Five talking points from Sunderland’s defeat to Southampton

A second-half fightback wasn’t enough to stop Sunderland from falling to their sixth successive defeat on Saturday afternoon, as they lost 4-2 to Southampton at St. Mary’s.

Goals from Stuart Armstrong and Adam Armstrong in the first half had set Russell Martin’s side on their way to a pivotal three points in the race for automatic promotion.

However, second-half goals from Romaine Mundle and Jobe Bellingham had levelled the game, but two quick-fire strikes from Joe Rothwell sealed a big win for the Saints.

2WPWEEA Southampton’s Stuart Armstrong scores their side’s first goal of the game during the Sky Bet Championship match at St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton. Picture date: Saturday March 9, 2024.

Here, we look at five key talking points from Sunderland’s sixth consecutive defeat.


After an impressive second-half cameo on Tuesday night, everyone thought that Adil Aouchiche was all set up for his first start of 2024.

The Frenchman has been left out in the cold since his remarkable miss and free-kick giveaway at Portman Road, but against Leicester, he was pivotal in their second-half fightback; keen to make forward runs towards the Foxes defence and brought an energy to proceedings.

However, when the team news dropped at 2pm, many supporters would have been puzzled to see the inclusion of Chelsea loanee Mason Burstow starting up top for Mike Dodds’ side.

Burstow has failed to impress in his stint on Wearside with only one goal and continued to on the south coast, but had the youngster made better work of his early chances, it may have been a different day for the 20-year-old.


In two of Dodds’ three matches in his current spell in interim charge, poor starts have proved pivotal, as their run of defeats have continued to grow.

Here was no different.

In possession, the Black Cats were far too loose, and only averaged a 75% accurate pass ratio in the first half – the worst half average in Dodds’ more recent time at the club, and so, it was leading to a bombardment of Southampton attacks.

And without a focal point up top to aim for, or a creative playmaker that they can depend on, it was no over exaggeration to say that Southampton could have, and probably should have, put the game to bed in the first 45.

2WPWE3T Southampton’s Joe Rothwell (left) celebrates scoring their side’s fourth goal of the game along with Southampton’s Adam Armstrong during the Sky Bet Championship match at St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton. Picture date: Saturday March 9, 2024.


For about 10 minutes in this contest, you thought that Sunderland had what it takes to steal something, after their poor first-half showing.

Playing with a greater intensity and with more bodies in higher positions, Martin’s side were beginning to make mistakes, and finally, the Black Cats weren’t reliant on the absent Jack Clarke for answers.

Two long-range hits from Mundle and Bellingham had clawed them back into proceedings, but as they pressed in a hunt for the killer third, twice they were caught on the counter.

Rothwell bagged two simple finishes from clinical Saints counter-attacks, and once again, it was no points on the road for the Wearsiders.


With all of the response that was coming from the fanbase after Southampton’s first, where Bellingham seemed to head the ball back into the danger area untroubled, the midfielder needed something special to make up for it.

And when the ball dropped to him on the left side of the Saints half, a beautiful curling finish past a diving Gavin Bazunu levelled the match and added a touch of wonder to the game, but it, ultimately, was not enough as Martin’s team responded well themselves.

2WPWCW4 Sunderland’s Jobe Bellingham celebrates scoring their side’s second goal of the game during the Sky Bet Championship match at St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton. Picture date: Saturday March 9, 2024.


Six defeats on the bounce for any side is unacceptable, but for Sunderland’s expectations, it has led to the fans continuing to voice their criticism of the club.

They are now only the second side in the division to have lost their last six (bottom-of-the-table Rotherham are the other), and is the first time that they’ve lost six consecutive games since 2013.

It has ultimately led to their season slipping away fast with the play-offs becoming even further out of reach, and leads to an absolutely pivotal weekend as QPR visit the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon before the international break.