Heading into Saturday's game with Leeds there was a distinct sense of optimism and even excitement buzzing around the Stadium of Light for the first time in what feels like forever. However fans and players alike were brought back down to earth when a drab, uninspiring performance was punished by a Leeds side who were also far from their best.
Sunderland had the best of the early chances and possession, starting early and fizzling out by the end, perhaps proving a common theme early in the season. Lewis Grabban rounded the keeper early on after some decent link up play with Vaughan, but saw his weak effort cleared off the line.
Samuel Saiz's opener on 21 minutes appeared to knock the stuffing out of Sunderland, who offered little in the way of attacking threat after that. Aiden McGeady looked lively and troubled the Leeds' defence on occasion, but his final ball failed to amount to any clear cut opportunities. George Honeyman failed to recreate his form of the previous couple of games, to me he looks a lot like Watmore when he first came into the side - the potential is there for sure but his general game looks to need much refinement, with often his first touch or a simple pass leading to a turnover in possession.
The one performance which really stood out for me, for all the wrong reasons, was that of Brendan Galloway. He looked like a man bereft of any confidence or defensive ability. Positionally he was all over the shop, he was weak one on one and was lucky not to cost the side anymore than he did. That said, he was unlucky not to set up the opening goal, with Grabban just inches away from tapping home the on loan Everton full back's cross.
Man of the match is a tough call, I thought Tyias Browning and Lamine Kone both put in a decent performance at centre half, I was very impressed too with Browning's competence on the ball and for that reason he just pips Kone for me.
Other notable mention: McGeady, seems to be turning into a real fan favourite. The Irishman worked his socks off coming deep for the ball in an attempt to get us up the pitch, he entertained the crowd, he tried to make things happen in the final third and I suppose he was unlucky that a lot of what he tried didn't come off. Maybe on another day it would've.
There's promising signs going forward, but we're still a work in progress undoubtedly. We're competing well with sides who have pushed for the play-offs in recent years and there wasn't two goals difference in the teams - it was a pretty even game. We are, however, probably still a couple of players short, we really seem to trail off toward the end of games. It is evident that if we are going to continue to press teams the way we do early on we are going to have to take the chances we create before we fizzle out.
There's also a distinct lack of quality on the bench, hindering our performance late in games. Potential loan moves for Scottish pair Ross McCormack and Robert Snodgrass may rectify this problem, adding proven quality and attacking flair to the team which could leave the likes of Honeyman as an impact sub when the opposition are flagging a bit, a role I think his current ability better suits.
Following the Leeds game I definitely feel knocked down a peg or two, I expected more after the start we've had, but if somebody had offered you 5 points from 4 games you'd definitely have took it. I'll look forward to seeing if we can get a few players over the line before the end of the window as I really think that's what'll shape our season, hopefully culminating in a push for the play-offs. However, five games in I am fairly confident that even with failure to bring in some quality players we're not going to be scrapping down the bottom come May.
It's going to be a long season, but if early indications are anything to go on, it could well be an enjoyable one!