Jack Ross trust in Sunderland squad pays off as Luke O'Nien shows why he's keeping Adam Matthews out

Sunderland boosted their automatic promotion hopes with the 4-2 win over Gillingham at the Stadium of Light.

Wednesday, 20th February 2019, 9:56 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th February 2019, 10:02 am
Luke O'Nien won two penalties against Gillingham.

Here’s what we learned from the much-needed victory.

Jack Ross happy to trust his players.

The Scot revealed post-match that there is no designated penalty taker at Sunderland, instead he lets the players on the pitch decide.

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“I have never delegated penalty kick taking responsibility, we do a lot on set pieces but that has always been one for the players to decide on the park for various reasons, individual performances can affect wanting to take penalties.

“Aiden obviously has given the opportunity to Will, only because he knows that Will will score.”

The usual taker is the ever reliable Aiden McGeady. But he allowed Will Grigg the opportunity to get off the mark last night.

Team spirit is high. It was an important moment and Grigg is now up and running.

Luke O’Nien shows why he’s in the team.

There continues to be much debate over team selection, with right-back one area.

There is an argument for natural full-back Adam Matthews to be restored but O’Nien again showed why he is in the side.

Defensively he wasn’t at his best last night, his positioning questionable at times.

But going forward he provides legs, width, energy and quality. He won both penalties with his bursts into the penalty area.

Matthews won’t get back in anytime soon.

Sunderland still not convincing at the back.

Sunderland have solved their problem of only scoring one goal in recent matches, with two against Accrington Stanley and four against Gillingham.

But it is the other end of the pitch that continues to cause concern, Sunderland, at times against Gillingham, looked nervy and uncertain and both goals conceded were poor defensively.

Jack Baldwin was rested, or dropped to be more blunt. Tom Flanagan and Jimmy Dunne paired together.

Gillingham had 13 shots, six of which were on target. If their finishing was sharper, Sunderland could have dropped more points.

A big improvement needed at the back as we head into the run-in.

Leadbitter and Cattermole partnership shows real promise.

“The balance of Grant and Lee made us more secure and we controlled the game.”

The words of Jack Ross post-match, following an impressive display by his two central midfielders.

The pair both given standing ovations when subbed second half.

Cattermole netted his first goal at the Stadium of Light. Leadbitter provided two more assists, five now in total for him.

The pair played together for the first time in a Sunderland shirt. And their partnership showed real promise in the middle. Sunderland crying out for a regular pairing in that area.

No stopping Will Grigg now.

The £4million deadline day signing is up and running. His celebration etched with sheer joy, elation and relief.

It has been a difficult start for the prolific frontman, missing three golden chances against Blackpool and Accrington Stanley.

Those misses now consigned to history. Despite the lack of goals, Grigg has been playing well and he got his reward last night.

Much more to come from him.

Football can be a cruel game.

Chris Maguire helped spark the revival against Accrington Stanley with his brilliant cameo appearance and he was rewarded with a start against Gillingham.

He lasted just 18 minutes before a calf injury forced him off, Maguire thumping the ground in frustration.

Ross is hoping it won’t be a long-term problem with the forward being assessed. He could prove a big player in the final months of the season.