In recent weeks, Sunderland have played very well against the big teams, yet haven’t been able to break down defences enough and take well deserved wins. Instead it had been five draws in a row coming into the big game with Villa at the weekend, a game that I personally predicted would be another inevitable draw, and I was not far off.

 

A moment of madness from Richard Dunne granted the lads a well-deserved lead from persistent attack and what was probably the last time we looked threatening in the entire game.

 

Darren Bent was not at his best and it is clear that the other players have to start pulling their weight and helping him, otherwise we are in trouble of becoming a one-man team, which could be very costly in the long run.

 

The midfielders lacked any real creativity compared to recent weeks, while the defence lacked composure and were ultimately bombarded by Villa dominance, which for the away side should have resulted in a goal on several occasions.

 

I am probably one of Emile Heskey’s biggest critics, but the Sunderland defence of Michael Turner and Titus Bramble made him look world class yesterday, as they couldn’t handle his strength or aerial presence. Ashley Young and Stewart Downing largely dictated play and the latter was unlucky to only strike the woodwork in the opening minutes.

 

As for any Villa penalty claims, I feel the foul on Nigel Reo-Coker was a penalty but a lot of people seemed to overlook the fact that Heskey was a long way offside in the build up to the attack. Secondly, Downing’s surge into the box may have drawn a leg from Phil Bardsley but there was no contact whatsoever and the England winger should have been yellow carded for his dramatics.

 

Okay, so we weren’t great on Saturday but the win was overdue after sterling performances in recent weeks. All attention on Wearside is now aimed to the Tyne-Wear derby this upcoming weekend and we need to seriously improve on our performance if we are to take much from the short trip up the road.

 

Bruce has to adopt a more attacking mind and divert away from his insistence on playing the lone striker, as an Asamoah Gyan and Bent partnership showed signs of class and presence against the Villa backline at the weekend.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.

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Premier League
Darren Bent