Dire Sunderland lost for the third league game in a row after turning in a horrendous performance against Sheffield United at the SOL on Saturday. The Blades put Sunderland to the sword either side of half time with Clayton Donaldson grabbing a brace before Jack Rodwell nabbed an injury time consolation with Sunderland’s first effort on target in the game in the 95th minute. The 2-1 score line to the visitors flattered Simon Grayson’s side with his Sunderland team producing one of the worst displays in recent memory – which is an achievement of sorts in itself.
After suffering back to back league defeats against Leeds and Barnsley, Sunderland welcomed Sheffield United to the SOL as we searched for our first league win in the month of September since 2012. Having had a decent enough start to the season prior to the Leeds game, the nature of the Championship and the frenzied flurry in what the fixtures come meant the quick consecutive defeats left Sunderland needing a positive result to prevent a wobble turning into a rot.
Simon Grayson was as bullish in his pre match press conference as he was scathing after the defeat at Oakwell when he accused some of Sunderland’s players of playing for themselves and not the team. The gaffer was busy on transfer deadline day getting shot of wasters Papy Djilibodji and Wahbi Khazri and bringing in Marc Wilson, Callum McManaman and Jonny Williams although a move for another forward didn’t materialise and only time will tell whether this was a mistake.
The international break left Sunderland sweating on the fitness of Aiden McGeady who picked up a hamstring injury whilst away with the Republic of Ireland although everyone else came back unscathed whilst the three new signings were in line for their debuts.
Sunderland lined up in a 3-5-2 formation with Simon Grayson keeping faith in Robin Ruiter in goal behind a back three of Wilson, Kone and Browning. George Honeyman and Brendan Galloway operated as wing backs with N’Dong, Rodwell and Williams in the middle. Lewis Grabban and James Vaughan continued to lead the line.
The opening stages were fairly pedestrian with both sides feeling their way into the game and not much happening in terms of goal mouth action. Williams saw a lot of the ball early on and looked energetic but his efforts to
As happened in the Leeds game Sunderland conceded a goal on the break with the visitors capitalising on Sunderland over committing men forward. N’Dong had done well to drive into the box on the right hand side but his low cross missed everyone and allowed Sheffield United to exploit the space and target our left hand side. The ball was switched to Donaldson who ghosted past Marc Wilson before firing past Ruiter at his near post.
Sunderland tried to respond with Williams and Grabban trying audacious efforts from distance but if anyone looked like scoring it was the visitors who kept Ruiter busy. First a great cross from the right hand side was met with a looping header from Donaldson which saw Ruiter having to backpedal quickly and tip over the bar. Then Duffy tried his luck from a decent position after N’Dong cheaply conceded possession but Ruiter was equal to his effort. Sunderland’s only decent effort on goal came in the form of an ambitious volley from Vaughan which was struck well enough but miles off target.
There were boos at half time for the pathetic showing from Sunderland and things didn’t improve in the second period either if anything they got worse. Grayson made a change at the break with O’Shea replacing the presumably injured Kone as he persevered with a back five.
Literally nothing happened in the second half despite a desperate shout for a penalty after Williams appeared to be shoved in the back challenging for a header in the six yard box. Grayson tried in vain to influence the game introducing McManaman for his debut at the expense of James Vaughan but the game continued to pass Sunderland’s hapless midfield by. Grayson made another change with Gooch replacing Honeyman who struggled after being asked to operate as a wing back.
The icing on the cake came fifteen minutes before time when Sunderland’s back three were caught square allowing Donaldson to spring the offside trap running from deep and firing past Ruiter into the top corner. “You’re not fit to wear the shirt” was the cry from the crowd as yet again fans streamed out of the ground after seeing their side surrender again so timidly.
Donaldson was injured during the goal and needed treatment before being replaced which meant there was five minutes of injury time signalled by the fourth official. The fourth official was booed by the Sunderland fans for showing too much additional time which tells you everything you need to know. Jack Rodwell got a nice goal bonus at the death to go with his relegation proof weekly wage when he glanced a header past Blackman to give Sunderland a consolation they didn’t really deserve.
Final Score- Sunderland 1 Sheffield United 2
ALS Man of the Match – the fans who stayed at the end to boo
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