Let’s give Jack Ross some credit
The Sunderland manager got some stick after Sunday and, bizarrely, there were even calls from some for him to lose his job. Common opinions that I saw (mostly on Facebook, Twitter and the RTG forums) were that he was too negative to get us promoted.
Thankfully, Ross stuck it right up his doubters by playing in a positive fashion and emerging with the three points on a notoriously difficult pitch. Like the players, Ross could have choked under the pressure, but he was calm and his side delivered.
The decision to take off Aiden McGeady at half time was a bold one. The 32-year old winger will have welcomed the rest, but had we conceded early in the half you can imagine the decision to take him off would have been questioned. Ross had faith in his players, who in turn gave him a professional performance.
It should perhaps remind all supporters not to get too carried away when we have a bad result. It’s easy to forget that before Sunday’s cup loss, our league form was magnificent. In fact, after the win over Walsall we were top of the League One form table - we’re the team that people should be fearing now in this division.
The manager and the players need our support. Let’s criticise when it’s due, of course, but let’s also not completely overreact when we have a disappointing result.
Jack Ross will get us promoted, I’m sure of it.
Proof that this is a bonded squad
Despite the fact Jack Ross was practically forced to make five changes to the team that started in the cup final on Sunday - after all, playing another game on a boggy pitch just days after you’ve had to play for 120 minutes at Wembley is physically taxing - it didn’t harm us at all. In fact, we actually looked better from an attacking perspective, and as good as we’ve looked in a long time.
The players who came in to the side could all probably have good reasons to feel aggrieved at not having played as much as they thought that they might have this season. Denver Hume has had injury problems to deal with, Dylan McGeouch just isn’t fancied, Max Power and Lynden Gooch have struggled for form, and Charlie Wyke has suffered a combination of all three issues. Despite this, the team operated fantastically in and out of possession and seemed to adapt well - proof perhaps that this is a squad bonded right throughout, with all players focused on achieving our ultimate goal of promotion to the Championship.
It would be hugely unfair if there were major changes made again at the weekend when we play Rochdale. Wyke, McGeouch and Hume in particular were perhaps Sunderland’s best three players across the ninety minutes and should be shoe-ins to start.
Let’s not forget that this performance could have gone the complete opposite direction after Sunday’s heartbreak at Wembley. The players responded in the way that we all hoped that they would - with a resounding, professional victory that reminds Barnsley above us that we are coming for their spot in the table.
Eight cup finals...
It’s the biggest cliché in football, but we’ve got eight cup finals between now and the end of the season, and ensuring we treat each game like its the most important ninety minutes of the season could be the key to getting ourselves promoted.
If results go our way we could be sat here a week from now in the automatic promotion spots. I’d like to think Luton can still be caught but that seems unlikely, so overcoming Barnsley and getting ourselves into second place should be our aim.
On Saturday we face a team second from bottom in the table, scrapping for their lives knowing that taking three points off Sunderland would likely lift them out of the relegation places.
We mustn’t take Rochdale lightly, for they are a wounded animal, unbeaten in their last four games. We have to treat them with the same respect that we afforded Portsmouth on Sunday, and then Accrington last night - we go in there looking to outscore our opponent to ensure that, come full time, we’re three points better off and hopefully even closer to our rivals above us in the table.
It all sounds so simple, doesn’t it?