Sunderland legend delivers strong verdict ahead of Rochdale clash - No more slip-ups, win or pay the price

It’s another of those weeks were Sunderland have a double header playing Rochdale at home tonight then Oxford away on Saturday.

By Gary Rowell
Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 11:45 am

For the Rochdale players, it is not often that they will play on as bigger stage in League One as the Stadium of Light and that is why these games are always a potential banana skin.

However, the Sunderland players have got to get used to players from smaller clubs raising their game, it is a home fixture tonight where Sunderland simply must get three points – no excuses.

When Sunderland lost at Portsmouth I was very disappointed but I accept going to places like Fratton Park is never easy and sometimes we will lose at places like those, there is not much between Sunderland and Portsmouth, we beat them at home, they beat us at their place, I can live with that.

Lynden Gooch pictured during the 1-0 win over Ipswich Town at the weekend.

However I can’t accept and more importantly the players shouldn’t accept losing at home to Burton or drawing at home to Bolton and many others, these are the points dropped that are so damaging and tonight’s game falls into that category, Sunderland can’t afford any slip-ups, it is win or pay the price.

The Oxford away game on paper looks a lot harder, they might currently be only 10th but they are a better team than that position indicates and I wouldn’t be surprised if they rally a challenge for a play-off position so they can’t be taken lightly.

Sunderland’s recent history with Oxford is consistent if nothing else as the result always ends in the same way, a 1-1 draw scoreline that haunted Sunderland last season when they were the draw specialists and that is not a good thing.

Both last season’s games with Oxford ended 1-1, the first match of this season ended the same and incredibly Karl Robinson’s men even knocked Sunderland out of this season’s League Cup, the penalty shoot-out after yet another 1-1 draw.

All those stalemates suggest just one piece of magic could separate the two teams on Saturday or a defensive blunder.

But if Sunderland are to finally beat Oxford then better defensive organisation, especially from set plays is needed, than in the last away game at Portsmouth.

Sunderland need the grit and resilience they showed in the two away games before Portsmouth, both 1-0 wins at MK Dons and Tranmere where both fixtures weren’t easy on the eye but I will gladly take the same outcome on Saturday.