Jack Ross on his faith in Robbin Ruiter, defensive changes and Jon McLaughlin wait ahead of crunch Portsmouth trip

Jack Ross hopes Jon McLaughlin will be fit to face Portsmouth next weekend, but says he has every faith in Robbin Ruiter should the Dutchman be required to deputise.

Monday, 17th December 2018, 4:00 am
Walsall FC 2-2 Sunderland AFC 2nd Rd FA Cup Banks's Stadium 01-12-2018. Picture by FRANK REID

McLaughlin suffered a back spasm in the second half of the 2-1 win over Bristol Rovers, taken off as he felt the injury could affect his ability to make saves later in the game.

Ruiter came on to make his first league appearance of the season and despite a difficult campaign last time around, Ross believes he is an a ‘decent place’.

“It’s very early to say but we’re hopeful given that it’s a spasm that Jon will be okay,” Ross said.

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“It’s difficult to predict with that kind of injury but he seems fairly positive just now.

“I take players as I find them and when Robbin has been asked to play this season his performances have been good,” Ross added.

“I know it’s only been in the Checkatrade games but in the three group games and the knockout game his performances have been good, he’s made a few saves and he’s looked secure and confident.

“I know he had very little to do when he came on but he still looked as if he was in a decent place mentally.”

Ross has high hopes for young goalkeeper Max Stryjek, who is currently thriving on loan at National League Eastleigh.

The Black Cats boss has high hopes for the 22-year-old but he will not be recalled before his spell at Stewart Donald’s old club is over.

Youngster Anthony Patterson stepped up to the bench when Ruiter was injured for the League One clash at Walsall last month.

“Most likely Max will come back in January but we’ll let him get this loan period concluded and then we’ll make a final decision on that as well,” Ross said.

McLaughlin’s injury was one of a number of challenges that the Black Cats had to battle through against Bristol Rovers.

Tom Flanagan had been ruled out midweek, while Reece James suffered an injury in the warm-up.

Conditions in the second half were horrendous and so Ross was thrilled that his team managed to come through.

“It was a strange day in that respect because we knew we’d have to make the change with Tom (Flanagan) and I thought Glenn (Loovens) did well,” Ross said.

“I trust him in that regard.

“And Bryan (Oviedo), it’s not like he’s not a good player coming in but he probably gives us a diferent dimension in that regard and even the relationships between people and distances, etc. It was to the players’ credit that they did manage to produce a half-decent performance given those challenges pre-match and during the game.

“It was another different [test of character].

“In the first half there was a bit of anxiety in the stadium, which happens. As a group and a club we’ve worked really hard to make sure they enjoy playing here again and I thought they sowed that, I can tell them to do it, but they do it out on the park. They had a bit about them that said they wanted to keep going.

“There was a little spell in the first half where it looked as though it got to us a little bit, but you could see we got through it and created three or four good opportunities close together.

“It was good for us to get the goal just before half-time because it probably just galvanised that belief for the second half. It wasn’t perfect but they looked fairly strong in terms of their character.”