Jack Ross urges Sunderland side to get messy and ugly
Jack Ross again played down talk of slow starts despite Sunderland conceding an early goal in their 1-1 draw with Fleetwood Town.
It is true that here they weren’t off the pace right from the first whistle.
Lynden Gooch forced a great opening just three minutes in, and was left irate when his effort seemed to be deflected wide, only for a goal kick to be given.
But Paddy Madden’s goal derailed the Black Cats and it took a while for them to impose themselves on the game.
Ross summed it up nicely when he said Sunderland needed to get better at the ‘messy’ side of the game.
He said: “In that early period we have to deal with the messy side of the game better. Winning headers and tackles and set pieces in that period.
“Opening periods can be frenetic. In the second half we ground them down a bit and they started to look leggy. We were fresh and at it. That period we have to get better at grinding through. We will have a period when we are not on top.
“Every week we have to get used to it,” he added.
“It is a different challenge. No game has been flat. That brings its own challenges.
“Every game that passes we will learn to cope with how teams have a go when they come here. It is done through learning and training.”
Defending set pieces is clearly a big concern for Ross, who pointed out that his side have only conceded once from open play this season.
He knows there are no quick fixes, just hard work and repetition.
Going forward, though, it will not be lost on the Black Cats boss that once he made his three substitutions, they were suddenly a threat.
Tom Flanagan, Charlie Wyke and Jerome Sinclair all brought with them a significant upgrade in terms of physicality and aerial threat.
“In some games it has been a physicality issue,” Ross said. “There is also games where it is individual mistakes.
“As a manager you can’t always legislate for that. Something can be made better – that is individual concentration.
“It happens at all levels of football.
“There is no pre-game training you can do to guarantee that won’t happen. You just try to cut down the vulnerability and that comes with repetition.”
That early goal meant another afternoon of frustration for the Black Cats.
After the euphoria of back-to-back away wins, two home draws has perhaps served of something of a reality check for Sunderland.
Jack Ross was visibly frustrated with aspects of the game but he also insisted that his side have made a solid start to the season.
And he believes the platform for progress is there.
“Every time we don’t win here we should be disappointed,” he said.
“I want that mentality. I didn’t say it after the first home game to come away from it. It is the same with the players.
“They are disappointed when they came in, a bit quiet.
“Then you step back and you look at the circumstances of the game.
“Last week we had ten men. We remain undefeated. As a realist at the start of the season we’d have said that’s ok to be in this position.
“It is a solid start, one that can better, but one that has given us a platform to be better.”