Five takeaways from Sunderland’s defeat to Norwich

Sunderland fell to a fourth consecutive defeat on Saturday, as they lost 1-0 to Norwich City at Carrow Road.

Josh Sargent’s 81st-minute strike was all that separated the sides, as the Canaries pulled closer to the top six and the Black Cats drifted further away from it.

2WNF8TF Sunderland’s Romaine Mundle battles for the ball against Norwich City’s Kenny McLean during the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road, Norwich. Picture date: Saturday March 2, 2024.

Here, we look at five key talking points from Saturday’s action:


Heading into the weekend, the Black Cats were three games without a win, and Mike Dodds’ interim spell in charge began with a frustrating home defeat to Swansea City last weekend.

Before kick-off, the gap between Sunderland and the play-offs was already eight points, and with their defeat in East Anglia and results elsewhere, the distance has opened to nine: a mammoth points tally to overhaul in their final 11 matches.

For supporters though, the real cause for frustration is the performances that don’t seem to be yielding any confidence that this side truly has what it takes this season to gain another top-six spot.


Post-match last weekend, Dodds admitted that his back-five experiment didn’t work, and here, it was no surprise that he reverted to their standard back-four.

Dodds changed the system at half time in his first match back in charge, and at Carrow Road, he stuck with the same personnel.

The interim head coach has reiterated that he may use his back-five system at some point in the final 11 matches of the season, but only if the opposition suits.

2WNFX8A Sunderland’s Jenson Seelt reacts after the final whistle during the Sky Bet Championship match at Carrow Road, Norwich. Picture date: Saturday March 2, 2024.


Sunderland’s striker issues have been a real backdrop to their season, and on Saturday, it showed no signs of going away.

Luis Hemir was given his first start since the opening day after impressive cameos and training, but never really posed a threat to the Norwich backline.

At times, he was too isolated and never really got any service from a forward line that was keen on playing through the sides of the Canaries with Romaine Mundle and Callum Styles.

With Hemir yet to score this season, the goal tally for the club’s strikers stands at three for the campaign – a stat that is one of the lowest in the division and must improve should Sunderland have hope of reaching the Premier League in the future.


For all of the negatives associated with this performance, for 81 minutes Sunderland held firm against a tough opposition.

David Wagner’s side had netted eight times in their last two home matches, and haven’t lost at home since early-November, so for the Black Cats to be as defensively resolute as they were, credit must be given to them.

However, a defensive error ultimately cost them what may have been a good away point, as Leo Hjelde struggled to clear a long ball into the penalty area, allowing Sargent to eventually fire past Anthony Patterson.

2WNFKXY Josh Sargent of Norwich City celebrates after making it 1-0 with Sydney van Hooijdonk of Norwich City during the Sky Bet Championship match between Norwich City and Sunderland at Carrow Road, Norwich on Saturday 2nd March 2024. (Photo: David Watts | MI News) Credit: MI News & Sport /Alamy Live News


After four consecutive defeats now, Dodds would have been looking for a slightly easier fixture schedule than facing two of the league’s top four back-to-back.

Leicester are visitors to the Stadium of Light on Tuesday night, and they themselves also have a point to prove after three consecutive league defeats of their own. The gap has tightened between the Foxes and the chasing pack of Ipswich, Leeds and Southampton, and so the need for three points is paramount for Enzo Maresca’s side.

Then, on Saturday, the Black Cats face one of their longest away journeys of the season to St. Mary’s to face Russell Martin’s Saints.

It doesn’t get much easier for Sunderland after this poor run of form, but fans will expect a response so this season doesn’t fizzle away.