Brian Barry-Murphy's verdict on 'relentless' Sunderland and why his Rochdale side struggled to cope

Brian Barry-Murphy admitted that his side struggled to cope with a ‘relentless’ Sunderland performance, but felt his side were short of where they needed to be physically to compete.

Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 6:10 am

Rochdale came into the game after picking up a very creditable point away at Doncaster Rovers on Saturday, but were blown away at the Stadium of Light and found themselves 3-0 down just after the half hour mark.

They steadied somewhat in the second half, with the introduction of veteran stiker Aaron Wilbraham making a difference, but they remained unable to much of a threat to Jon McLaughlin’s goal.

Barry-Murphy was impressed with Sunderland’s pressing but also felt the first half reflected the issues he is having in trying to keep such a small squad fresh through a long campaign.

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“From the outside looking in, they’re pretty relentless in the way they go about the game and have a different style to what we experienced last season,” he said.

“It’s probably equally as effective though, and we were under no illusions about how tough the game was going to be. From my own point of view, without wanting to take anything away from Sunderland at all, I didn’t think we were able to play at the intensity and speed that we have done during our good spells.

“We were at Peterborough earlier in the season and it was the exact same, we were three down at half-time. After 59 minutes, we were six down. That was one of the longest experiences of my life, so without enjoying it, we’ve almost been through everything.

“It’s not a nice experience, but you actually learn from having been there before.

“If I’m being totally honest, I didn’t think we played anywhere near the level we can at any stage of the game. Even in the second half, as good as we were on Saturday against Doncaster, there was no real resemblance of what we did there,” he added.

“Without making excuses, I would suggest that, physically, our players just couldn’t reproduce what they did on Saturday. Whether that was physical, mental or whatever, I’m not quite sure, but we couldn’t reproduce what we did at the weekend. That was the disappointing thing for us.

“You’re always trying to pre-empt which players have had long spells in the team, and we’ve had periods this season when we’ve had literally no players to go on the bench.

“We’ve had to have our youth players or academy players, so there are players in our team who have had long spells in the team.

“We’ve been trying to relieve the load, but we did so well on Saturday it was hard to see who shouldn’t play. We just didn’t play well. There were too many of us who just didn’t perform.”

Sunderland’s win lifted them to fifth in the table, and they are now five points off the automatic promotion places.

They have two games-in-hand on Peterborough United, who climbed above Wycombe Wanderers into second on Tuesday night with a 4-0 win over Southend United.