Alex Neil delivers this verdict on brilliant Bristol City win and his 'unbelievable' Sunderland pair

Alex Neil hailed his ‘unbelievable’ strike force after Sunderland secured their first win of the Championship season at Ashton Gate.

By Phil Smith
Saturday, 6th August 2022, 5:42 pm

Neil handed Ellis Simms his full debut at Ashton Gate and the Everton loanee responded with a brilliant brace, before Ross Stewart added the winner in front of over 2,000 travelling fans.

“I thought the two of them were unbelievable, unbelievable,” Neil said.

‘They ran the back three ragged from start to finish. They were an absolute handful.

Ellis Simms had a brilliant debut for Sunderland

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“I just needed to see where Ellis is, and coming away from home having the two of them up top just allowed me to go from back to front a bit quicker, which I don't think there's any harm in doing if you get quality forward and win the second ball.

“They linked the game great.

“Away from home sometimes you need to be a little more pragmatic and today it worked for us.

“I was absolutely delighted with them, even in the first half when in spells we weren’t at our best, I thought they did great.”

Neil was frustrated with the soft defending that allowed Bristol City to take a lead early in the second half, but was pleased with both the resilience and quality his side showed after that.

“The frustration for us was the two goals we concede,” he said.

“The first one, we don't practice offside but for some reason we try to play offside. We concede a goal from that and then the second, it's as soft a goal as you are ever likely to see at this level. Get done with a 1-2, don't get across to guard the space quick enough, it's so weak from our point of view.

“However, what you can't then do is feel sorry for yourself and we didn't. After their second goal, I think you saw the best of us. We really came after them at that point, were well on top and if anything should have scored more in that spell.

“What a save it was to deny Ellis Simms his hat-trick on the volley. I thought we deserved to win the game, they had some good spells in the first half but we were dangerous. They got the goal at the start of the second and after that I thought we were dominant, probably until the last eight minutes.”

Neil says Simms will be crucial as the season develops.

"We always knew Ellis would be available on loan, so we spoke about how in the last month of last season we needed another centre-forward. One to lighten the load on Ross, two to challenge and push Ross, and three to play up next to him and give us another dynamic to our game.

"I thought you saw that dynamic today. I’m not going to compare them to Kevin Phillips and Niall Quinn because they’re miles off that, I’m not making a stupid comparison, but the point I am making is they did really well in terms of that pairing.”