Sunderland must stop being dunces and iron out shoddy defending and indiscipline

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Wise Men Say
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It’s still not totally clear how good this Sunderland team is. There have been spells during some games when it’s momentarily clicked and we look on a different stratosphere to our opponents.

Little concentrated spells of fluent, attacking play have seen aside Gillingham, Scunthorpe and Rochdale, and but for poor finishing last Tuesday night, Peterborough’s impressive away record would have ended with an almighty thud inside 45 minutes.

But the latter example highlights a clear problem, an inability to play to our capabilities consistently enough.

I am confident that we will see Sunderland go on a run at some point and hand out some hammerings along the way. There are some things that need to change in order for this to happen - defending balls into the box better being the obvious one.

You can currently bet confidently on the opposition scoring in any game by employing this simple tactic.

Needing a minimum of two goals to win a match is not a sustainable requirement, hence the collection of points already dropped already that should have Sunderland sitting comfortably at the top of the table.

I see it as a massive positive Sunderland are in touching distance of the leading two, despite some obvious flaws.

I firmly believe that there will come a time when we fully acclimatise to the surroundings of League One and understand how you can and can’t defend a ball into the box, what you can and can’t react to when an opposition players winds you up.

That said, Max Power has plenty of experience of playing in successful League One sides yet he became the latest dunce to respond to the ever-more predictable rough-house tactics by getting himself a red card. He’ll now miss five games. Infuriating.

At least his side was able to hang on for the much-needed three points mainly because, unlike Peterborough, the opposition were not, how can I say this, remotely good at football.

That’s not to take away from a battling and pleasurable performance that brought a hard-fought victory. I stood very much in admiration of Tom Flanagan’s tackle to take the ball from the foot of Jack Payne as he tried to react to our superhero goalkeeper swatting away his penalty kick.

I, like every other Sunderland fan, have offered a piece of my heart to Chris Maguire after watching his latest performance. The newly-crowned King of Sunderland masterfully found ways to both retain possession and draw free kicks from furious Bradford players as the clock ran down; toying with their collective temperament. A Bradford player even lost it all together and walloped George Honeyman as he kneeled on the floor, I’d expect us to snap him up in January with that sort of attitude.

But in my opinion, and I promise I am a glass half-full type of Sunderland supporter, I thought the first half bordered on complacency and we allowed the tempo to drop far too much, seemingly safe in the knowledge that there was a huge gulf in quality. But for a penalty save, that could have counted for nothing. Again.

You’d like to think the players will learn from being targeted in the sly and physical way, and that this weakness, like the shoddy defending, will be ironed out in time for a mighty charge towards promotion.

I would have thought Bryan Oviedo’s red card on Tuesday would have been an important lesson in that regard but evidently not. It needs addressing and quickly.