Sunderland were held to a disappointing 0-0 draw away at Northampton Town on Saturday afternoon. 

Head Coach Lee Johnson was disappointed with the levels of quality shown in the final third, allowing no excuses, despite the enforced break.

Sunderland were mostly passive in the game, playing sluggishly between the lines, which allowed the hosts to get back in numbers.

The Black Cats’ seemed susceptible to the counter-attack, too. Benny Ashley-Seal and Danny Rose occasionally stretched the Sunderland back line.

It meant that all round it was a disappointing affair for a Sunderland side who would feel they should be beating sides towards the bottom of the league.

Lack of quality in the final third

Lee Johnson’s top gripe with his side post-match was the lack of quality on display.

Aiden McGeady, Jack Diamond and Charlie Wyke started as a front three and, as they have shown so far this season, they have the potential to make something different happen.

The former Bristol City boss was disappointed with the overall quality of the performance. He told the club’s official website: 

“There was no excuses in terms of preparation. We were well prepared for the game.

“We had a couple of very very good chances that we should have taken.

“We showed plenty of physical guts, but nowhere near enough quality.”

Taking risks on the ball 

A key part of Johnson’s philosophy is his desire for players to play risky passes.

Other than Grant Leadbitter playing in set-piece balls, it was hugely lacking.

Max Power and Josh Scowen were happy to passively play the ball sideways which suits a side like Northampton, who are comfortable out of possession.

Jack Diamond, for all his pace and directness, did not see anywhere near enough of the ball. The midfield idly played it amongst themselves rather than injecting some of the young winger’s pace.

Full-back width

Dion Sanderson came in for Callum McFadzean and Denver Hume, both unavailable, at left-back. Conor McLaughlin played at right-back ahead of the injured Luke O’Nien.

Sunderland sorely missed the unavailable trio. For Sanderson and McLauglin’s defensively solidity, they are weak going forward and this hurt the side’s abilities to stretch the game.

Rarely were there overlaps in wide areas; Northampton’s defence were comfortable.

O’Nien and Hume are effective as they make opposition defenders commit before playing quality crosses in for Charlie Wyke.

Fortunately for Lee Johnson, he hopes to welcome back his usual full-back pairing in the coming weeks.