Sunderland sold Jordan Pickford to Everton for £30million in the summer. The Washington-born stopper has quickly established himself as the Toffees No.1 and stands in the way of Sunderland progressing to the fourth round. Simon Grayson is short of attacking options, James Vaughan opened his account against Hull and will want to play, though Grayson may be tempted to rest him ahead of the huge home game with Cardiff City this weekend. If selected, can Vaughan get the better of Pickford tonight?
The Black Cats boss faced criticism from fans who felt Sunderland handed the initiative to their opponents following an impressive first-half showing.
Grayson reiterated that their were mitigating factors and says picking up results can help prevent it from happening again.
He said: “After the game I was happy that we got the point to break the run of defeats, but ultimately I was disappointed we didn’t win the game because for large parts we were comfortable.
“It was down to Hull to do something in the second half because of how comfortable we had been – they changed the system and brought different personnel on, which was testament to what we had done.
“Second half we were probably too deep, we needed to retain the ball better but you have to give them credit for what they did.
“We ran out of steam with the three forward lads, there was a lot of factors.
“Would I have loved to have brought on more attacking options? Of course I would. If you can get someone on who can carry the ball up the pitch, it can get you 40, 50 yards, it gives the back four the opportunity to get out and into a position of the pitch where you want to be.
“It’s those factors from a playing perspective that I mentioned but a mental thing as well – if you’ve not won you can get anxious.
“It happens at any club when you’re not winning. You can sit back and invite pressure and you can concede.”
Grayson remains confident that his team are improving and adapting to his demands.
Despite just one point from their last two games the Black Cats have made improvements, particularly in defence, and the Black Cats boss believes things will turn as his side continue to deepen their understanding of each other’s games across the pitch.
He said: “I think all along it has been about players settling in, getting understandings and relationships as well. Any sort of continuity you get through the group will help you, players get an understanding of what one another is going to do.
“Sometimes once you get those it can all happen very naturally, a pass or a phase of play happens without you having to really think about it.
“You get an understanding of runs you’re attackers are going to make, the defence gets that understanding of when to push up and when to cover each other.
“Get continuity in team selection and it will help.”
The recent two league games have also seen a surprise return to action for right-back Adam Matthews,
After a string of loan spells, Matthews’ career on Wearside looked to be as good as over, particularly as he struggled to fight his way into the side at the start of the campaign.
He has impressed in the last week, however, and Grayson says it underlines his message that every player has a clean slate this season.
“I said when I came in that was a clean slate for everybody and whoever does well will get an opportunity to play,” he said.
“Adam hasn’t let us down in these games that he’s started. He’s done well in pre-season, the Checkatrade trophy, in training, and all of those factors come in when it comes to selection.
“He’s stepped in and done well.”