The big issues facing Jack Ross ahead of Sunderland's League One clash at Shrewsbury Town

After an intense start to life in the third tier of English football, those Sunderland players not away on international duty enjoyed a short beak this weekend.

Sunday, 14th October 2018, 3:32 pm
Updated Sunday, 14th October 2018, 3:43 pm
Jack Ross.

On Monday, the hard work will crank up again with the remaining Sunderland players back in training at the Academy of Light ahead of Saturday's trip to Shrewsbury Town.

We assess the priorities for Jack Ross over the coming week as the Black Cats look to build on the away win at Bradford City.

Jack Ross.

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Striking the right balance and shore up the defence:

Sunderland have only managed one league clean sheet this campaign. It is a stat that doesn't overly concern Ross, however, because he encourages his players to play an attacking brand of football.

He is relatively comfortable with their defensive record provided they continue to score goals and pick up the points needed at the other end.

Not keeping a shut out at the other end does, however, increase pressure on the forwards to always score at least two goals a game.

It is a fine balance to strike and one Ross will be working on ahead of the trip to face Shrewsbury Town.

Maintaining discipline during games:

As you would expect, Ross is keen to defend his players in public and not hang them out to dry but he will have been disappointed with the amount of red cards so far this season.

Max Power has two to his name, Bryan Oviedo one; three in total and the clocks haven't even gone back yet.

The first against Oxford United was, perhaps, harsh on Power but his kick-out against Bradford City and Oviedo's similar offence against Peterborough United were totally avoidable.

It put their teammates under intense pressure and in the end Sunderland did well to get four points from those two fixtures.

Ross is confident there is no lack of discipline in his squad and he will hope Sunderland have had their share of red cards for the campaign.

Get the walking wounded back:

Just when it looked like Sunderland were getting over their injury concerns fate struck again; Charlie Wyke out until Christmas, Denver Hume for six weeks plus Glenn Loovens, Lynden Gooch and Ethan Robson picking up injuries.

This enforced break has, at least, offered several players who have played a lot of football a welcome break, the likes of Chris Maguire and Lee Cattermole.

Loovens and Hume face a little longer out but Gooch and Robson are due back in training this week, a welcome boost for Ross ahead of the trip to face Shrewsbury.

Duncan Watmore is also closing in on a return with the forward pencilled in for an Under-23 appearance in late October.

Ross' midfield conundrum:

Sunderland have a healthy stock of central midfielders yet Ross is yet to strike upon his perfect partnership given the amount of injuries and suspensions.

Power was red carded in the win over Bradford, his second of the season resulting in a four game ban. Given Checkatrade Trophy games don't count, his ban starts at Shrewsbury Town and he will also miss the games against Doncaster Rovers (A), Southend United (H) and Plymouth Argyle (A).

He started and was skipper against Bradford but now Ross must weigh up who to bring back into the fold alongside Lee Cattermole to help shield the defence.

Recall club captain George Honeyman after his concussion? He played well when he came on as a sub at Valley Parade, helping seal the victory with a determined display.

The other options are Dylan McGeouch, yet to rediscover the promise of pre-season, Bali Mumba, currently away with England Under-18s or Ethan Robson, provided he recovers from an ankle injury.

Recall Gooch at right-wing back?

Adam Matthews has been filling the void left by Lynden Gooch following his hamstring injury picked up against Coventry City.

He played a peach of a pass for Honeyman's goal in the Checkatrade Trophy win over Carlisle United and Ross must weigh up whether to stick with him or bring Gooch back in, provided he returns to training as planned this week.

Gooch has excelled in the unusual role of right wing-back in Ross' 3-5-2 system this campaign and he provides more of an attacking threat than Matthews does.