Sunderland Match Analysis: Charlton Apoplectic – A Tough Test Against A Taboo Team

A robust reminder that it isn’t always hunky dory being a Sunderland fan, no matter what the form table says – Melissa Johnson reflects on a game that wasn’t perfect, but isn’t permanent

Not these again. Like an irritating rash that won’t go away. I like to watch Quest on a Saturday evening and it is utterly rude that after a couple months of calm viewing that we have been robbed of Colin Murray’s passive complimentary hyperbole.

We knew this would be a tough game. Since Nigel Adkins, the Ned Flanders of the EFL, took charge of Charlton nearly a month ago, they have been going from strength to strength compared to the Lee Bowyer side that was starting to fray at the ends slightly.

This was not our worst performance by any stretch but it was the chances we didn’t take and the defensive mistakes that cost us the game. Within the first five minutes, Charlie Wyke had a great opportunity to put us ahead that drifted just past the post.

Charlie Wyke has been that memorable recently that he is one of my passwords at work (along with other characters so don’t get carried away), but he is now without a goal in five. It’s obviously not something to get too worked up at about at the minute but perhaps it does show us that he might not be the Jermaine Defoe for the breakfast bao bun generation, especially if we do go up.

We cannot avoid the conversation about the lack of actual defenders playing in the back four much longer. Not many teams around us could handle these kind of major disruptions like we have and still be not just competing but breathing down their necks with a game or two in hand.

This game does not define us, nor does it give us excuses to talk about how Parkinson created these problems in the table. Charlton had more experience in their side which can usually pepper some more positivity in their approach but it was the height in their starting eleven that played much more of a significant role.

Memories Of Camp

The first goal conceded was obviously a blow, especially for Lee Burge who for the most part, has improved immensely under Lee Johnson and dissolved the frustrating task of contemplating who our least woeful goalkeeper is. It’s the stuff of nightmares that brings back visions of Lee Camp and his wet hair in our sleep. Josh Scowen painfully sliced at it which felt incredibly typical of a game with the amount of pressure sitting on our shoulders.

The second goal we conceded was the one that will hoy people off into infinity more. A great head from Jayden Stockley who caused us problems all afternoon, but freely giving Gilbert two bites at the cherry in front of goal is not something I expected from a Sunderland side who haven’t lost in 19.

Multiple times we looked vulnerable to their set pieces which could be seen as understandable considering we aren’t flush with height in comparison. With Connor McLaughlin on the bench, it’s uncomfortable and frustrating to think that Lee Johnson wouldn’t choose to use him in this respect as a taller, natural defender to play with a back four.

This in a game where we had much of the possession and created chances from open play. Ben Amos played a blinder, especially with Wyke’s one-on-one attempt in the first ten minutes. Aiden O’Brien’s significant chance on the other hand at first looked like an incredible save but was aided with the fact that the keeper starfished out and was looking the other way like he hadn’t even realised what he had done.

Once we scored the most League One looking goal of all-time with Josh Scowen’s diving header from 40 yards out at 77 minutes, we piled the pressure on in their half but it was a case of too little too late.

Grief Bacon

There is a phrase in German ‘Kummerspeck’ that literally translates as grief bacon when you eat excessively when you are emotional. Make that grief M&S toasted ciabatta bruschettine by the time the game had finished.

For the neutral, it was a good spectacle. Not being a neutral meant it felt like your heart was in your mouth most of the time. When we were beaten by Shrewsbury way back when in February, my partner was so incensed that he had to take himself out of the situation and passive aggressively do the dishes to distract him. 25 minutes to go and 2-0 down against Charlton Athletic at home, he had the door closed and was sat on the floor arranging the condiments and herbs in the cupboard.

We made the most basic errors and gave the ball away cheaply often. Aiden McGeady created a few chances but I can’t help but think sometimes that I would like for him to make more use of the easier options.

I hate having games in hand. It’s our absolute Achilles heel and something we cling on to in times of need but the past has obviously proven that we would just rather have points on the board.

This isn’t over. It’s a punch in the stomach but it isn’t over. I don’t know whether getting used to Sunderland being so determined and awkward to get over the line, especially when we are usually playing twice a week, is something we have become accustomed to in such a short space of time, but it’s not a place of comfort we should be sitting in.

Football is uncomfortable and that’s why we beat ourselves up about it so much and decide to organise the condiments cupboard. If we have to play Charlton again this season, I will be thinking about just putting my head under the duvet and pretending football doesn’t exist.

We lost a game but it wasn’t to Peterborough or Hull. Just imagine Tuesday evening, Sunderland have just drowned Wigan and wore them like a cheap suit and the pubs are open. It’s the hope that hurts, but it also heals.

Melissa Johnson