Jack Ross gives his verdict on Sunderland draw, Jon McLaughlin and a 'massive week' for club
Jack Ross has challenged his Sunderland players to take maximum points from a 'massive week' for the club.
Marcus Browne's late equaliser prevented the Black Cats from taking all three points at the Kassam Stadium.
With Barnsley and Luton Town both winning again, the pressure is on Sunderland as they prepare for three home games in seven days.
The Black Cats face Blackpool, Accrington Stanley and Gillingham at the Stadium of Light.
Ross was left frustrated by the 1-1 draw with Oxford, the second time in as many away games they have conceded late on to lose a narrow advantage.
"We’ve had it a couple of times recently away from home," he said.
"It wasn’t an easy game or a pretty game.
"A lot of them are like that, particularly away from home at this stage of the season.
"There is a resilience about the team, the occasions it’s happened to us, one is a worldie [Adam Hammill for Scunthorpe], one is an incorrect decision.
"It’s my job to make sure I pick the players up again.
"We’ve got a huge seven days from Tuesday, three games at home, it’s massive for us.
"There’s no point disguising that.
"If we win, we’re in an OK position. If not, we deserve a bit of criticism.
"Anytime we don’t win, it’s deemed as not good enough.
"The reality is away games are tough, Oxford didn’t make it easy today.
"The only way the point becomes of any benefit is if you win those home games.
"They’re not season-defining, but they are vitally important."
Ross is looking forward to the chance to get back on home turf and build some positivity ahead of the closing stretch of the season.
A direct Oxford side caused problems on a poor Kassam Stadium pitch, the game not suiting his more creative players.
Ross has been pleased with his side's progression in coping with that kind of challenge over the course of the season but now wants to see a ruthless streak at the Stadium of Light.
“I’ve spoken often enough about the different challenges of this season," he said.
"When Oxford came to our place, I thought they played a lot of good stuff.
"Today, they were really direct. That’s not a criticism, that’s just the way the game was. So it’s not easy. It lengthens the game and you’ve got to defend a lot of balls over the top and balls into your box. In the main, we did it, but in the end, it probably doesn’t really suit a few of our players.
"At home, it’s different. I think we’ve had games at home recently where we’ve dominated territory, we just need to then be more ruthless when we’re in those areas. That’s what we’ll need to do in these three games coming up.
“I think, as a squad, they’ve grown as the season has gone on and they have dealt with the challenges that have been thrown at them.
"In the early part of the season, there was probably times when we won games away from home and you could argue that we maybe nicked them.
"More recently, there have been times where we maybe haven’t played that brilliantly, but we’ve looked as though we were going to see the game out reasonably comfortably. I think Scunthorpe was like that – we weren’t under waves of attacks – and today we weren’t under waves of attacks either. But you don’t win the game.
"It’s a physical league, it’s a tough league and it’s a challenging league, but it’s very difficult at the moment to come away from the disappointment and frustration of not winning the game from the position we were in."
Sunderland goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin made some excellent saves throughout the game, denying Rob Dickie, Jamie Mackie and James Henry from close range.
Ross praised his goalkeeper but pointed out that he expected him to be called into action during a difficult away game.
"I get slightly irritated with this fascination with my goalkeeper making saves," Ross said.
"I grew up watching Manchester United, who were the best team when I grew up.
"People don’t remember Peter Schmeichel because he had nothing to do. He made big saves.
"Jon made some big saves, he’s a good goalkeeper and that’s why I brought him to the club.
"Away from home, you need your goalkeeper to make saves, he made a couple of good saves.
"We have to be careful we don’t get caught up in this whirl around this club.
"He made some good saves today, I don’t think we were brilliant but we got ourselves in a good position to go and win the game and Jon helped us to do that.
"There’s a responsibility on me to keep that positivity but also to be realistic with the players," he added.
"That’s why I would say, publicly and privately, this week ahead of us is a big week.
"These three games are massive for us.
"If we get three wins, we’re in an OK position.
"There’s enough belief in there that we can do that."