Sunderland’s September in review: That’s more like it!

Matt Wilson takes a look at the second month of Sunderland’s season

Read our August review here


Overall Position: 4th
Played: 5
Won: 4
Drawn: 0
Lost: 1
Points: 12
Managers with Contract Extensions: 1
Managers Aware of Contract Extensions: 0

The month started in chaotic fashion, being as Transfer Deadline Day was September 1. Rumours were swirling the day before which, to summarise, involved lots of players who we knew were good leaving the club, and lots of players we’d never heard of coming in.

By the time the window “slammed shut” – and it was definitely a slam this time rather than a careful closing – we’d brought in exciting unknowns Nazariy Rusyn, Mason Burstow, Timothee Pembele, and Adil Aouchiche while losing Danny Batth, Lynden Gooch and, most notably, Ross Stewart.

With the latter, I think most of us had already resigned ourselves to his departure, but it still stuck in the throat to see him swap his red and white stripes from Sunderland to Southampton.

And who did we play the very next day? Were we a wounded animal, having just lost our main striker to the opposition? Or did they agree to a humiliating defeat as part of the deal? Either way, Sunderland started September in the best possible way… with the uncompromising demolition of Russell Martin’s Southampton.

Sunderland raced into an early lead courtesy of Jack Clarke and Pierre Ekwah – great news for us but frustrating for me as I missed both goals due to my daughter’s ‘Swim Tots’ lesson. Still I needn’t have worried, as there were more goals to come.

Ekwah added his second just before half-time, hammering a left-foot shot past Gavin Bazunu – Il a un pied comme un moteur de traction! – and Dack added another just after the break.

Then, in the 95th minute, Jewison Bennette put the icing on the piss-take with not one, not two, but three pirouettes, followed by a one-two with Dennis Crikin and a cross to the back post that was nodded in by 16-year-old Chris Rigg. A goal which made him Sunderland’s youngest-ever league goalscorer.

One of those annoying international breaks meant a two-week gap until the next game, this time away to Queen’s Park Rangers. At first it seemed like the break had been an unwelcome one as we went behind after 12 minutes.

Shortly after however, old flame Jack Colback, now in the hoops of QPR spontaneously combusted with a reckless challenge on future Ballon d’Or winner Jobe Bellingham. He was shown a straight red and the game swung back in our favour with Clarke grabbing the equaliser with a deflected strike from the edge of the area. Dan Ballard put us in the lead after the break, and Abdoullah Ba extended the lead with a lovely volley after a deep cross from debutant Aouchiche.

A chance to build further momentum came just four days later with another away day, this time at Ewood Park against Blackburn. Sunderland’s goal lived a charmed life in the opening stages, but Clarke won and converted a penalty somewhat against the run of play.

Blackburn continued to look the better of the two sides and equalised shortly after when Luke O’Nien and Trai Hume gifted Harry Leonard the freedom of Lancashire to nod home at the far post. The game could have easily been dominated by Blackburn from that point on but Sunderland’s persistence was rewarded when Dan Neil pinged a left-foot shot into the bottom corner on the stroke of half-time.

Some excellent saves from Anthony Patterson kept Rovers at bay and 15 minutes from time Jack Clarke did what Jack Clarke does best, driving forward into the opposition area, leaving a tangled mess of defenders in his wake, before rolling the ball into the corner in almost humiliating fashion. He could only have taken the piss more if he’d attempted the playground classic of walking the ball to goal-line and nodding it in with his head from the floor.

So it was three wins out of three in September… and we were up to 4th having started the month in 18th position.

Onwards and upwards? Well no, actually. We were brought down to earth somewhat just four days later at home to Cardiff. Not sure there’s much to say about this, other than we completely dominated the game with 66% possession, 16 shots and 6 of them on target.

But as your da (or any Soccer Saturday pundit) will tell you, only one statistic matters… and that’s non-penalty XG. Nar not really, it’s goals of course, and Cardiff got one, we didn’t.

Moving swiftly on and Sunderland had the perfect opportunity to get things back on track by facing bottom of the league, and basket-case club, Sheffield Wednesday. The morning of the game, Wednesday’s owner Dejphon Chansiri put out a statement to fans which contained such delights as “From now, I will not put additional money into the club” and “what have you done that is good for your club, why are you trying to harm it?” and finally “I may not have been born here and I will probably not die here”. Seems a bit overly-confident to me…

Anyway, if he was trying to get a reaction out of his players it spectacularly didn’t work as Dan Ballard rose highest to power home a header after just five minutes. Jack Clarke added another three minutes later, firing into the bottom corner after turning a couple of defenders inside out, natch, and then converted a penalty just after half an hour after Mason Burstow was felled in the area after a great turn. Game over.

The efforts of Callum Patterson, football’s oldest looking player even though he’s incredibly only 28 (!), and his teammates proved to be in vain as Sunderland rounded off the month with a fifth league win in seven – and a third away victory in a fortnight.

Safe to say September has been an immense improvement on the opening month of the season. Goals, wins, and in Jack Clarke a player operating at the peak of his powers.

The season is still young, pre-pubescent shall we say, but we’ve put ourselves in a fantastic early position to mount a promotion push.

October will provide further tests, particularly in the form of Leicester and Norwich, but the squad is looking strong and we appear more than ready for the challenge.