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ROSS REVIEW: How did Sunderland manager Jack Ross fare last night as we took on Peterborough?

Team selection, tactics, substitutions and post-match comments - now that the dust has settled, we discuss them all! How did Sunderland manager Jack Ross fare when his side drew with Peterborough last night?

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Team Selection

With injuries to key players who had featured in the game at Coventry forced upon him, Jack Ross opted to go with a more attacking line up for this game in a bid to outplay our opposition right from the off.

Jon McLaughlin - who was man of the match on Saturday and has earned himself a recall to the Scotland squad as a result - continued in nets, with a back four of Bryan Oviedo, Jack Baldwin, Tom Flanagan and Adam Matthews ahead of him.

With Lee Cattermole suspended, Max Power returned in the centre of the park and also took the captain’s armband, and he was joined in the middle by Dylan McGeouch.

Ahead of them were the attacking trio of Chris Maguire, Josh Maja and Aiden McGeady, with Jerome Sinclair very much the furthest-forward attacker leading the line.

When you look at what we had on the bench - a bunch of untested kids, basically - it would be fair to say that all things considered, this was a strong side and Ross was correct to run with it.

Nobody had a particularly bad game and there weren’t any real contentious selections, although you could say that the decision to go with a back four instead of keeping the usual shape but with Alim Ozturk was the only other way we could have gone.

In truth, it doesn’t appear that Ross has much faith in the former Hearts captain - even with his squad stretched, the manager decided against putting him into the side in place of Loovens. That was perhaps done with the pace of Peterborough’s attack in mind - he’s only ever really looked comfortable when going up against a team that pump the ball long.

Verdict: Despite initial fears that we’d see something a bit like we did down at Burton - where our attacking line up just couldn’t cope with being bullied by a more physical team - I think it’s fair to say that Ross called this one right.


Tactics

Whilst we didn’t operate in our usual system, we were still very fluid in attack.

Adam Matthews and Bryan Oviedo were often very high and wide on the flanks, and it was this which allowed us to pin Peterborough back inside their own half for much of the first half. The attacking foursome of Sinclair, Maja, Maguire and McGeady interchanged often and when we were out of possession it was often Watford loanee Sinclair that was the furthest forward, with the strict remit to compete physicality up against the Peterborough defenders and ‘rough them up a bit’.

Because he was well up for it and more than able to get stuck in, Josh Maja and Chris Maguire were able to roam and link up play in the final third of the pitch.

In my opinion this was probably the best that Sunderland have looked all season, and in that first half we made a very good team look incredibly average through the sheer tempo and pace of our game.

This suited Dylan McGeouch too, who in truth has flattered to deceive often since his return to the side. With players constantly buzzing around him he was able to lay off simple balls which, in turn, led to us pressing forward down the wings.

In the second half we weren’t able to continue in the same way, and this was largely down to a number of factors - the main one being that Steve Evans made a bold decision to make two attacking changes which gave our defenders and midfielders something extra to think about. We couldn’t sit as high up the pitch because, with Marcus Maddison and Joe Ward on the pitch, they had the pace to hurt us on the break.

That said, we still looked fairly comfortable and it wasn’t until Bryan Oviedo got himself sent off that Peterborough had any sort of advantage over us.

For Jack Ross that must have been immensely frustrating, particularly since we were easily the better of the two sides til that point. The fact that he was able to set up the side with ten men in a way that still allowed us to attack and press Peterborough is testament to how well-drilled he’s got these players from a tactical perspective.

Everyone knows their jobs, and look prepared to adapt when the situation changes.

Verdict: Everything was spot on until we went down to ten men, but even then we looked fairly solid and well-drilled. Yes, we conceded two goals, but it wasn’t due to poor tactical awareness.

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Substitutions

Again, I felt sorry for Jack Ross with regards to the changes he had to make.

Much like at Coventry, they probably weren’t the ones that he had intended to make before the game, and due to reasons beyond his control he had to adapt and alter based on the various situations that we faced.

When Bryan Oviedo received a red card for the ridiculous kick he aimed at Marcus Maddison’s upper body, it left Ross with an uncomfortable decision to make. To give us some balance he immediately made a change and brought Reece James into the game, taking off an effective goalscorer in Josh Maja.

Maja hadn’t been particularly brilliant but he always has a goal in him, and in having to take him off the pitch because our left back made a stupid decision we showed a vulnerability to Peterborough for the first time in the game.

With the clock running down and the team in need of a spark if we were going to get a winner, Ross looked to his bench and gave a first-team debut to Benji Kimpioka, who came on with two minutes of normal time remaining. He wasn’t on the pitch long but was very busy, and with a little bit more luck might have even got himself a goal on another day.

Verdict: Ross probably didn’t want to give McGeady the full game but, due to Oviedo’s stupidity, was forced to make some uncomfortable changes - undoubtedly frustrating.

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Post-Match Comments

The league table doesn’t matter now. We have had challenges this season and been so resilient in meeting them, we are dealing with the expectations of being where we are.

That group in there keeps improving their performance levels, we are getting better. We are still not there but we are getting better all the time.

We are getting players back and they are responding to what I want from them. We will be in a better position at the end of the season.

I thought we were very good, different aspects really good. First half we were miles ahead. Second half we had to be resilient, we did that well, then the response we had with ten men was outstanding. For my team to go and try to win the game is testament to my team.

Ross was very keen to focus on the positive aspects of the performance in the aftermath of the game, and didn’t really want to get too involved with discussing negatives such as the Bryan Oviedo red card and the referee’s performance.

Whilst there were undoubtedly disappointing aspects to the performance and stuff we need to work on, we can’t get too hung up on it. Fact is, one of our players shot himself in the foot when we were in a seriously good position to dominate the game, and the fact that the players and manager were able to keep their heads and ride through the pressure is testament to their character.

Verdict: No complaints - Ross always handles himself well in front of a mic.