This is a cruel game. Over the international break, every Wanderer was saying the same thing: the next 3 games are everything. It seemed like the team agreed, and the first of these must-get-points matches was an emphatic 3-1 win away to Wigan. That match not only yielded a much needed 3 points, and an end to our losing streak, but also an encouraging team performance. There was a collective sigh of relief in the Wanderer ranks. Maybe the bad run could be put down to tough opposition, and our preseason goals could be achieved after all. Fast forward a week, and it's looking worse than ever, not because Bolton played particularly poorly, but because they didn't. This was not a particularly terrifying Sunderland team, and for 65% of the match play was fairly even. But Bolton failed to capitalise on multiple clear cut chances, and there was only so much the surprisingly solid duo of Cahill and Wheater could do against 20 minutes of Mackem pressure.
The White Men started brightly and only 2 minutes in, Chris Eagles was already causing trouble, as Wes Brown just managed to clear his dangerous cross. That set the tone for the first 20 minutes or so, and 10 minutes later, Darren Pratley shot just wide, after being beautifully teed up by David Ngog. That chance was the entire match summed up in 10 seconds for Bolton. There were really very good chances, but none were taken convincingly, and that came round to punish the Trotters.
The first half ended 0-0, which in the end was a fair reflection. Both teams were attacking, and play was quick, but neither was showing a lot of intent in the final third. While it was a decent start, Coyle needed to fire up the team at half time, and he appeared to do so as another lethal Chreagles cross found Petrov in space just 30 seconds into the second half. Petrov stubbornly stuck to the story line of the day, and sent it straight at Mignolet. Then the scrambling begun.
Wanderer hearts were in Wanderer throats as first Dedryck Boyata then David Wheater made blocks in a goal mouth scramble. That whetted Sunderland's appetite and for the last 20 minutes of the match they dominated play. It must be said that this was mostly a good performance by our defense. The pairing of Gary Cahill and Wheater performed massively with little to no help from the midfield. The goals were inevitable, and Bolton were rather lucky it was only 2.
The first came in the 82nd, as the Whites once again failed to properly deal with a corner and Sessegnon took advantage of this, slipping the ball past Jussi. Conceding appeared to momentarily spark Bolton, and they surged forward, only to end in Darren Pratley with an opportunity at goal sending it to an easy collection by Mignolet. As the commentator said, if he had put it anywhere else, it would've been a goal. In the 90th, Bendtner sealed it for Sunderland after Bolton failed to track back on a counter attack.
The really depressing part is that we weren't terrible today, we just weren't quite good enough. The exact same team that put in a skillful shift at the DW couldn't do the same today. It boils down to possession. Inept passing leads to turnovers, and then there's no one tenacious enough to tackle to get the ball back. Last season both Stu Holden and Kevin Davies did this, but Stu's injured and SKD is a shadow of his former self.
I don't want to be reactionary. I'm not calling for Coyle's head, or emotionally preparing myself for the Championship, but at the same time I don't have an answer. I don't know how to fix this team, and it appears Coyle doesn't either.