Sunderland can't afford to lose Josh Maja as set piece woe continues: Six things learned from Scunthorpe draw

Sunderland striker Josh Maja scores against Scunthorpe United.
Sunderland striker Josh Maja scores against Scunthorpe United.
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Josh Maja scored his 16th goal of the season but Sunderland dropped points for the third consecutive week.

Here’s what we learned from the 1-1 draw at Scunthorpe United.

Jack Ross cut a frustrated figure.

The Sunderland boss is a cool, calm and collected figure when facing the press.

The Scot speaks well, gets his point across well and it is easy to see why the Sunderland squad love playing under him.

On Saturday, post-match at a bitterly cold Glanford Park, he cut a visibly frustrated figure, arguably the most frustrated he has been this season.

He has high demands of himself and his players and the stuttering form is causing him concern. Answers need to be found quickly.

Sunderland’s set pieces are desperate.

Sunderland forced eight corners against Scunthorpe United but only really threatened from one of them in the second half.

The others, from a mix of Chris Maguire, Aiden McGeady and Lynden Gooch, too easily defended.

Often not beating the first man. It is a big area for improvement for this Sunderland side.

Dylan McGeouch unfortunate to be dropped.

Lee Cattermole was reinstated to the Sunderland side following his two game ban, meaning Dylan McGeouch dropped down to the bench.

It was tough on the Scot given his recent performances. Ross has criticised his players for lacking composure but that is one thing McGeouch does bring.

A calming influence on the ball. Sunderland are also badly missing skipper George Honeyman’s relentless energy in the middle.

Losing Josh Maja this month doesn’t bear thinking about

The 20-year-old was having little impact at Glanford Park until the 59th minute.

Then in a flash, he had given Sunderland the lead with a superb near post header following a smart pass out wide to Reece James.

A well-worked goal, it showcased the best of Maja’s talents. It was his 16th of the season. Sunderland are struggling for regular goals from elsewhere, losing Maja this month doesn’t bear thinking about.

Ross will be desperate to keep hold of him until the end of the season at least.

Sunderland wingers look jaded

Aiden McGeady and Lynden Gooch have been real positives for Sunderland this season but the pair haven’t had the same impact in recent weeks.

Gooch, in particular, looks jaded and in need of a rest. The pair worked hard at Scunthorpe and probed but they caused little threat to the Iron defence.

A welcome break for Sunderland?

Sunderland host Manchester City U21s on Tuesday night in the Checkatrade Trophy before a 10-day break from action, when they host AFC Wimbledon on February 2.

It has been a relentless period for Sunderland. Several players look jaded. A break may do them the world of good. Not that Jack Ross is looking for excuses.

Ross said: “Everyone battles the same fixture congestion in this league.

“It does allow us to assess where we are at and how we do it better. We have more time than normal to do that.

“It just means that when we do come back, we have to be bang at it. We have to bang out results, the players know that.”