JACK RODWELL will reap the rewards from playing more than an hour on his Sunderland debut, insists Gus Poyet.
But Sunderland boss Poyet was encouraged by flashes from the £10million midfielder in an improved second-half performance from the Black Cats and believes 65 minutes of competitive action will prove hugely beneficial for the 23-year-old.
“He started well and then we killed him with the 20 minutes without the ball,” said Poyet.
“We had 20-25 minutes of disaster technically. We couldn’t pass the ball more than two or three times and that gave the chance to West Brom to keep attacking.
“We made him only defend.
“But we got him on the ball in the second half, which I was very pleased about – it was the Jack Rodwell driving towards the box, winning, turning and passing.
“I was expecting to leave him on the pitch a bit longer.
“But you never know if more than 65 minutes will make him get injured.
“I think it was enough and he’s going to be better for that.”
It was Rodwell’s fellow central midfielders, Lee Cattermole and Seb Larsson, who proved to be Sunderland’s stand-out performers in the 2-2 draw at The Hawthorns.
Cattermole ended almost six years without a goal for Sunderland when he netted at Tottenham, last April, and the Teessider was the unlikely first scorer of the season for the Black Cats.
After West Brom striker Saido Berahino’s brace threatened to inflict an opening day defeat on Sunderland, Swedish international Larsson rescued a point in the last five minutes to equal his goal tally from last season.
Poyet said: “In football, everybody knows the strikers take all the credit.
“They score the goals, they link the goals, they are the most famous ones, they are the ones you spend the most money on.
“But every now and then, you have someone (Cattermole) who is a really hard worker for the team and very important for us.
“It’s good that he can celebrate an outstanding goal too.
“It was a great strike, I’m very pleased for him.
“Seb was a key player last year, especially in the run-in.
“He looked very, very good in pre-season, very fit.
“He showed that with his run in 80-plus minutes to get into the box.
“It took him 34 games last year to score a goal. It took him 80 minutes this year, which is great for us because we need goals from midfield.
“Two midfielders scored on Saturday. Let’s hope it’s the strikers scoring next week.”
Poyet believed the final result was a fair outcome and, despite being critical of Sunderland’s performance during the first half, was more heartened by their improvement after the break.
“The last 20-25 minutes is the way we need to play,” he said.
“You need to adapt to the game and I wasn’t very happy with the first half, technically especially.
“If we want to pass the ball, we need to be better.”
Poyet was less impressed with referee Neil Swarbrick’s decision to hand West Brom a penalty on the stroke of half-time, when Valentin Roberge was harshly adjudged to have tugged back Victor Anichebe on the turn.
“Sometimes when you need to discuss a decision from a referee, you get into trouble,” he added.
“But this one is so simple, it’s not worth it.”