Sunderland failed to capitalize on their with at Fulham last week by falling to a frustrating defeat to high-flying WBA at the Stadium of Light. Well, we were due a good false dawn, I guess. Anyway, here is what we made of it.
What The Gaffer Said
Martin O'Neill managed to keep a lid on his frustration following the game. He told safc.com:
We gave some crazy goals away today but there was a big fightback from us in the second half.
After going behind we were trying to force the issue for most of the game and that left gaps at the back, which West Bromwich Albion were always going to try and exploit.
For the second goal, Simon [Mignolet], who has been faultless for us all season, was very unlucky and from there we had an uphill task.
We reacted strongly in the second half. We put absolutely and utterly everything into the game and almost forced a third goal just before they scored.
For them to be awarded a penalty when we had the impetus didn't help. It did knock us back but we came back again - we showed spirit and fight.
The fourth goal came because we had everybody piled in their half looking for the equaliser.
After having our confidence restored on the back of our recent performances I thought we might have been able to get the win today.
That confidence did show, but we were hit with those goals at a crucial time.
We'll be ready to go again on Tuesday.
Steve Bruce developed quite a reputation for making excuses in his time at Sunderland but this was more analytical from O'Neill, although I could understand those who saw it as not different from what his predecessor used to offer.
What is apparent, however, is the determination to emphasize the positives. Mignolet's fine form, a much more confident attacking display, and the character to chase the game.
I am sure he is as frustrated as the rest of us inside, but moping certainly isn't going to help anyone.
Bad Goals, Worse Times
There is never really a good time to concede a goal but these were veritable hammer-blows. Someone sticking a pearler in the top corner of your net from nothing can happen at just about any time at this level. We felt the benefit of that ourselves last week at Fulham.
The Gera goal itself you can take on the chin, but to lose another so quickly afterwards made it a mountain to climb.
The same could be said of the second half, too. After Gardner pulled a goal back the momentum was with Sunderland and the opportunity there to push for an equalizer, yet the wind was taken from the sails again with another soft goal.
All in all, a game we were simply never destined to win.
The frustration was further felt when that vital third WBA goal was the result of a fairly shameless dive from Liam Ridgewell. I must admit that at the time I thought it was a foul.
The TV replays, however, clearly showed zero contact from Adam Johnson who appeared to be attempting to block the expected cross rather than challenge for the ball.
You could argue that it was naive to go to ground like that in the box all you want, but the fact remains that no offence was committed. In the context of the game it was a huge moment and it went the wrong way. Those are the breaks, I suppose.
All season long we have bemoaned our lack of goal attempts on target. We have been bombarded with stats labeling us the most shot-shy club in Europe on an almost weekly basis now.
This weekend no club in the Premier League hit more shots on target than Sunderland. The problem was just about solved. We looked a genuine threat.
Fine time for the defence to get leaky! Not sure Sunderland actually gets much more typical than that.
Colback In Need Of Rest
We are big fans of Jack Colback here on Roker Report but it is becoming increasingly apparent that he needs a rest. He has lost a little zip to his game and is starting to look laboured.
It is a similar situation that we saw with Jordan Henderson a couple seasons ago, really. He didn't get the rest and never really got back to his best. We should be wary of history repeating itself.
With David Vaughan waiting in the wings, there could not be a more like-for-like replacement available. Now would be a good time to use it, even with Cattermole's injury taken into consideration.
Sess Is BACK!
If there was one major positive to come out of the game for Sunderland then it was the return to form of Stephane Sessegnon.
He has threatened it for a few weeks now, and has had decent spells in recent games, but this was the first time he has put it all together for a full performance.
Hopefully he can maintain it, because when Sessegnon is on top of his game, good things - and entertainment - tend to follow.