For all some Sunderland fans may feel displeased with the performance of manager Martin O'Neill at times, their defeat at West Bromwich Albion underlined, yet again, that the red and white boss can only do so much to affect proceedings.
O'Neill's perceived negativity is a common bugbear amongst the Wearside fan base, one that is not always an argument without merit. Against the Baggies O'Neill's reluctance to let his full-backs venture forward was never more clearly evident; especially when opposing defenders Steven Reid and Liam Ridgewell sought to reach the byline on a regular basis.
Yet, even allowing for tactical inadequacies, the Sunderland gaffer cannot be held responsible for the sheer amount of individual mistakes his side make. Not a week seems to pass without a defensive error from the Black Cats (sometimes punished, sometimes not) and yesterday at The Hawthorns was no different.
Almost typically, it was Titus Bramble who was culpable for the games defining mistake. Given the option of clearing the ball into Row Z or sending an assured back pass to Simon Mignolet, he conspired to do neither, and Romelu Lukaku duly profited.
Though Bramble's error effectively ended the game as a contest, he was not the only guilty. Danny Graham, Stephane Sessegnon and James McClean all wasted good opportunities in front of goal; Alfred N'Diaye and Adam Johnson spurned crosses from good positions.
N'Diaye played well in midfield, largely negating the threat of Youssuf Mulumbu, but with the ineffectual Seb Larsson alongside him he was often found doing the work of two men. When the hosts did enjoy spells of pressure, it was usually as a result of the game bypassing Sunderland's midfield.
For all their deficiencies, Sunderland matched West Brom for the most part. Plenty of chances came their way and, despite Graham's poor showing up front, they remained a frequent threat to Ben Foster's goal.
But, as has happened so many times this term, individual mistakes defined their afternoon. Craig Gardner could do little to avoid handling the ball that led to West Brom's first half penalty, but the incident only arose through the visitors' failure to track runners down the right side.
O'Neill's men have now seen three consecutive games end in defeat. Having undergone a revival of sorts around the turn of the year, the Black Cats risk being sucked back into things at the foot of the table if they do not iron out their difficulties soon. Ending those silly errors will be high on their list of priorities.