Jack Ross has labelled Sunderland’s brilliant 3-0 win over Accrington Stanley as one of the most satisfying of the season - as the Black Cats ramped up the pressure on Barnsley.
Sunderland are now just three points adrift of the Tykes with two games in hand after goals from Aiden McGeady, Will Grigg and a first for Kaz Sterling sealed a comfortable win at the Wham Stadium.
Sunderland, who had made five changes, put the Checkatrade Trophy final defeat to Portsmouth firmly behind them with a dominating display.
McGeady scored after just four minutes with a goal of the season contender, Grigg adding a second before the break before sub Sterling capped the win with a late goal.
Ross said: “There has been loads of good wins along the way but this is a pleasing win for the players. I said how sore they were after Sunday.
“They put a huge amount in and it hurts when you lose in that environment so to refocus, I was delighted for them.
“The satisfaction from the win is up there with any this season in terms of what the players have had to deal with and how they responded as a whole group.
The pitch wasn’t easy to play on, there were loads of different aspects of the game which were pleasing.
“It was a lot to do with the conditions, we knew we would have to play forward quicker and we did it well.
“You need the players within the system, a lot is made of systems but a lot of it is down to how players play within it.
“Those players played well, it was terrific for me because there was a number of those players that had been frustrated at a lack of game time, I have always commented saying they kept themselves right in training and bounce games and that showed tonight.
“It was really pleasing for me as a manager.”
George Honeyman served the final game of his three-game ban, Lee Cattermole was missing with an ankle injury and Reece James an ongoing groin concern.
Grant Leadbitter and Lewis Morgan the other two players to drop out the side, both on the bench.
Did this win send out a message to their League One rivals?
Ross said: “We are in the position where we are having to play catch-up, it is not ideal but there is a belief in the squad.
“I said that all along and post-match Sunday that I sensed there was a great determination to take full advantage of the league games that lie ahead.
“We have eight more ahead and need to reproduce that performance, work rate and energy and we will need the squad, there is a quick turnaround.
“Like everything I want them to enjoy the feeling and we are back in Thursday to prepare for Rochdale on Saturday.”