ONSIDE: Derby defeat poses questions for Sunderland

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Three simple questions came into my head last night as I travelled home on the supporters bus with my fellow downhearted, angry and frustrated Sunderland fans following the defeat to Middlesbrough.

Normally, when coming away from a defeat, we assess the game and put the team right, talk about what we did wrong and what our side should have done, according to our amateur minds at least.

Sunderland V Middlesbrough, Capital One Cup, 0-1 Stadium of Light. Picture by FRANK REID

Sunderland V Middlesbrough, Capital One Cup, 0-1 Stadium of Light. Picture by FRANK REID

Now I said three questions, but there are a lot more.

First up - why didn’t we go forward?

Martin O’Neill decided to play with two strikers in Steven Fletcher and Louis Saha, but you could clearly see it was the job of one to drop back 10 yards and play in the “Stephane Sessegnon” role while the Benin international played wide right.

David Vaughan came into the side, but I have said before that he and Jack Colback are just two crabs who only ever go sideways and go into their shell when the other team are on top.

We did not once look like we were going to take a risk and put the ball into the final third through the middle or put the ball into feet or pass through their defence, creating an opportunity for one of our attacking options.

Verdict: Not good enough.

Why can’t we score?

Fletcher, who apparently “scores when he wants”, is still on five goals and those five came from inside the box.

Adam Johnson provided a cross last night and the target man’s header had to be saved by Middlesbrough keeper Jason Steele.

That was probably one of the only times we carved out an opportunity by getting the ball in the box, instead of turning around and looking for one of the back four.

Verdict: Not good enough.

After Boro, how is our season looking?

It may have been below par, but remember that we have only lost once in eight league games this term, so we are difficult to beat.

On the other hand, since March 24 against QPR we have only won one Premier League game.

Martin O’Neill is an intelligent and experienced manager and I think he will do a great job in the end.

Maybe he is building from the bottom and rightly starting from scratch, but with a worse record than the ousted Steve Bruce, fans are beginning to call for his head.

Ellis Short should be expecting a knock on the door from O’Neill in the coming weeks asking for funds to bring in either another striker or creative midfielder, but will the American be willing to back the Ulsterman with funds if we are not able to take at least 13 points from the next possible 18?

Verdict: Uncertain.

- Martin Dunn