Michael Beale delivers brutally honest verdict on Sunderland's comeback win and reveals key half-time message
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Michael Beale told his Sunderland players that they have set their benchmark moving forward after battling back from a desperately poor first half to overrun Plymouth Argyle and return to the Championship top six.
Ryan Hardie's goal put Plymouth ahead at the interval as the Black Cats laboured, despite Beale naming a very attacking starting XI. Beale sent his players out early to put it right in the second half and their response was outstanding, sweeping the visitors aside with three goals in just over 30 minutes.
Pierre Ekwah, Jack Clarke and Jobe Bellingham were all on the scoresheet to seal three vital points and while Beale feels some inconsistency is inevitable with such a young team - he wants them to ensure they replicate what they managed in the second half.
Asked if it was a classic game of two halves at the start of his pre-match press conference, Beale said: "Well we only played in one half to be honest. We started the game well, but we really fell away. There were too many individual errors, we went really bold with our line up and it certainly in terms of our cohesion early in the game... I wasn't pleased with our pressing.
"We had honest words at half time, got out there early and I thought from the moment we kicked off, we were much much better. We scored three excellent goals and we're mixing around the goal scorers now as well. It was three special goals.
"I think we went and pressed really well, Trai Hume jumping out his slot to press and make challenges, Naz pressing tirelessly didn't get a personal reward but his energy for the team was fantastic," he added.
"In that fifteen, twenty minute spell we looked a really good team. It's incredible when you compare the level of performance in the two halves, but I guess that's what it's like managing a young team at times. I just said to them, it's a really important win when you look at the table tonight.
"We're a young team and so we always can get better.In that first half there weren't too many in a Sunderland shirt who did themselves justice and we spoke about that. We spoke about wanting to excite our fans at home, to run, play front-foot football and for people to express themselves. I could have made five subs but I told the players that I thought it was the right team and they had to put it right. We didn't want any regrets and I expected more. The second half was fantastic and we have to stay at that level."
Beale praised Dan Neil for an exceptional second-half performance, saying he fully capitalised on a tactical tweak that freed up him to impact the game: "We made a tactical change and got Dan free by tying up their midfielders. For a fifteen, twenty-minute period Dan had a lot of freedom. He had a really influential second half in all aspects, he won duels, he drove us forward, he played passes."