Dylan McGeouch's growing Sunderland importance explained and the big call for Jack Ross on Saturday
At the final whistle Dylan McGeouch was one of the first to make it over to the away end.
The 25-year-old pumped his fists and roared in a show of emotion quite at odds with the controlled way he plays the game.
McGeouch looked set to be a vital part of Jack Ross’s team after starring in pre-season.
But his importance to the last two wins, and the clean sheets that set them up, is something that Ross believes will help him get even better in the coming weeks.
“I’ve been pleased with how he’s performed in the last couple of games,” Ross said.
“It’s an adjustment for him in a lot of different ways.
“The style of football is different and the challenges we face in each and every game because of the intensity is different.
“It’s a change in his life as well. I think he’s enjoying that change but there’s all these different things that come into the mix.
“His contributions sometimes will be judged in different ways.
“We are encouraging him to continue to have that belief to affect the game in forward areas because he has got the ability to do that.
“But he is intelligent and he understands the game,” Ross added.
“Even the other night, there were times when Adam or Reece is high up the pitch and Dylan will just drop into those areas.
“That doesn’t always get seen because people often watch the ball.
“But he does it and he does it effectively.
“Psychologically I think it’s been good for him to contribute for 90 minutes, not just to two wins but two tough wins away from home as well.”
Central midfield will be one of the areas Ross will be assessing ahead of Southend United’s visit on Saturday.
McGeouch and George Honeyman have impressed since being recalled to the XI, while a pair of impressive cameos from the bench have left Luke O’Nien surely closer than ever to a starting berth.
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Ross’s biggest call, however, is likely to be at left-back.
Bryan Oviedo is available for selection again after seeing red in the 2-2 draw with Peterborough United at the beginning of October.
In his absence Reece James has stepped up and impressed, an unquestionably vital part of an improving defensive unit.
Ross praised James for his performances and said it is an example he is keen for his squad to take note of and emulate.
“I’m lucky that every single time these situations have arisen, I’ve always felt that the players who have then been presented with an opportunity have taken it.” Ross said.
“It’s also a bit down to the culture that you’re trying to create as a manager.
“You have to have players who respond to it. Reece is an exmample of that. An opportunity came up for him and I don’t think anyone can say that he hasn’t grabbed it.
“In his performances he has shown that he’s determined to stay in the team and that’s all I can ask for.
“All the other players have done that as well.
“We’re going to have good players not starting games when everyone is fit.
“Aiden didn’t start on Tuesday and he is an immensely talented football. He’s also someone who has been very supportive of what I’ve tried to do at the club.
“These are not easy decisions to make.
“Leaving Lynden and George out at Shrewsbury, that wasn’t easy because they’ve made a big contribution for me.
“It’s about communication and constantly reinforcing what we’re trying to do as a group this season,” Ross added.
“If you contribute towards success then you get enjoyment from it.
“They probably get sick of hearing it but it’s about hammering home those messages and ensuring they continue to buy into that.
“I think at the moment they are doing that.”