is up there on his own so we lacked a threat. You're then retaining the ball without really going anywhere, you've got a full back playing one of the wing back roles and a midfielder in the other.
“It's tough for those lads and then the rest of the time.”
Neil had urged his players before the game to take their chance to fight their way into the league XI, but said afterwards that he would not judge them too harshly.
“I think it's difficult to judge that on one game,” Neil said.
“I see them day to day and I thought some of them applied themselves well. Defensively we were quite solid, we just made a couple of mistakes. It was us giving the ball away that then left us stretched. We couldn't counter that by having a target at the top end of the pitch, so you can put it forward quicker. Jack isn't that type of player. We didn't bring Ross Stewart and Ellis Simms played 87 minutes on Saturday, having played 45 minutes all pre-season. If I bring him on and he breaks down, I'm kicking myself.
“I do think the team we had could have won that game.
“I didn't think they were free-flowing, what they did have was players playing in their positions. They looked more of a threat because of that.”