Jack Ross explains why Sunderland striker Josh Maja didn't come off the bench in the defeat at Portsmouth
Josh Maja didn't come off the bench in the top of the table clash away at Portsmouth because he was suffering from illness.
Jack Ross confirmed the striker wouldn't have started the game anyway at Fratton Park as he wanted Duncan Watmore to lead the attack but Maja would have come on at some stage if he was well enough.
Ross revealed the 13-goal top scorer was struck down with illness in the lead up to the game, which ended in a 3-1 defeat, but still named him on the bench as Adam Matthews wasn't fit enough to be on the bench due to a calf problem.
The Scot was hopeful Maja would be able to feature against Bradford City on Boxing Day.
Sunderland played a 4-1-3-2 system with Watmore and Lynden Gooch leading the attack, the game goalless at the break with Sunderland more than a match for the league leaders.
The game changed in the space of two second half minutes when Glenn Loovens saw red in the 47th minute for a foul on Oli Hawkins, Pompey going on to win 3-1.
On Maja, Ross said: "He was unwell.
"To be honest, he wouldn’t have started, the way we set up was what we worked on and in fairness it worked.
“He would have always come on, regardless how the game was going but he wasn’t feeling great this morning. We didn’t have any other option to include him on the bench as we lost Adam Matthews as well.
“We were a little bit hamstrung in that respect.
"Being unwell in these conditions, we were looking after him. Hopefully he will be okay for Boxing Day.”
Tom Flanagan missed the game and Ross hopes he will be back for the visit of Bradford with Loovens facing a one-game ban following his red card.
On Flanagan, Ross added: "He was still a bit off at the end of last week but we have another couple of days before the Boxing Day game.
“We will have to see when we return home..
“Adam hurt his calf towards the end of training Thursday, he travelled as we hope he would settle down but it wasn’t right.
“It wasn’t ideal as prep had been based on him playing but that’s how it goes sometimes.”