Pete Sixsmith saw Chris Coleman’s managership start in painfully familiar fashion, yet another bright start undone by yet another piece of sloppy defending. The upshot: the simplest of conceded goals for Villa’s Adomah, albeit after the ref arguably ignored a foul on Matthews that started the move. Ten minutes gone, one down. Had Robbin Ruiter, so fortunate to keep his place after handing Millwall two early Christmas presents on Saturday, even seen the ball up to then? ‘Goalkeeper suspect again,’ muttered Sixer. Gary Bennett praised the shape – 4-1-4-1 – and the buildup but was worried about the final pass, the final shot and the failure to cover at the back. Sixer bemoaned our lack of physicality.
All the above was written before half time. The second had barely begun before another Villa -mah (Onomah this time) made it two, his shot massively deflected by Browning. There seemed no way back. Lax defending, lack of finesse and a spot of misfortune: Coleman was perhaps seeing our season so far encapsulated in one more losing game.
Then he saw how important Lewis Grabban is to our modest hopes when the striker on loan from Bournemouth snatched one back. We prayed for that flash of skill or touch of luck that might save the game. It didn’t come.
Sixer saw glimmers of hope. Come back for his considered view but read on for his instant seven-word verdict …
November 21 Aston Villa 2 (1) Sunderland 1 (0) Encouraging signs but need to be stronger
November 18 Sunderland 2 (1) Millwall 2 (2) An awful game compounded by comical goalkeeping
November 5 Middlesbrough 1 (1) Sunderland 0 (0) Bottom of the league and deservedly so.
October 31 Sunderland 3 (1) Bolton Wanderers 3 (3) Neither the result nor performance good enough
October 28 Sunderland 1 (1) Bristol City 2 (1) Hopeless and clueless. Add embarrassing to that.
October 21 Brentford 3 (1) Sunderland 3 (3) * Two in front yet lucky to survive
October 14 Sunderland (0) 1 Queens Park Rangers (1) 1 The elusive home win seems miles away
September 30 Preston North End (0) 2Sunderland (1) 2 * Seriously entertaining and well worth the point
September 26 Ipswich Town 5 (2) Sunderland (1) 2 Sunderland’s defending plummets to unheard of depths
September 23 Sunderland 1 (0) Cardiff City 2 (1) Undoubtedly the worst Sunderland team I’ve watched
September 20 League Cup 3rd Round: Everton (1) 3 Sunderland (0) 0 * Never looked like scoring, let alone winning
September 16 Hull City 1 (0) Sunderland 1 (1) Hung on but not a sparkling performance
September 12 Sunderland 0 (0) Nottingham Forest 1 (o) Some improvement but we lack any punch
September 9 Sunderland 1 (0) Sheffield United 2 (1) no tactics, appalling team selection,
August 26 Barnsley 3 (2) Sunderland 0 (0) Alarm bells clanging after a dreadful performance
August 22 League Cup: Carlisle United (0) 1 Sunderland (1) 2 Classy finish by Gooch masks scrappy performance
August 19 SAFC 0 (0) Leeds United 2 (1) Weaknesses exposed by a solid Leeds team
August 16 Sheffield Wednesday (0) 1 Sunderland (1) 1 Looked tired in second half. Decent point
August 13 Norwich City 1 (0) Sunderland 3 (1) Very well organised and three cracking goals
August 8 League Cup: Bury 0 (0) Sunderland (0) 1 Hardly convincing but a win’s a win
August 4 2017 Sunderland (1) 1 Derby County (1) 1 Encouraging second half. Something to build on