Sunderland’s 2-1 defeat to Burton Albion was a reality check for the Black Cats. It was also a defeat which many could see coming from a mile away.
Performances in recent weeks haven’t been good enough. The victory at AFC Wimbledon was not the most convincing and the following draws at home to Oxford and Fleetwood could have so easily ended in defeats. The repetitive nature of defensive mistakes is costing Sunderland and its little surprise they cropped up at the Pirelli, this time they made sure it would end in defeat.
The Black Cats have fallen behind in six or their eight matches so far this season so the fact that they’ve only lost on one occasion is slightly impressive. However, they are currently on a run of this happening in the last five games on the bounce. This run simply can’t continue if Sunderland are going to have a successful season. Defensive frailties are the main contributing factor to this.
A regular theme in most goals Sunderland concede is the way in which attacking players can get past their full backs with relative ease. It happened at Burton with Bryan Oviedo failing to keep tabs on his man and its happened in almost every match so far this season. The back four needs to be a solid quartet but as of yet a regular full back pairing has not been found. As well as Oviedo, Denver Hume, Adam Matthews, Donald Love and Tom Flanagan have been given a go in the wide positions. No two have looked convincing in the same side yet. It’s hoped that this will change now that there seems to be a first choice centre half pairing of Jack Baldwin and Glen Loovens which has helped create a sense of regularity in the back line.
The result at Burton would have been easier to swallow had Sunderland put up a fight. As they didn’t, it showed just how poor they could still play despite the positive start to the season. On paper they are still fourth in the table with just one defeat in eight matches, but promotions aren’t gained on paper. There is absolutely no need to panic if you’re a Sunderland fan, but it is time to realise (if you hadn’t already) that League One is not going to be as easier as previously anticipated. There will be plenty of ups and downs, better to get the bad days at the office out of the system sooner rather than later.