Bailey Wright reveals how Sunderland learnt from Portsmouth loss and why they warmed up as a back four at Cambridge
Bailey Wright says Sunderland learnt a great deal from their heavy defeat at Portsmouth earlier in the season after the side battled through difficult weather conditions to win 2-1 at Cambridge.
The Black Cats were beaten 4-0 at Fratton Park in October when the team repeatedly tried to play out from the back on a mostly waterlogged pitch.
At Cambridge, persistent rain and strong winds resulted in another challenging contest, yet first-half goals from Alex Pritchard and Nathan Broadhead ensured Lee Johnson’s side came away with three points.
“Yeah of course," replied Wright when asked if the team learnt from the Portsmouth game. “We didn’t play the conditions then which we’ve learnt from.
“We have had those conversations, saying ‘lads just remember what happened at Portsmouth’, slightly different conditions but it was tricky to play football.
“You just have to do what it takes and we did.
“It was a bit unpredictable but you know your mate has got your back, I’ve got his back and you just deal with whatever happens.
“There are times when it is unpredictable, which is the same for both teams. It’s not ideal but you just have to learn with conditions like this.”
Sunderland also changed their formation at Cambridge as they played with a back three and wing-backs.
Yet the team warmed up as a back four, while Johnson was also forced to make a late change to his starting XI after captain Corry Evans picked up an injury before the game and was therefore replaced by Lynden Gooch.
Gooch and Leon Dajaku played as the wing-backs, and the plan was for the pair, particularly Dajaku on the left, to push high up the pitch.
"The plan was never to be a back four. The plan was the formation we played in the end which we worked on,” said Wright.
“We felt and the gaffer felt there was an opportunity to tweak us and get the best out of all the players that were available.
“I think this worked well for us in testing conditions and in the first half we showed we could play a bit.
“The second half was really difficult against the wind and they were trying to get the goal back.
“I think the formation helped us, we got bodies around the ball and I think to a man we all stuck at it.”
Injuries to full-backs Dennis Cirkin, Niall Huggins and Denver Hume means Johnson is likely to use different systems in the coming weeks.
Luke O’Nien and Aiden McGeady are also set to be sidelined for a sustained period of time.
"I think with the injuries we’ve had you have to be adaptable and get the best out of everyone in the squad,” added Wright.
“The gaffer thought that formation was the best and it proved it.
“In training we always buy into whatever is asked of us and we won the game so I think that is the biggest measure to see if it worked or not.
“Whatever formation we play and where the lads are asked to play they will play.
“We need a full squad and it’s an opportunity for the lads to get the shirt and make sure we bring something to the table.”