Sunderland travelled to The Sincil Bank Stadium to face Lincoln in a league fixture for the first time since 1961. This is just an insight as to how far we have fallen, but also just how much Lincoln have risen in recent years. The Imps’ settled for a steady 13th place finish in The National League back in the 15/16 season; the same season we survived the drop in The Premier League. However, these statistics were completely irrelevant heading into the game because it was two League One sides going head to head on an equal playing surface.
Last weekend, Jack Ross’ men were victorious 2-1 over MK Dons at The Stadium of Light, a positive result but overall another poor performance, especially in the second half. As always this didn’t stop the Sunderland supporters, with just under 2000 making the journey down to Lincoln to cheer the lads on. Jack Ross selected a completely unchanged line-up, with Aiden McGeady and Marc McNulty returning to the substitutes bench after missing out through injury. This meant that Luke O’Nien continued in midfield and Charlie Wyke started as the lone striker. Jon McLaughlin maintained his starting spot in goal, although some fans are hoping to see Lee Burge start in the coming games after he impressed at Bramall Lane not so long ago.
Michael Appleton’s Lincoln side definitely had enough ability to cause our defence problems. The highly rated Tyler Walker led their attack, having arrived on a loan deal from Championship outfit Nottingham Forrest. Jack Payne played just behind him, a player with great experience having played for the likes of Huddersfield Town and Blackburn Rovers. They didn’t lack experience at the back either, with Jason Shackell captaining the Imps’, a player with Premier League appearances to his name.
The opening fifteen minutes of the game gave both teams an opportunity in possession, but clear cut chances were minimal in what appeared to be a cagey affair. Unfortunately for us, that changed after just seventeen minutes. A cross into the box couldn’t be collected by Jon McLaughlin, as he raced to punch it away from danger but was beaten to it by Tyler Walker, 1-0 to the hosts. There were some claims for a foul on the goalkeeper, but the goal stood and it was a brilliant start for Lincoln. Other than that, there wasn’t too much to talk about. The only real first half opportunity for us arrived when Josh Vickers parried a powerful effort from Laurens De Bock away from goal. Things had to improve in the second half from our perspective and we’ve been made to say that on too many occasions already this season, something has to change!
Things would just go from bad to worse for The Black Cats from here. The skilful Bruno Andrade was fouled inside the box by Laurens De Bock, resulting in a Lincoln penalty to start the second half. Luckily for us, Tyler Walker’s penalty struck the inside of the post and rebounded to safety, a huge let off and hopefully a much needed wake up call. Jack Ross replied by welcoming Marc McNulty and Aiden McGeady to the field, as Lincoln had coped quite comfortably with our attack to this point. This didn’t change anything though, with things going even further downhill with just under an hour on the clock. Bruno Andrade caused further problems with a superb cross into the box, where Tyler Walker tapped the ball calmly into the Sunderland net to double the scoring, 2-0 Lincoln. From this point it was an uphill task to get back into the game and a task which we failed to start. The referee blew for full time, with a lot of frustrated Sunderland supporters making the journey back to Wearside.
It really was an embarrassing performance from our perspective, but that takes nothing away from just how well organised Michael Appleton’s men were. At this point we don’t really lack quality, we lack a system and structure, which really showed in this game. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that we have gone backwards from last season, as we sit in a disappointing sixth place after the opening eleven league games. Personally, I believe it is time for a managerial change as Jack Ross has had enough time to prove himself and his tactics have been costly on too many occasions. This doesn’t hide the fact that the players have been well below par, with some players seemingly losing interest and going missing in important fixtures.
We face Grimsby in the Football League Trophy on Tuesday night, a game with very little importance in the grand scheme of things. With takeover talks going quiet, it is unclear as to what the future holds for Sunderland Football Club.