Robbie Stockdale and Billy McKinlay took the reins for the Sunday dinnertime clash at the Riverside on Sunday, following Simon Grayson’s dismissal on Tuesday night.
The interim managers started four holding midfielders and set out for a draw. Lee Cattermole returned and Darron Gibson retained his place, James Vaughan and Duncan Watmore weren’t fit enough for the bench whilst Billy Jones started over Adam Matthews. Sunderland born Grant Leadbitter captained Boro.
The first chance fell for the visitors as Didier Ndong picked up the ball a long way out and drove a powerful shot at Darren Randolph, who spilled it on a silver platter for Lewis Grabban but the Irishman recovered to deny Grabban from only a few yards out. In all honesty, Grabban should’ve buried the chance; it would later cost the Black Cats.
Not five minutes later, youngster Marcus Tavernier put the Teesiders in front. Denmark international Martin Braithwaite ran onto a through ball with Marc Wilson caught sleeping,letting the summer recruit to get to the byline and cross. Cattermole had let Tavernier run into the area. Jones then allowed the Boro academy star get in front of him and knock it past Dutchman Robbin Ruiter.
The home side sat back and didn’t really attack, as they knew Stockdale had set up with nine defensive minded players.
Ndong, who started on the right, made a run and played a squared pass to Aiden McGeady on the edge of the area, his shot forced a save from his international teammate Randolph. McGeady then delivered a fizzing free kick which found Grabban’s head, forcing the Boro goalkeeper into a fantastic save but the striker was offside anyway.
In the second half Boro started on the front foot as Cyrus Christie made a darting run from full back; Cattermole stupidly dove in, taking himself out of the game. Christie played in Braithwaite who should’ve scored but Ruiter made a decent save.
Former Sunderland loanee Stewart Downing hit a free kick and it would’ve been two if it weren’t for a mixture of Ruiter and the post.
Sunderland had a chance to equalise when a surging run from Costa Rican left back Bryan Oviedo found McGeady who struck first time, only for it to fly wide of the Randolph’s goal.
Stockdale’s substitutions cost the visitors any chance of getting back into the game; George Honeyman came on and ran round like a headless chicken for 35 minutes, the Prudhoe born winger came on for Ndong when it really should’ve been Cattermole or Gibson. Jonny Williams then came on and was near enough ineffective; Callum McManaman was perhaps the better option as the game was crying out for width. I’m not claiming to be Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho but near enough everyone in that away end and everyone watching on TV could see what was required.
The game ended with the Mackems making the short trip down the A19 bottom of the league. Even with the dismissal of Grayson, there was no change in outcome, and that doesn't seem likely until a permanent manager is appointed.
During the week, owner and chairman Ellis Shot came out in an interview for SAFC.com and claimed that “we’re in crisis and the issue is the performance on the pitch.” Although some people on social media have claimed Sunderland played better I’d personally beg to differ. The Wearsiders still failed to keep a clean sheet, failed to score, and failed to put in any effort. Garry Monk’s side were far from spectacular and looked like a team that were lower down in the division.
Ruiter: 6, Jones: 2 (Matthews ’28), Wilson: 3, O’Shea: 3, Oviedo: 5, McNair: 4, Ndong: 4 (Honeyman ’55), Cattermole: 2, Gibson: 3 (Williams ’77), McGeady: 4, Grabban: 4
Matthews: 3, Honeyman: 2, Williams: 2