Why Jack Ross isn't worried as Portsmouth and promotion rivals turn up the heat on Sunderland

By the time Sunderland are next in league action, the gap to the top of the table could be ten points.

Monday, 10th December 2018, 7:52 am
Updated Monday, 10th December 2018, 7:55 am
ASFC 1-1 SAFC ABANDONED 08-12-2018 . Picture by FRANK REID

While the Black Cats, through no fault of their own, were slugging out a difficult contest in the Accrington mud, Portsmouth were doing what they seemingly do best.

Against Southend at home they were two-nil up within half an hour and never looked back.

Another comfortable win, and another clean sheet for the best defence in the league.

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They are setting a mightily impressive pace and should they beat Charlton on Tuesday night, they will establish real daylight between themselves and the chasing pack.

Of course, Saturday’s abandonment will leave Sunderland with a game in hand but it adds more spice to an eye-catching fixture when the two sides meet the weekend after next.

Oliver Langford’s decision to take the players from the Wham Stadium also saw Luton turn up the pressure on the Black Cats.

Another home victory for Nathan Jones’s side saw them move ahead of Sunderland.

Ross, however, is not woried.

“As I said on Thursday, the only thing that we can ever affect is what we do,” he said.

“If we can continue to do it in the manner that we have done this season, and the points we’ve gathered in relation to the games, we’ll be OK regardless.

“It doesn’t bother me too much, it’s about what we do.”

Ross has been consistent this season in setting the basic benchmark for promotion as around the two points per game ratio.

Sunderland remain ahead of that and with the return of Charlie Wyke and Duncan Watmore on the horizon, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

The Black Cats still have two opportunities to directly cut Portsmouth’s advantage, the first following their clash with Bristol Rovers next weekend.

Earlier this season, Ross spoke of a chart at the Academy of Light which tracked the performances of two sides right in the promotion mix last season.

At the time, Sunderland were fifth in the table, twelve games in.

One of the two sides Ross tracked were Blackburn Rovers, who went on a long run winning to launch themselves into the promotion mix.

Sunderland subsequently did that themselves and are finely poised ahead of the busy festive schedule.

It is that kind of pragmatic thinking that left Ross ultimately comfortbale with Langford’s decision to abandon the game.

Sunderland had every chance of going on to exploit the conditions and sealing three valuable points.

Just moments before the game was brought to a premature close, Chris Maguire gathered an Aiden McGeady pass and chipped a good effort onto the crossbar.

While Accrington had impressed in the first half, occasionally breaking through the Sunderland press with some clever moves, Ross had made a half time switch to push Lynden Gooch wide from the centre of midfield and the Black Cats looked far more certain.

Still, the pitch was making the game farcical and Accrington’s equaliser embodied that, Jack Baldwin unable to clear as the ball got stuck at his feet.

Conditions only worsened after that and neither manager, both of whom have big aspirations for their season, was happy to take the risk.

Above all else, the short term possibility of a fortuitous winner had to be balanced agsinst the prospect of losing a player for a lengthy period due to injury.

These are two good footballing sides, determined to get it down and play.

They deserve the chance to slug it out in proper conditions.

In the meantime, Ross will not pay too much attention to the table.

He is still quite happy with how Sunderland are tracking, even if the table might get one or two nerves jangling.