Tony Mowbray explains the key to Sunderland's superb away win - and the two players who were crucial to the plan
Tony Mowbray praised the work ethic of his Sunderland side as they sealed a crucial win away at Norwich City.
The Black Cats overcame the loss of Amad and Alex Pritchard in the build up to the game to injury but took an early lead through an excellent Abdoullah Ba strike.
Mowbray's high press strategy yielded some big chances in the opening exchanges of the game but in the second half they had to defend deep and limited the home side to few clear opportunities.
"We tried to play positively and aggressively and get on the front foot, knowing that we were going to be playing against a team that play on the front foot and build from the back," Mowbray explained.
"I've watched some games of theirs where if you try and sit off against them in a deep block, they eventually just find their way through. In the first 30 minutes, we saw the benefits of that and we could have scored more than one goal. We did get pushed back by a good football team who are positionally good and move it well.
"We knew today was going to be a different challenge for us this week - and for the wide players particularly, you know that you're going to end up getting pushed back and Roberts and Clarke had to track their full back all the way to the back stick.
"We found a way and got it done. I thought we worked really hard, Roberts has had better games but he worked extraordinarily hard and that was Jack Clarke's best performance since I've been here, he didn't score but his work ethic and ability to ask questions of Max Aarons was so impressive. It's great credit to the players and it takes away that negatively of not having won for a while - we've got some really hard games coming up. It's a great challenge for them.
"The compactness of the team was what was good from the team today, we've had moments this season where we've conceded goals and the wide players are wandering over the halfway line shaking their heads. As I keep saying to them, that isn't acceptable. I told Patrick that he was going to have to break a world record for distance covered today, because I knew Norwich would overload us and hit those diagonals. We were in trouble if they didn't run back, and they did. They were amazing, they weren't ripping the opposition to bits as they can because they were running back.
"Early on, we pressed high and got opportunities."
Mowbray's decision to pair Abdoullah Ba with Joe Gelhardt up front worked well for the opening hour, with the head coach stressing int h week the importance of getting more support alongside the Leeds United loanee: "Abdoullah is a really talented player, he needs to learn to move the ball and run without it sometimes, because he always wants to dribble. I did say before the game that I expected him to score, but we were having laugh there because I said he'd stick it in the top corner.
"Somewhere down the line as these players will be integrated and we'll be stronger for it - I'm happy because of the performance."