Whilst we couldn’t possibly have predicted that Sunderland would win on Sunday in such a comfortable fashion, we have to concede that the decision made by Jack Ross to prioritise the league game with Scunthorpe over the midweek cup tie with Sheffield Wednesday was the correct approach to take when we consider what our aims are in the immediate future.
The Carabao Cup tie on Thursday against Jos Luhukay’s side did in fact provide players such as Reece James, Elliot Embleton and Denver Hume with an opportunity to make their first starts for the senior side - it was, to be blunt, nothing more than a mid-season friendly, and a chance for Ross to give minutes on the pitch to players who needed them.
On top of that, the likes of Max Power and Jack Baldwin were given an introduction to playing at the Stadium of Light with one eye on the Scunthorpe game which, in hindsight, was a good thing since both men looked so comfortable when we defeated the Iron on Sunday afternoon.
They were all thrown in against Wednesday without the added pressure that comes with feeling the need to win vital points in the league, which allowed the selected squad to create chemistry between themselves and begin to forge a style of play on home turf in a competitive environment.
Although we suffered a 0-2 loss there were plenty of positives to take from what we saw. Though we never looked likely to threaten their goal, the display put on by Sunderland created good feeling amongst the supporters - mainly due to the players maintaining their heart and desire throughout their performance.
Even after conceding a goal half an hour into the game, the Lads still held possession.
Jack Ross’ League One outfit didn’t appear to be entirely out of their depth against higher-league opposition in Sheffield Wednesday, and that creates confidence for both players and supporters alike as we progress at this level.
The young-looking side showcased on Thursday night that whilst they may be inexperienced, they’re all buying into Jack Ross’ way of playing - and that is crucial.
We saw that again on Sunday when, at times, some of what we were doing was way above the standard you expect for a side playing in the third tier.
With increased game time and a more flexible way of playing, Sunderland look capable of playing under pressure against good sides - so the hope is that we can continue to improve as the weeks and months go by.
Hopefully we see a similar approach taken to the Checkatrade Trophy games that we have coming our way soon - use it as a chance to give minutes on the pitch to players that need it, whilst also mixing in a host of first-team regulars so that ALL players feel a part of what we are trying to achieve.
The most important thing now going forward are our results in the league - so whilst we’d all like to see the team progress in cup competitions and do well when up against ‘better’ sides, ultimately our aim is to get out of League One with as little drama as we possibly can.