Bury 0-1 Sunderland Seven Things: a game of grit

Honeyman nets the winner – bbc.co.uk

George Honeyman netted his first goal for Sunderland, helping the Black Cats through to the second round of the EFL Cup with a 1-0 win at Bury – but what are the seven talking points from the game?

Using the left

We saw an end-to-end opening to the contest with both teams attacking down the left. Greg Leigh showed intent to push forward for Bury and combine with Harry Bunn as Tsun Dai fired over. Perhaps more threateningly, Sunderland constructed attacks by finding gaps in behind Bury’s wing-backs, often Craig Jones. Brendan Galloway and Wahbi Khazri both combined well on occasions with Aiden McGeady, the latter forcing a fine stop from Joe Murphy.

Congested midfield

After a lively start, the game became bogged down in midfield. Lewis Grabban, used to playing as a second striker, dropped deep while Nicky Ajose looked a tad languid out of possession, neither front man doing enough to occupy the centre-backs they faced. Sunderland had a lot of possession, Darron Gibson spraying passes around nicely, but neither he nor Didier Ndong made third man runs into advanced areas. This made it hard for the Black Cats to dislodge Bury’s sturdy back three

Bury’s impressive centre-backs

When Sunderland tried the direct approach, Adam Thompson, Tom Aldred and Alex Whitmore usually had the answer in the first half, even if they didn’t retain possession particularly well. They came under more scrutiny after the break though when the visitors got further up the pitch, pressing with more intensity.

Sunderland’s second half pressing

George Honeyman, tireless all evening, forced Aldred into a mistake but Khazri slipped when one-on-one. Honeyman was given a little more licence to roam after the break and was key to his team’s better moves, so perhaps it was fitting that he got their goal. After the Black Cats again stole the ball in an advanced area, a tidy move saw Honeyman dink the ball over the goalkeeper from close range.

Dawson’s influence

For the goal, Bury’s midfield showed a degree of naivety. Callum Reilly moved towards the ball but without his usual aggression while Tsun Dai, in an otherwise positive evening, was guilty of ball-watching. First half substitute Andrew Tutte is not the most combative player either, so it is questionable whether this lapse in concentration would have happened, were it not for Stephen Dawson’s 12th minute injury.

Bury need a target man

The Shakers pushed numbers forward after falling behind, but their balls into the box were gobbled up by John O’Shea due to the absence of a natural target man. Jermaine Beckford provided a reasonable presence but is more accustomed to poaching goals and his planned partner, James Vaughan, was on the other team in the second half. Vaughan had a couple of efforts against his old employers while fellow substitute Joel Asoro and Ndong had chances on the break, but one goal sufficed.

In summary

Both teams will take more encouragement from what they did without the ball than what they produced with it. For long spells, Bury quietened a team with remnants of top flight pedigree but offered little punch going forward, bar the odd burst from Bunn. Sunderland don’t yet look capable of dominating games at their level, but they at least have 11 players fighting for the cause. After the horrors of last season, that has to be considered progress.