For Saturday's game the weather was quite warm, but there was a strong wind and the players were showing signs of perspiration rather than inspiration.
Sunderland welcomed back Richardson and Bendtner, in the following line-up: 22 Mignolet, 02 Bardsley, 04 Turner, 11 Richardson, 12 Kilgallon, 07 Larsson, 08 Gardner (Campbell - 78'), 14 Colback, 23 McClean, 28 Sessegnon, 52 Bendtner.
Wolves came to scrap, as their season would have been over with a defeat. It’s pretty well over for them anyway, and that can have a positive effect on a team, when the tension goes and the pressure is off. We forget that Wolves won their first three games this season, and they have been a bogey side to Sunderland in the past couple of years.
They featured: 01 Hennessey, 05 Stearman, 11 Ward, 16 Berra, 32 Foley (Zubar - 82'), 07 Kightly (Edwards - 76'), 08 Henry, 26 Davis, 37 Forde (Jarvis - 61'), 09 Ebanks-Blake, 10 Fletcher.
I know we plundered relegated Birmingham and Blackpool for players last season, and there was something of a hangover from that – but I like Fletcher and he could fill a striker role for us next season if Gyan does not return. He has scored 10 goals in a struggling team – more than any of our players, and I like his attitude.
The best move of the game came in the 16th minute, when Bendtner pushed up on the right, and passed the ball inside for Sessegnon who found McClean on the left of the box. Half a dozen games ago he would have scored, just like he did against Arsenal, but this time he pulled the ball wide of the near post. It was typical of McClean’s performance in the first half, he kept on picking the wrong option.
Sessegnon was lively as ever and shot from distance on 30 min. but the effort was affected by the crosswind, going just wide. He was prompting when he could, but there was not a real quality cross until the 40th when Sess passed out to Bardsley on the right, and he crossed for Bendtner to just miss. The Dane has impressed recently, and this was not his best game but I believe that Bendtner should have been seen in the box more, and not loping around 40 yards from goal. He is responding to coaching from Martin O’Neill, and to be fair he had an amazing game versus Man. City, when he was in the box when needed.
This was an almost half for Sunderland, and Bardsley almost scored in the 44th from distance. Overall, though, Wolves played well, showed a lot of fight, which carried on into their second half performance.
On 59 min, an excellent strike by Forde almost caught out Mignolet from distance. Just 2 minutes later Ebanks-Blake ran onto a sexy pass from Fletcher, but he pummelled the ball wide of the goal.
Wolves played for pride, as they are effectively down. They pushed the ball around intelligently in the second period, when Sess went off the boil a bit. Wolves made a few half-chances, but we of course were still in it. After a long period of possession, McClean met a Gardner cross on 72 min, for an excellent chance but Hennesey was up for it.
Mignolet made an instinctive save from a great header by Fletcher on 81 min, but we ended the game with a late, embarassing miss from Larsson on 88 min after Sess had set up the chance. The Swede did not have a good day, but there were several below-par performances from several of the Lads.
No goals in the last 3 games and we have been firing blanks upfront, with McClean running out of ideas, Bendtner dropping back and Sess not producing the goods. It is not a crisis, as we had two 0-0 draws in those 3 matches, but we used to be able to rely on the midfield to provide goals if the attack was failing. We need new ideas in that department, and quickly...
©Lars J.S. Knutsen
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