Sunderland’s reliance on Jack Clarke compared to key men from Leeds, Southampton, Leicester and Ipswich

Jack Clarke has scored nine Championship goals this season, yet his Sunderland side couldn’t find a breakthrough against 10-man Swansea City.

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As Jack Clarke’s cross from a tight angle hit the side netting in the eighth minute of stoppage time at Swansea, Sunderland’s chances of snatching a late winner quickly evaporated.

The Black Cats had endured a frustrating afternoon in South Wales, playing against ten men for over an hour following Charlie Patino’s red card, yet couldn’t break their opponents down. To their credit, the hosts defended admirably in a 4-4-1 set-up, while Michael Duff’s side even had a golden chance to open the scoring when Jamal Lowe’s penalty was saved by Anthony Patterson on the stroke of half-time.

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Not even Jack Clarke, who has netted nine of Sunderland’s 24 league goals (including four penalties) this season, could find a way through. Still, this wasn’t the first time the Black Cats have struggled to break down a deep-lying defence.

Given his numbers last season, scoring nine Championship goals and providing 13 assists, it’s no surprise when teams double up on Clarke, with Swansea forward Liam Cullen dropping back to help right-back Harrison Ashby, who is on loan from Newcastle, at the Stadium.

It should be said that Sunderland could have scored multiple times in South Wales. Nazariy Rusyn and Dan Neil missed good chances before Patino’s red card, Patrick Roberts saw an effort tipped onto the post by goalkeeper Carl Rushworth, while Abdoullah Ba hit the crossbar.

Yet it did highlight Sunderland’s reliance on Clarke, who has scored 37.5 per cent of the side’s goals this season. That’s a higher percentage than any team’s top scorer in the top half of the Championship. Adam Armstrong has the second highest figure, scoring eight of Southampton’s 25 goals (32 per cent), while Kelechi Iheanacho has netted five of Leicester’s 29 goals (17.2 per cent), Nathan Broadhead has scored six of Ipswich’s 31 goals (19.4 per cent) and Crysencio Summerville has scored six of Leeds’ 25 goals (24 per cent).

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Of course there are two ways of looking at that, with Sunderland getting the best out player with excellent ability and Clarke stepping up further following Amad’s return to Manchester United in the summer. Still, it seems clear Tony Mowbray’s side will have to find goals from other areas if they are to sustain a top-six challenge.