Former Sunderland defender Gary Bennett says that Phil Parkinson will have been concerned by the lack of creativity he saw from the Black Cats during their 2-0 defeat at Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night.
Two goals from Jonson Clarke-Harris were enough to secure all three points for Bristol Rovers at the Memorial Stadium in midweek, meaning it is now four games without a win for Parkinson’s side, who are now outside the League One play-off places on goal difference.
Having stuck with largely the same side in recent weeks, Parkinson did change things up somewhat on Tuesday night, with January signings Antoine Semenyo and Josh Scowen both handed their first starts for the club.
Ultimately however, that was not enough to bring about a return to winning ways for the Black Cats, and reflecting on their performance in midweek, Bennett told BBC Sport’s Sunderland AFC Podcast: “You talk about freshening up the team and making a couple of changes.
“You bring in Josh Scowen and Antoine Semenyo who looked lively but we just didn’t have any direction or any shape to our team.
“We looked half a yard short, we didn’t win our individual battles and we got caught up in the way that Bristol Rovers wanted to play, and they’re better at it.
“We were second best and it was the 96th minute before we had a shot on target.”
Assessing just what Parkinson will have made of his side’s struggle to create chances against a side badly put of form, Bennett – who spent 11 years playing for Sunderland between 1984 and 1995 – continued: “We didn’t have that sort of artistry – somebody who’s creative or can make something happen.
“I think that Phil Parkinson will have learned something about the team because on that performance it’s not good enough.”
Next up for Sunderland in their battle for promotion to the Championship is a trip to Bloomfield Road to face Blackpool on Saturday afternoon.
I do find myself agreeing with Bennett here.
Given Bristol Rovers had won just one of their last 18 matches in all competitions prior to that match with Sunderland, this would have felt like a big opportunity for the Black Cats to get back to winning ways in the race for promotion.
That fact therefore that they were unable to take that chance ought to be a big concern for Sunderland, and the nature of the defeat is not going to help the mood around the club either.
Considering their struggles to even create many chances against a side so out of form, it is hard to see how they will pose a threat to some of the stronger sides they will have to face between now and the end of the season, meaning you have to worry somewhat for their hopes of promotion.