Jack Ross on how Grant Leadbitter's growing influence, key partnerships and consistency in selection are helping Sunderland
Sunderland’s return to winning ways has coincided with settled partnerships in key areas of the pitch, with Jack Ross hailing Grant Leadbitter’s influence.
Ross made just one change for the trip to the Memorial Stadium, Duncan Watmore replacing Chris Maguire, who is facing six to eight weeks out with a fractured fibula.
Leadbitter again partnered Lee Cattermole in central midfield, with Sunderland controlling the game, while Jimmy Dunne and Tom Flanagan impressed at the back, coping well against Rovers’ direct style of play.
Luke O’Nien and an Aiden McGeady free-kick ensured Sunderland secured back-to-back wins for the first time since December.
And Ross believes a consistency in selection has been a factor for the Black Cats but admits that can prove difficult sometimes with a demanding schedule.
Ross said: “You always want consistency of selection to a degree, though it is more difficult in the Championship and League One, League Two due to the amount of games and fatigue factor that comes in.
“A lot of times people aren’t aware of that, it is behind the scenes stuff, but you would want a general consistency and for people to build relationships.
“There is going to be times when we are going to have to mix it up again depending on what we are facing and how players are feeling.
“Certainly, all those little units over the park against Bristol Rovers were good.”
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Leadbitter joined Sunderland in the January window from neighbours Middlesbrough, the central midfielder returning home to Wearside.
And he has proved a huge success, with five assists to his name already and a growing influence on the side both on and off the pitch.
Ross says the experienced 33-year-old is helping bolster the winning culture the Scot is trying to forge at the Academy of Light.
“His quality was never going to be in question, I liked Grant from the very first time I spoke to him," said Ross.
“I had a few conversations with him and I think he enjoys being back here and the way we work, he likes the way we work, and he is desperate to be successful for the club.
“There are others here like that, too, and it just spreads and it becomes the culture of your club and the fabric of your club.
“It was there already but he has helped strengthen that again.
“He is capable of doing both sides of the game - the dirty side and then also quality in possession as well.”