Playing On Repeat

Sunderland’s first away trip of the season saw us travel to Portman Road to face recently relegated Ipswich Town. Despite finishing rock bottom of the Championship last season, they are definitely one of the favourites for promotion this time around. They also started their League 1 campaign with a 1-0 win, away to Burton Albion, thanks to a Luke Garbutt goal. Sunderland supporters were already far from impressed after a 1-1 draw at home to Oxford last weekend, so Jack Ross had to work his magic this time around, or the supporters would quickly lose patience.

In terms of the Sunderland line up, Jon McLaughlin started in goal once again with a back three ahead of him. Denver Hume started on the left side, as Jack Ross is still yet to recruit another left-back to challenge his position. Luke O’Nien started after being an unused substitute last weekend at the Stadium Of Light. The three central defenders were Tom Flanagan, Jordan Willis and Conor McLaughlin, the same as last weekend. Jack Baldwin was left out the squad once again, and Alim Ozturk was made to settle for a place on the bench. Dylan McGeouch and George Dobson both started in midfield, having played well last weekend. Aiden McGeady also came into the side, with Marc McNulty the only striker and Lynden Gooch on the right-wing after scoring the penalty last week to save us point. This meant that there was no place in the line up for Will Grigg.

The game was underway, and Ipswich had a very simple yet effective approach from the get-go. They fired long balls towards their front two, James Norwood and Kayden Jackson, who darted towards the Sunderland defence with pace. They also pressed quickly when we were in possession, forcing the long ball towards Marc McNulty, who was marked constantly by Woolfenden and Chambers. With just 15 minutes on the clock, Luke Garbutt got his second of the season having ran into the Sunderland box and snuck it just under Jon McLaughlin from a tight angle. It was obvious that Jack Ross’ system was not working, and this was going to spark a much-needed debate and further questions towards his tactics.

The fact that Ross changed the formation highlights just how badly his plan backfired. Although Sunderland did see more than enough of the ball in the first 45, it was another very disjointed performance and the away fans were inevitably unhappy with what they had witnessed. The second half had to improve or the score line could go from bad to worse for the black cats.

Chris Maguire was introduced at the interval and offered a much-needed threat towards the Ipswich defence that looked at ease in the first 45 minutes. Sunderland were fortunately able to level the score line after a defensive error, when Marc McNulty stole possession area before pulling it back to Lynden Gooch who tapped it into the net from close range. The home fans definitely felt hard-done by as Ipswich had been the better side for the majority of the encounter. The game finished with yet another 1-1 draw as both sides earned a point, our second of the season. Having had 19 draws last season, it is looking as if we are going to have a similar tally at the end of this one.

Even though most Sunderland supporters would be relatively happy with a point away to one of the strongest sides in the league, nobody can feel proud of that display. It was no improvement on the horror show in the first half against Oxford, and Ipswich generally looked comfortable when we attacked.

They also completely dominated in terms of shots, despite having a similar amount of possession. Jack Ross really has to play for a win next weekend against Portsmouth, otherwise many supporters will be quick to turn against him, with many already doing so. On the positive side, we are still unbeaten and still have time to bring in some signings window closes, with another left back being the priority. All we can do is keep the faith and hope that things work out sooner rather than later, and with our squad it shouldn’t be too much to ask?