Black Cats stopped the rot – however questions remain about their squad
Hull City 1 Sunderland 1
SUNDERLAND’S losing run is over but for the second game running they conceded a late goal to one of their former players.
With Fraizer Campbell on the bench, it looked for all the world like the Yorkshireman might “do a Daryl Murphy” but instead it was David Meyler – another who came off the bench – who settled the game.
On the back of four straight defeats, the Black Cats should perhaps be happy just not to have added to that statistic, and they could not claim that Hull City did not deserve it for their second-half performance.
But it was a game Sunderland had been on top of having taken the lead through James Vaughan’s first goal for the club in the first half, and they will be annoyed that having been ahead for over an hour, they were unable to close out victory against another relegated side who have not had the best time of it since dropping into the Championship.
We have known for some time this team was a work in progress, so what Adam Matthews is first choice are the lessons that can be drawn from another painful experience?
Substitutes were the decisive factor in this game, with David Meyler coming off the bench to snatch a point for the Tigers.
It has been clear for some time that Simon Grayson does not think much of the players who sit on his bench, and he was again slow to use them.
Leonid Slutsky had made all three of his available changes before Grayson acted. Jack Rodwell came on with only 15 minutes left, followed by Billy Jones to lock the door and Lynden Gooch to try and prise it open again after that failed to work.
Slutsky’s changes were significant beyond Meyler finding the net, changing the shape of his team and the game in the second half as Hull went from 3-4-2-1/5-4-1 to a back four and far better use of their width.
Meyler was voted Hull’s man of the match.
Grayson’s use of substitutes has been a concern so far, and yet again he was found wanting.
CONSISTENCY THE PROBLEM FROM SUNDERLAND’S GOALKEEPERS
Neither Robbin Ruiter nor Jason Steele have looked convincing between the posts for Sunderland, both capable of making good saves, but seemingly incapable of looking rock solid for 90 minutes.
Ruiter’s first-half performance in East Yorkshire was the best yet by a Black Cats goalkeeper this season – at least in the Championship.
But as the game went on he seemed to lack the mental stamina required by a keeper under the cosh, and was ultimately to blame for Meyler’s equaliser.
Ruiter’s handling was assured in the first half, alert to come off his line and agile enough to get in the way of Ola Aina’s shot. The linesman’s flag meant it was irrelevant, except for the good it will have done for the confidence of his back four.
The touch with his left hand to deny Grosicki ten minutes into the second half was even better – and this time it was very much needed with a goal seemingly inevitable.
But he was lucky Fraizer Campbell did not punish him with 11 minutes left for wandering off his line without taking the ball, and how much Meyler’s goal was down to sloppy defending, how much down to a deflection off Lamine Kone is open to debate. What we do know is that Sunderland are still to keep a Championship clean sheet.
JAMES VAUGHAN IS UP AND RUNNING
James Vaughan has been working hard up front for Sunderland this season, but there is only so much use in having a goalless striker, particu- Sunderland players celebrate the larly when those around him are not exactly smashing them in left, right and centre.
The biggest worry about Lewis Grabban’s hamstring injury was that it put too big a burden on the shoulders of a player who has rarely looked like finding the net for his latest club, but given the sort of cross centre-forwards like him love to feed off, he was able to head his side in front in the first half.
We did not get the chance to see what the goal meant for Vaughan’s finishing in front of goal but hopefully when we do, this will make a big difference. A first goal for their new club is important for every striker.