Sunderland need to make changes for Coventry as Joey Barton and Fleetwood exploit a big weakness
For all the late drama, this was still a Sunderland performance that raised questions.
Here, we examine the key conclusions to take from the Black Cats’ draw with Fleetwood Town:
Endeavour, not quality, proves key
This wasn’t a vintage Sunderland performance.
At times, particularly in a turgid first half, it brought back memories of the club’s pre-Boxing Day dip in form.
But it was the Black Cats’ desire that saw them through. They kept plugging away and, while at times it was frustrating to watch, their desire cannot be questioned.
Not one player threw in the towel, and credit must go to the fans too for they continued to back the side even when three points looked unlikely.
Fleetwood expose Sunderland’s big weakness
For all Denver Hume’s forays forward have been a joy to watch when Sunderland are in the ascendancy, they do leave the Black Cats somewhat short at the back.
And it was this perceived vulnerability on the left flank that Fleetwood exposed to net their opener - Paddy Madden finding space with Barrie McKay’s run not tracked.
It was interesting to note that, particularly in the first-half, Fleetwood concentrated the majority of the attacks down Sunderland’s left flank - and with Hume often high up the pitch, they had plenty of joy.
It’s a vulnerability Joey Barton did well to exploit, and one Phil Parkinson will have to address in the coming weeks.
Changes may be needed for Coventry
Consistency in their team selection has been a big factor in Sunderland’s fine form of late but, based on this showing, some changes may be needed for the trip to Coventry City.
That’s a risk, of course, given the Sky Blues’ standing in the third tier but after a hectic run of fixtures it may be wise for Parkinson to shuffle his deck.
Denver Hume, George Dobson and Lynden Gooch all looked somewhat jaded as the game wore on, and with Declan John, Josh Scowen, Antonie Semenyo waiting in the wings, Parkinson could be tempted to exploit the depth he craved to build in January.