Wise Men Say: Recent efforts doesn’t excuse Sunderland’s shortcomings

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In Monday’s Wise Men Say column, I praised the impact of the young players against Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday and Derby.

Sure, I had already accepted our inevitable relegation, but I felt a degree of pride in our recent displays and hoped it could be a springboard for a more positive future.

Just a few days later however, my positivity has been replaced by annoyance at yet another missed opportunity.

In isolation, our performance against Norwich might be considered slightly annoying, but understandable.

It was certainly full of incident and some of the incompetence from both sides meant that neither side was short of chances.

Norwich’s passing game might look brilliant when executed properly, but on Tuesday night it resembled a clunky system full of teething problems rather than a game plan which they’ve had nearly a full season to perfect.

Such imperfections presented Sunderland with opportunities to temporarily cause the League One train to be suspended for at least a couple of weeks.

Despite his never say die attitude and energy, Lynden Gooch perhaps demonstrated why he hasn’t featured more regularly so far this season when he tried to square the ball to Ashley Fletcher after dispossessing the Norwich defender deep inside their own half.

Ovie Ejaria’s inexperience was highlighted when he dithered on the ball for too long instead of shooting or trying to round Angus Gunn and in true Sunderland style, we missed our first penalty in five and a half years when Aiden McGeady stuck the post.

It was undoubtedly encouraging that we eventually did take the lead after George Honeyman followed up McGeady’s effort from outside the area, but even then, we could not cling on for a vital three points.

In recent days there has been much discussion over Chris Coleman leaving it too late to make a positive substitution.

This is a fair criticism as the pace of Joel Asoro and Kazenga LuaLua would have kept their back four honest and provided good outlets on the counter attack.

However, formations and tactics are irrelevant if we fail to track our men from set-pieces and see out games against the East Anglian side with nothing to play for.

In many ways, it encapsulated the problems we have suffered all season long, in spite of the sea of incompetence we have endured all season, even though we didn’t win a single game in 10 attempts we would have been in with a fighting chance of avoiding relegation had we seen out the remaining few minutes.

On far too many occasions, we have suffered from a lack of concentration which has cost us dearly.

As I previously stated, the application and effort levels of the players could not be faulted but is this really cause for celebration?

Effort is a bare minimum we expect from the players and the upturn in performances only makes our humiliating results and performances earlier in the season seem even worse.

In reality, we have played Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday and Norwich who have had little to play for and we have failed to get ourselves back in touch with our relegation rivals.

If we had seen such levels application earlier in the season we may have been looking ahead to another season of Championship football, but as it is, everything has been too little, too late.