Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Just No Defence for This Madness; MATCH ANALYSIS: Sunderland 4 Coventry City 5

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Just No Defence for This Madness; MATCH ANALYSIS: Sunderland 4 Coventry City 5

Article excerpt

Byline: JAMES HUNTER Sunderland writer james.hunter@reachplc.com @JHUNTERCHRON

THE flags in the Roker End which greeted the Sunderland players as they emerged from the tunnel at the weekend were a sight to behold.

By full time it was the Black Cats' automatic promotion challenge which appeared to be flagging.

A 5-4 defeat on home soil against Coventry followed a midweek draw against Burton Albion, also at the Stadium of Light, and prompted an understandable outbreak of jangling nerves on Wearside.

Nerves should not give way to blind panic, however.

Sunderland are third in the table, two points outside the automatic promotion places with a game in hand of the top two sides.

They have five games remaining and know if they win all five they will finish in the top two.

That said, they have to face play-off chasers Doncaster Rovers at home on Good Friday and automatic promotion rivals Portsmouth at home just over a week later - and suddenly those games look anything but straightforward.

Before the Wearsiders can look ahead, however, Jack Ross must first make sense of the madness which unfolded here.

That process must start with an inquest into the defensive meltdown which made Coventry - one of the lowest-scoring sides in the division before their visit - look like Barcelona every time they came forward.

Not since Manchester United hit five at Roker Park in November 1981 had Sunderland conceded five goals at home in a competitive game.

Coventry helped themselves to five with a combination of ruthless finishing and - more importantly - disastrous defending adding up to a perfect storm. People can point to tactics, formations, a lack of protection from midfield and come up with all kinds of theories.

The simple truth is if your back four, and particularly your centre-backs, do not do their jobs correctly you are holed beneath the waterline. …

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