Sunderland were chaotic, shambolic and wide open but now is the time for unity: Six things learned from Coventry defeat

Sunderland’s long, proud unbeaten home record came crashing down following a dramatic nine-goal thriller at the Stadium of Light.

By Richard Mennear
Sunday, 14 April, 2019, 13:56
Grant Leadbitter commits a foul.

Sadly for Sunderland, it was the Black Cats on the end of a 5-4 defeat. Here’s what we learned:

Chaotic, shambolic defensive display costs Sunderland dear.

The Stadium of Light has never seen anything like it.

You have to go back to 1981 and the visit of Manchester United to Roker Park for the last time Sunderland shipped five goals at home in the league.

And truth be told it could have been far worse.

Sunderland’s defensive partnership of Tom Flanagan and Jack Baldwin both endured nightmare afternoons, Luke O’Nien started badly too but did recover well.

There was little protection in front of them either, Grant Leadbitter and Max Power often bypassed. Clinical Coventry cut Sunderland open at will.

Now is the time to stick together.

All that said, now is the time for Sunderland and the support to stick together. There are only five league games left this season, Sunderland still in a strong shout for automatic promotion.

A quick glance on Twitter post-match and it was like we’d gone back in time to the horrors of the last two seasons; ‘rubbish manager, rubbish players, get rid etc etc’ with a few more swear words to boot.

Yes, Saturday was an unmitigated disaster but Sunderland have little time - and no option - other than to bounce back quickly and firmly against Doncaster Rovers on Good Friday.

In front of the TV cameras.

Jack Ross’ conundrum.

Whether to ditch the 4-4-2 that Ross so rigidly stuck with throughout the defeat against Coventry City at home, or revert back to 4-2-3-1?

Doing so would mean having to drop either Will Grigg or Charlie Wyke and their partnership has been a real positive post-Wembley, Wyke in particular in good form.

The other option would be a 3-5-2 with Luke O’Nien and Bryan Oviedo as wing backs but then that system doesn’t suit key man Aiden McGeady, when he is fully fit, or the improving Lewis Morgan.

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Ross must also decide which centre back to drop, or both. Though his other options are limited. Jimmy Dunne must be a certain starter v Doncaster but Alim Ozturk has barely played this season and Glenn Loovens hasn’t featured since the last defeat, away at Pompey in December.

Plenty to ponder.

Aiden McGeady clearly wasn’t anywhere near fit enough.

The Sunderland fans had long been chanting his name, in an attempt to put pressure on Ross to bring the wideman on to the pitch.

McGeady did come on but it was clear a few minutes after his arrival that he wasn’t anywhere near fit enough.

Something Ross admitted himself post-match, it was a gamble bringing him on that early given he hasn’t trained and it didn’t work but Ross had to roll the dice.

Automatic promotion race blown wide open.

Sunderland have blown the chance this week to establish themselves in second place.

Having worked so hard to fight into the top two, a home draw with Burton Albion and Saturday’s demoralising defeat to Coventry City has dented automatic promotion hopes.

Sunderland now back in third on 80 points, two points behind Barnsley with a game in hand.

Portsmouth have seen a revival and they are fourth, also on 80 points, while dark horses Charlton Athletic are fifth on 79 points.

Sunderland’s fate remains in their own hands but the race for the top two has been blown wide open.

Flag day was a success.

The day was going so well up until kick-off, the new flag display unveiled by the Red and White Army a big success.

A lot of hard work and effort had gone into organising and getting the new flags produced, with help of course from financial contributions from fans, and credit to all those supporters and fan groups involved.

It looked really impressive prior to kick-off, shame it was all downhill from there.