The latest edition of the Sunderland weekly round-up takes a look at the latest news from the Stadium of Light. Following their table-topping victory the previous week, the Black Cats travelled to Fleetwood Town in a confident mood. However, despite leading, Lee Johnson’s men had to settle for a disappointing draw.
Elsewhere, Sunderland appointed a new first-team coach, opened talks with a talented midfielder and saw a hot prospect leave the club. Plus we have the latest injury and academy news.
The Black Cats Must Learn From Fleetwood Disappointment
Sunderland Lose Two-Goal Lead
Sunderland looked set to stay at the top of League One for long periods of Saturday’s game at Fleetwood. The Black Cats dominated the first half but had just a solitary goal from striker Ross Stewart to show for their efforts. Fleetwood came back into the game in the second half; however, Sunderland finally extended their lead on 76 minutes through an Aiden McGeady penalty.
With just 14 minutes left it appeared that Sunderland would make it six wins from seven games. Fleetwood had other ideas and with the help of Lee Johnson’s men who attempted to simply defend their lead, they were soon back in the game. Just five minutes after McGeady’s penalty, the away side were hanging on and with seconds left, and new goalkeeper Ron-Thorben Hoffmann in fine form, it appeared they had done their job. However, the referee gave a controversial penalty to Fleetwood which they converted.
The decision angered Sunderland head coach Lee Johnson, who told the Sunderland Echo: “I’ll be watching that referee’s games in the next few weeks.
“Because he’s set a precedent for himself. If we’re talking ten is a clothesline, the level of contact there is 0.5. It happens every cross, every corner. I just think it’s bad refereeing.
“I just think that he couldn’t wait to give it. He’s obviously given the foul at the other end, but they were very different. One was a bear hug where he was facing away from the ball, and in the other one, they’re both facing the ball, both facing the goal, and there is contact in boxes.”
Lessons Must Be Learned
Leading a game two-nil with nine minutes left of normal time and not to win is frustrating for all concerned. Sunderland, not for the first time this season sat back for the last 10-15 minutes in the hope of defending a slender lead. It has worked in previous games despite it being a nerve-wracking time for fans; however, at some point, this type of tactic will eventually come unstuck. On Saturday, similar to previous games, Lee Johnson brought on an extra defender to help protect a lead. This invited a lot of pressure onto the team as they defend deeper and deeper as the minutes pass by. In League One, teams will go route one, putting balls deep into the box in the hope that a mistake is made.
In these instances, mistakes can be made which in turn will give the referee a decision to make should any contact be made inside the box. This happened on Saturday with the 97th-minute penalty. Although the penalty was controversial, Sunderland should not have been in the position where it would cost them in the first place.
Going forward, fans may see a different tactic when leading. Sunderland should play to the strengths that got them into the winning position instead of inviting the opposition to attack at every opportunity.
The Black Cats Have No Need to Panic
Despite the disappointment of losing a two-goal lead to draw 2-2, there is no need to panic. Changes need to be made as far as tactics are concerned when leading the game but the Black Cats are still second in the table with five wins from seven games. There is a long way to go this season and Sunderland like others battling for promotion, will not have it all their own way.
The early signs this season are that Sunderland are better equipped to challenge for promotion than they have been since relegation from the Championship in 2018. Nine new players have arrived, some in the final days of the transfer window with many of last season’s first-team departing. Johnson’s new and younger team still have aspects of the game to learn but they are improving.
Elliot Embleton Begins Contract Talks
Sunderland are hoping to tie talented young midfielder Elliot Embleton down to a new contract, as reported by the Sun on Sunday (via The72.co.uk). The 22-year-old’s current contract is set to expire next summer with the club having the option to extend the deal by one year. However, it is claimed that the club want to discuss a longer deal with the attacking midfielder.
Embleton, whose 20-yard strike against Wycombe Wanderers has been nominated for the League One Goal of the Month award, has played seven games this season scoring two goals and assisting three.
New First-Team Coach Appointed
Sunderland have appointed a new first-team coach. Phil Jeavons has arrived from Everton, leaving his role as their U18 assistant manager. Jeavons, who also played for Everton during his 18-year professional career knows head coach Lee Johnson having played under him at Yeovil Town and Bristol City. Jeavons replaces Andy Taylor who left to join Leeds United.
Latest Injury News
Striker Ross Stewart took a knock to the ankle in the latter stages of the draw at Fleetwood. It is not thought to be serious but he is s expected to be rested for the upcoming Carabao Cup game at Wigan Athletic.
Denver Hume continues to work towards full fitness following his injury at the end of last season. Hume recently signed a new contract following a summer of uncertainty over whether the left-back would stay or leave.
Defender Arbenit Xhemajli who has not played for a year is also stepping up his training in the hope of fully recovering. However, he is still some way off competing for a first-team place. Lee Johnson gave an update on the Kosovan defender, he told safc.com: “Arby has been out there training properly for the last two days. He’s still a bit of a way off a full return, but it’s heart-warming to see because I know how hard he and the physio department have had to work to get him to this point.
“We still have to protect him – it was a really bad injury that he suffered and I’m almost wincing every time he goes into a 50/50. But every time he comes out of it, the belief among myself and him and everyone else becomes stronger. He’s a great professional who has come through a difficult time, and I think he feels like he belongs here.”
Youngster Leaves The Black Cats for Everton
Sunderland have confirmed the departure of highly-rated youngster Francis Okoronkwo. The 16-year-old has joined Everton. No details have been given regarding a fee but it is believed that Okoronkwo was valued at around £1 million. The Black Cats have lost several exciting graduates from the academy in recent years to the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal.
Sunderland’s U23’s suffered defeat to rivals Middlesbrough on Monday. The youngsters lost 3-1 meaning they have won just once so far this season. Despite dominating for long periods, Sunderland could not convert their chances and went in at halftime two down. The second half played out like the first but by the time the young black cats scored, they were three down.
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