Jack Ross reflects on Checkatrade Trophy heartache and hits back at suggestion Sunderland ran out of ideas
Jack Ross admits Sunderland’s dramatic Checkatrade Trophy final defeat to Portsmouth was a sore one to take - but was adamant the Black Cats are resilient enough to bounce back strongly.
And the Sunderland chief hit back strongly at any suggestion they ran out of ideas in the second half of the Wembley final.
Sunderland led at half-time through Aiden McGeady’s sublime free-kick, the lead should have been far greater given their dominance in the opening 45 minutes.
Portsmouth hit back strongly after the break, Nathan Thompson equalising to send the game into extra-time and then eventually penalties after McGeady cancelled out Jamal Lowe’s lob.
Sunderland have to dust themselves down quickly with a trip to Accrington Stanley to come on Wednesday with the focus now back on the League One automatic push.
The Black Cats are fourth, six points off the top two but with three games in hand over Barnsley.
Ross said: “Oh we’re resilient enough. We've shown that. It’s very easy to say that but you can see the number of times, the number of points we’ve won from losing positions.
“The character you need to play for this club and be involved in this club, you’ve got to have that. We’ve shown that again in the last 120 seconds of extra time, because dragging yourself up after you concede so late in extra time is not easy , physically and mentally, but we managed to do that again.
“If we don’t succeed this season it won’t be because of strength of character, because we have that in abundance.”
Sunderland’s second half display was disappointing given the dominance of the first half but Ross said it was more to do with Portsmouth’s improvement rather than Sunderland running out of ideas.
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Ross added: “ think ran out of ideas is inaccurate and disrespectful to my group who gave everything.
“I think that’s the wrong tone to take with that. First half we were really good, second half Portsmouth were really good.
“They changed the dynamics of the game and we had to be resilient during that period. The flow of the game is very easy to speak about and say you could have changed it magically.
“You can’t some days and like I said, I thought we had played well and then got ourselves back into it. Extra time becomes very different to the 90 minutes you play previously.
“The first half was really good. To play in that manner on such an occasion was terrific. I suppose now, in hindsight, there’s probably a little bit of frustration that we didn’t take more advantage of that because always knew there would be spells in the game where Portsmouth would come back into it.”
Defeat was a sore one for the Scot to take, he had spoken in the build-up about his pride at leading Sunderland out at a Wembley final.
He added: “The feeling now is sore. There’s no disguising that it’s a sore changing room. It’s painful, but there’s no magic words to take away that pain because you come here to win a trophy and you put a huge amount in trying to do so.
“But equally, we came into today on the back of an enforced break which allowed us to have that focus.
“Irrespective of how today went, we had spoken a lot about the game on Wednesday evening and the game on Saturday and how important they are for us.
“We’ll allow the pain to subside tonight, and then get back to work properly tomorrow and prepare for Accrington.”