Sears’ Sunderland display was far from perfect... but it was definitely a step in the right direction
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He may not have actually got his name on the scoresheet, but yesterday’s victory at Sunderland should act as a massive confidence booster for Freddie Sears.
Given a rare start at the Stadium of Light, having not found the net in 292 days, 29 appearances and 1,134 minutes heading into the contest, the former Colchester man was mobbed by his team-mates after forcing the pressure which led to Adam Matthews’ own goal just before the break.
It gave the Blues a 2-0 advantage which they ultimately hung onto, and came following a touch from Sears as he was in the right place at the right time to connect with an excellent Grant Ward cross.
Matthews’ final touch means Sears is still without a goal of his own since the 3-1 victory over Newcastle last April, but for a player who has struggled for minutes, confidence and has been desparately out of form, this is a real plus.
His performance wasn’t perfect, far from it, but playing a full 90 minutes will stand him in good stead, given he had previously not started a game since Boxing Day.
Such is his lack of game time he started the week playing for the Blues’ U23s at a wet Playford Road in their 5-0 demolition of Millwall, in which he found the net. He was not overly enthusiastic to be involved, Mick McCarthy revealed post-match, but it did yield his first goal of the season at any level.
His 90 minutes at Sunderland of course saw him produce his usual display of running, commitment and selfless play, but there were also moments of incisive play, attacking prowess and worrying moments for the Sunderland backline.
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There were equally moments where he chose the wrong option, with at least two Ipswich attacks ending with a poor final ball which saw promising positions come to nothing. His display showed the urgent need to rediscover the instinctive side of his game which saw him make such an impact following his arrival in 2015.
He remains deployed in a wide role, with the striker himself insisting his best position remains as a central striker, but he is unlikely to get a look in there under McCarthy and knows he must adjust.
It remains to be seen whether he gets another chance to impress next weekend against Burton, with new-signing Mustapha Carayol offering yet more competition for a place, but watching his team-mates’ enthusiasm to celebrate with him tells you all you need to know about Sears’ standing within the Town squad.