Michael Beale explains his surprise Sunderland selection decision and reacts to fan frustration at Ipswich
Michael Beale defended his decision to drop Nazariy Rusyn from the Sunderland starting XI at Ipswich Town and insisted that his side had done enough to get something from the game.
The Sunderland head coach did admit that he shared some of the frustration of the supporters, however, with the club badly struggling to find a cutting edge in the final third. Beale opted to play Jobe Bellingham up front, with away supporters chanting 'we want a striker' after Conor Chaplin put the home side ahead midway through the second half. The Black Cats had taken the lead in the first half but it was again down to the individual brilliance of Jack Clarke, who scored his 13th goal of the campaign with a stunning strike from the edge of the area.
Beale eventually introduced Rusyn in the 83rd minute, with Mason Burstow joining the action around five minutes later. Beale says he is working to improve Sunderland's output in the final third, having confirmed earlier this week that the club would try and added an established centre forward in the January window if possible.
"We did play with a striker, we played with Jobe," Beale said.
"He can play there and he's done so in games that we've won. We've got four young strikers, three young strikers who I think it is fair to say are adjusting to this league, and another guy who has done well but I just felt that the connection of the team was better with Pritch playing off Jobe.
"It's a situation I've inherited and it's something that I'm working away at. Since I've come in Naz has had more moments on the pitch, but you also want to reward players and I felt Abdoullah had a very good week in training and deserved to play. He was influential in the first goal. It's a situation where I share some of the frustration that the fans are feeling, for sure. I think the team do as well because we're looking for something up front that would help us. What I would say as well is that if we find it, we're in a good position in the league and we can kick on from there."
Beale also defended his decision to replace Ba early in the second half, after the winger assisted Clarke for the opener. Adil Aouchiche missed a big chance shortly after his introduction and gave away the free kick from which Chaplin scored.
"Yeah, maybe," Beale said, asked if Ba was unfortunate to be withdrawn.
"But then Adil comes on and gets a big moment, and if he takes then it is the right decision. That's why this is a game of fine margins. It's disappointing tonight, when you lose a game you can pick holes in everything but I think we're sat here asking, 'how did we lose that game'. That's the consensus I think, so it wasn't all wrong. I just think it was very naive from us in a big moment in the game, and that's the fine margins. You could see how much it meant to Ipswich at the end and in that one moment from the set play, it had to mean more to us."