Sunderland drew 0-0 with Northampton in the most boring game in the history of football. The lack of quality and match fitness was, unfortunately, there for all to see…
Lee Johnson had this to say afterwards: "The way they play is very direct, the pitch is conducive to a direct game rather than a footballing game. There's no ball boys, those little bits, we knew the ball was going to be in play nowhere near as much as we needed to build a rhythm. However, when we did have those good moments and we did, particularly in the first half down the flanks where there was the chance to produce a bit of quality, I can only think of a chance for Wyke and a delivery from McGeady. I thought Charlie should then have scored his chance in the second half but apart from that, there wasn't an awful lot. They condensed the pitch, played very direct, and so it's important that you score the first goal so they have to come out, and we didn't.
LJ on why we played so shit…
"I don't think there was a lack of endeavour, we just lacked a bit of quality in key moments and that seems to be a bit of a repeat in terms of the season so far. It's hard to say whether fatigue and the virus was a factor, obviously matchday is very different to training. They've looked OK in training. I think there's a couple who need to be a bit brighter and believe in it a little bit more, and that's the bit where I'm seeing a bit of inconsistency. One day we're up and believe, and the other we don't quite. That's inevitably why we're at this level and that's what we've got to change by coaching and also instilling that confidence. We had enough chances to counterattack [in the game]. They weren't a side that sat on the edge of the box, they tried to press high and we broke their press three or four times. We burned those situations through bad giveaways. I couldn't understand why there was only one and three minutes of added time and I'll look at that. It's very hard to build a "rhythm in a game like that, which is why the first goal is so important."
With Callum McFadzean still recovery from the virus, Dion Sanderson covered at left back.
"Dion did well," Johnson said. "They're a very big side. Callum was the one who was a bit of a double dip with the virus, so we felt it was the right thing to do in terms of taking him out. Dion acquitted himself well physically and tactically. At the moment we haven't got a left footer in the team. I nearly put Embo in there but the only thing is, the sheer height of their side, it only takes one delivery to leave us short in our box. As a manager you're always playing that risk-reward and at the end of the day, it is a point. We know what we have to improve on, either by coaching or recruiting.”
“We do look solid. It's a balance between those attacking moments and that final ball. It's the movement and the disruption of the back four, and I don't think we did that enough. We've got a lot of players who want to come to the ball and not many who want to run in behind. We made a lot of good decisions in a defensive sense today, and not many in an attacking sense. As frustrated as I am, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. You don’t get a job in exceptional circumstances in terms of being top of the league or anything like that. There’s obviously stuff to do, and it’s been very bitty in my tenure. I’m trying to hold my composure despite my passion and wanting us to do well. I’ve got to make sure I’m the first to believe in the group as we continue to push forward."
Defensively, the gaffer was happy…
"I felt very comfortable in the boys’ defensive set-up, and that is going to be important. Clean sheets are very important because they give you a platform to build on a performance. It’s almost like in life when you can trust everyone at the back, then you’ve got the power to go and be creative on the back of that. That's the bit where we just need a little boost and a bit of belief. You haven’t got to get too frustrated, sometimes, I feel as though we’re taking our shots slightly too early. Having done the work, take your time to get your foot through it properly. It’s those little bits we need to bump up and improve as we go along."