Sunderland advanced to the next stage of the Carabao Cup after a 1-0 victory over Bury. A goal from the industrious George Honeyman was enough to seal the victory in a fairly dominant performance from SAFC. Honeyman grabbed his first goal for the club tonight, and it will hopefully be the first of many. We now face Carlisle away in the next round.
Many SAFC fans went into this season fearing the worst. Sunderland are a team very much in a transition phase, and with no real reference point as to how competitive our core group of players is at Championship level, half of us are hoping we can push for promotion while the other half is simply hoping to avoid a successive relegation!
The Derby match at the weekend put some of the anxiety to rest, as we looked pretty capable against one of the stronger sides in the league over the last three seasons or so. Having said that, who knows which players will be left at Sunderland when the window closes, and which players might arrive to replace them.
Sunderland would travel down to Bury having only visited there a couple of weeks ago during pre-season. While the Carabao Cup (Carabao is a type of energy drink, by the way) isn’t the type of competition you’re too bothered about staying in, losing at this stage of the season would only serve to halt any momentum we may have.
While fans expected a youthful side, the starting XI wasn’t as inexperienced as predicted.
Matthews Browning O’Shea Galloway
Gibson Honeyman NDong
McGeady Grabban Khazri
Sunderland started brightly with McGeady threatening from the outset. After cleverly beating two players, Aiden fired a shot at goal that was stopped well by the keeper. After impressing against Derby at the weekend, fans can’t help but feel excited at McGeady’s potential.
Bury’s sparse advances were awkward and panicked, and Lee Clark’s side suffered further problems when Steven Dawson went down injured after 10 minutes.
Jason Steele had a torrid debut against Celtic but retained his place in the season opener. He made a questionable decision when collecting the ball from high in the air, instead opting to jump and clear with his feet instead of catching it. It’s very important we aren’t too hard on Steele, but so far he has looked less than convincing at Sunderland.
George Honeyman was impressive against Derby and it was no surprise to see him start tonight. While George clearly has plenty of ability and could prove useful for us this campaign, it’s evident that he still has some way to go. For all his work ethic was brilliant, his decision-making was poor in the first half. However, that’s an attribute that can only develop with experience and confidence. He reminds me of how Grant Leadbitter looked in our Championship season under Roy Keane — talented but sheepish.
Sordid drunken video clips aside, Darron Gibson was a player I’d hoped would be moving on in the summer, after an awful showing for Sunderland last season. It was clear however from watching pre-match training in pre-season that he is now considered one of the senior players in the squad. He does have a lot of experience, but the mobility of a Tom Baker-era Dalek.
To Gibson’s credit, he was looking fairly comfortable on the ball during the first half against Bury. He was our pivot when playing out from the back, and had the strength and composure to break up attacks even with players running at him. It’s clear that players are afforded more time with the ball at Championship level, and I think Gibson could benefit from that massively.
Half-time arrived with Sunderland the side looking more like scoring, but failing to do so nonetheless. Wahbi Khazri failed to make an impact in the first half, which is incredibly disheartening given the quality we have seen from him against some of the top sides in England. I doubt he’ll remain at Sunderland through the transfer window, but it depends what Grayson thinks of him. Wahbi doesn’t strike me as a good trainer, which can count for quite a lot with new managers.
Grabban came off for James Vaughan at half-time, with Vaughan still looking for his first goal at Sunderland despite taking two penalties in pre-season. Vaughan actually played for Bury when we faced them at Gigg Lane just a few weeks ago, and presumably impressed to the extent that we decided to bring him in. As of yet, his quality has failed to show.
Typically, Khazri showed his intelligence by catching a defender on his heels and nicking the ball from his feet, before fluffing his lines completely. Wahbi rounded the goalkeeper but lost his footing on the slick surface and hit the turf while the ball rolled arrogantly out for a goal kick. The Sunderland fans behind the goal were quick to run over and offer Khazri some words of encouragement as he apologetically picked the ball up to restart play, which he seemed to appreciate.
Aiden McGeady was withdrawn after around 60 minutes, replaced by young Joel Asoro who is one of the brightest young prospects at the club. He’s lightning quick and clever with his feet, but Asoro is still built like a teenager and will probably struggle in the Championship. I imagine he’ll go out on loan before the window closes, while the heavier-built Josh Maja stands a better chance of selection in a physical league.
Honeyman was growing into the game brilliantly. His industrious performance was being rewarded progressively as the Bury players tired. He tracked back at each opportunity and gave the attackers additional options going forward, setting up Vaughan with a lovely backheel after beating his man. It was only fair that he was rewarded with a goal.
GOAL – Sunderland – George Honeyman – 69 minutes
Honeyman was slipped in and looked surprised to find himself unchallenged. With only the keeper to beat, but at a tight angle, he finished excellently with a deft dink over former-Sunderland stopper Joe Murphy.
With Gooch now on the field, Sunderland were suddenly looking fresh and dangerous. NDong was presented with the ball just outside of the area but unfortunately could not keep it down on the slick surface. Bury were happy to clear the ball and let us attack in waves, with nobody in their side fancying themselves as a ball carrier against the midfield pairing of Gibson and NDong, who both had been solid.
Aside from a late free kick from range, Bury offered little response to Honeyman’s goal, which had been a long time coming. While it may be an obvious thing to say, it was incredibly important for us to win this game after being dominant for large spells. Having the majority share of possession will mean nothing in the Championship, all that matters is the three points, and overcoming Bury in the cup will at least prove to be a confidence booster, especially for the young lads.
Grayson will be delighted with his side’s grit and will be vindicated by his team selection. George Honeyman will be the one to emerge from this match with the majority share of credit, but positive performances from McGeady, Browning, Gibson, and NDong were also great to see. Tonight was all about the performance and the result, but we’re still in the cup, if anyone cares about that.
Final Score: Bury 0-1 Sunderland
ALS Man of the Match: George Honeyman (Gibson first half)
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