Connor Wickham celebrates his goal.
Connor Wickham celebrates his goal.

THE ‘nearly-but-not-quite’ nature of this evolving Sunderland side was underlined by another ‘nearly-but-not-quite’ home performance.

Steve Bruce’s men played well enough to win but in the end were grateful of a draw.

The big, and as yet unanswered question this season, is when will all the ingredients of a very good side finally come together?

And when it does, will it be a recipe for success for Sunderland?

The likely answer is that it will, although extra spice may be needed in the next transfer window or two if this new squad is to reach it’s full potential.

A dash of pace here, such as Villa demonstrated, a sprinkling of unpredictability and skill there, the addition of a fourth striker of absolute top quality, in the mould of the ones they’ve lost this year...

But what’s encouraging is that the squad has shown signs of finding its feet in recent weeks – the game against Villa continuing that trend.

And while Sunderland’s final league position this season is anyone’s guess, Bruce’s new side look as though it will have just a little too much going for it to get dragged into relegation trouble.

The same can be said of an Aston Villa side that have lost the considerable talents of Stewart Downing and Ashley Young this summer after enduring a poor campaign by their own standards last season.

Read Graeme Anderson’s full match report in today’s Sportmail.