Jack Ross' selection dilemma, League One title still up for grabs: Six things learned from Sunderland's dramatic win at Rochdale
Sunderland secured back-to-back wins on the road post-Wembley with a stunning late winner at Rochdale.
Here’s what we learned from the victory.
League One title not out the question
Sunderland moved level on points with Barnsley thanks to the win at Spotland and the Tykes’ defeat at Burton Albion, who visit the Stadium of Light on Tuesday.
Both teams on 79 points now, Barnsley’s goal difference better by one.
Sunderland still have two games in hand, win those and they’d only be two points leaders Luton Town. Still all to play for this season ahead of a tense final seven games.
Luke O’Nien shines second half.
The makeshift full-back had a difficult afternoon at Wembley but he has been brilliant since and played a key role in Sunderland’s second-half comeback against Rochdale.
He constantly bombed forward, providing much-needed width after the break and he provided the assist for George Honeyman’s winner.
A big fan favourite, O’Nien continues to get better and better at right-back.
Team spirit cannot be underestimated.
This team simply does not know when it’s beaten, they keep going to the death and that hasn’t been the case in recent seasons as the club suffered successive relegations.
Huge credit, therefore, must go to Ross and his coaching staff for their hard work since arriving last summer in instilling a new-found team spirit within the group.
There are some big characters in the squad and the late winner sparked incredible scenes in front of the superb travelling support, Sunderland backed by around 3,800 away fans.
Jack Ross’ selection dilemma.
Grant Leadbitter has been rested in recent games having played a lot of football since arriving from Middlesbrough in January.
His set piece delivery has been a key factor in Sunderland’s long unbeaten run and impressive form since the turn of the year.
Dylan McGeouch, however, has been man of the match against Accringon and Rochdale in Leadbitter’s absence and has surely cemented his place.
Does Ross, therefore, bring Leadbitter back in for Max Power or are Leadbitter and McGeouch too similar? Lee Cattermole is also pushing for a return.
Welcome selection headaches for Ross.
Aiden McGeady was a big miss.
Sunderland missed his creativity, drive and influence in the opening hour of the game, Lewis Morgan unable to adequately fill his shoes on this occasion.
Ross was hopeful McGeady may be ready to return against Burton Albion, Sunderland will certainly need their player of the season firing on all cylinders heading into the final seven games of the season.
George Honeyman made big impact on his return to side.
Honeyman had missed the last three League One games following his red at Adams Park against Wycombe Wanderers, though he did lead the side out at Wembley.
Such was the impressive nature of the win at Accrington he had to make do with a place on the bench at Spotland but he was soon on the pitch following Lynden Gooch’s hamstring injury.
He helped link play between midfield and attack and his good runs were rewarded with the late winner and celebrations that will live long in the memory.