Tony Gillan: Sunderland's free-flowing football has dried up and shows why there was need for a goal poacher

What to make of Sunderland’s last three performances?

Tuesday, 4th February 2020, 5:21 pm

There can be few sentences more redundant than: “There’s no need to panic”. It suggests there are circumstances in which panic is just the ticket.

Still, we know why people say it. There has been only one defeat in the previous 10 fixtures. It’s just that it was in the last match and Sunderland were well beaten over the 90 minutes by a direct rival.

Four points were wrung from Doncaster and Tranmere before that. But the flowing football has dried up: hopefully temporarily.

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Sunderland manager Phil Parkinson.

The need for a goal poacher has never been more acute. Two weeks ago we mentioned that while spectacular strikes are a joy to behold, they aren’t to be relied upon.

So what, in this regard, does everyone think of the new signings? Well clearly Phil Parkinson didn’t land a 20-a-season man. But who thought he would?

Every club wants one and I’m not sure if anyone, because goal scorers aren’t likely to be prised away without paying way more than Sunderland can afford: especially in the January transfer window so beloved of agents – and nobody else.

Was anyone recruited who might actually bolster the goals tally?

Kyle Lafferty arrived. But he has never been especially prolific and lacks match fitness.

Bailey Wright is a defender, while Antoine Semenyo is a 20-year-old with only 16 Football League starts; and didn’t finish most of them. He isn’t likely to solve many problems just yet.

Then there is Josh Scowen, whose fee and length of contract remain undisclosed. But does he score goals?

Now and again. However, when a club’s own website describes the player with euphemisms like “will sit deep and do the ugly side of the game” - reading between the lines isn’t tricky.

Suffice to say, he isn’t creative. This leaves those who were there before January, minus the leavers.

Chris Maguire and Gooch have scored 16 between them. They can’t be expected to do much more in this department.

Max Power and George Dobson have scored one league goal in their combined 45 games.

Grant Leadbitter hasn’t scored for any club in two years. His last was a penalty for Middlesbrough – against Sunderland.

His last goal other than spot kicks came for Boro in an FA Cup game in January 2017.

There are two hopes for a reliable goal scorer to play for Sunderland. Both are long shots.

The first is to acquire someone currently without a club. But there are usually sound reasons for a player not having a club.

The second is that someone already at Sunderland will prove people wrong: namely Benji Kimpioka or Will Grigg.

What chance either? Despite what Kimpioka’s agent might claim, expectations are low. With Grigg lies merely the limp hope that he returns to the form of his League One days at Wigan and MK Dons.

You may wonder; is that the best he can say? Let’s hope Will Grigg comes good?

I’m afraid it is – and I’m worried. Even if I’m not panicking.