'Can’t look for excuses': Ross Stewart delivers honest verdict after Lincoln defeat as Sunderland striker calls for a reaction

Ross Stewart says Sunderland’s players need to take responsibility for Tuesday’s home defeat by Lincoln and must improve for Saturday’s trip to Accrington Stanley.

Thursday, 13th January 2022, 6:00 am

The Black Cats missed the chance to go top of League One as they were beaten 3-1 at the Stadium of Light, with former forward Chris Maguire netting a hat-trick.

The result came three days after Sunderland’s pulsating 3-3 draw at Wycombe, while the Black Cats’ squad remained low on numbers due to injuries and Covid-19 cases.

Still, Stewart was reluctant to make excuses.

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Sunderland striker Ross Stewart playing against Lincoln.

“It’s demanding but it’s as demanding as it was earlier in the season when you are playing three games a week,” Stewart told the Echo.

“Obviously with injuries and Covid we are down to the bare bones but as players you can’t let that be a factor.

“The games come along and if you are available to play games you play games, as players we just have to be ready for that.

“It is difficult, I’m not going to lie, but as players we just have to find a way to be better than we were tonight and can’t look for excuses.

“On the pitch and all round we have to put in better performances than that.”

Sunderland also struggled with the condition of the Stadium of Light pitch, which had been heavily watered ahead of the match.

When asked about the pitch after the game Black Cats boss Lee Johnson admitted ‘it wasn’t meant to be like that’, while Stewart shared a similar view.

“I don’t really want to blame the pitch, both teams play on the same pitch but obviously with the style we want to play it probably doesn’t suit us,” the striker admitted.

“Probably for the first 20/30 minutes we were trying to play when it wasn’t on.

“After that as the team got together, we tried to adapt our style more and were more direct to try and take out the middle of the pitch which wasn’t the best to try to pass and move.

“After that we created a few more chances but I think Lincoln played it better than us and managed the game better in terms of the pitch.

“It’s not really something that as players we can use an excuse and as a team we just have to be better.”

The Lincoln match showed how Sunderland will have to overcome contrasting opponents with different styles as they look to stay in the mix for automatic promotion.

Compared to the Wycombe game, there was far less space for Sunderland’s attackers in the final third, with Stewart conceding his side didn’t adapt well enough.

“I think every team has their own tactics and I think Lincoln, on the evidence of the scoreline, got it right,” added Stewart.

“We didn’t get to the levels we are capable of and didn’t ask them enough questions.

“Obviously they go away as 3-1 winners so they got it right, but as players we can be better than what we showed tonight.

“It’s a frustrating one but we just have to look ahead to Saturday now.”

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