THE times are definitely changing down at the Unibol. There’s no Doombar to deliberate over but at least all the pre-match talk is about football now and not all the off-field shenanigans of the past few years.

It really is a new era and we can all join in and enjoy the rebuilding of our club. While the Rotherham United match made it clear just what a task we have ahead of us, the performance against Oxford United gave us hope that we are on the right path.

Could we continue that with a creditable performance against Sunderland? Listening to the Sunderland fans I worked with this week, that was a definite possibility as they are still suffering from well-publicised ownership problems of their own.

Keith Hill went with an unchanged team. At least I think so, as I’m still getting to grips with all the new names in the squad.

It seems to be our strongest team, given the numerous injuries to our limited squad.

And what a thoroughly enjoyable performance we got. Flowing attacking football and bodies-on-the-line defending at times. The result was probably fair overall as they missed some open chances, particularly from free headers. But take nothing away from our team, this showed that we can compete at this level and we can consider ourselves unlucky we didn’t hold out for another couple of minutes.

It’s early days and we are in effect still in our pre-season. The current team started about 10 games behind the rest of the division as there was no pre-season and the youngsters played the first five league matches. We have to make up that match fitness deficit in as quick a time as possible.

The signs are encouraging. The understanding of roles and responsibilities in the team is growing with each match, as is their match fitness.

There was tiredness evident in the last 20 minutes, but we are playing with an intensity not seen for a long while at the Unibol.

Players are beginning to emerge like Dennis Politic and Thibaud Verlinden on the wings and the non-stop inspirational captain Liam Bridcutt. Will Buckley seems to have taken on a new lease of life playing up front in the centre. The signs are positive, and it will be interesting to see if we can continue our progress away from home in what will be a stern test at Portsmouth.