Dion Sanderson's clear message ahead of Portsmouth clash as he lifts the lid on his new Sunderland role
Dion Sanderson says this weekend’s League One results change nothing for Sunderland – as they prepare to head to Portsmouth.
The Black Cats extended their unbeaten run to seven games in all competitions, and piled the pressure on the top two with another victory on Saturday.
And sealing the three points against Rochdale was given added significance after both Peterborough and Portsmouth fell to defeat.
Pompey were comprehensively beaten 4-1 at Northampton Town – but with Sunderland set to travel to Fratton Park on Tuesday evening, Sanderson insists the side can’t focus on Pompey’s recent form.
"Nothing will change for us,” said the defender.
"We'll still go into that game with the same mentality we always have - get the three points, get a clean sheet and go from there.”
It was a memorable weekend for Sanderson after he netted his first senior goal in Sunderland’s latest win.
And while his planned celebration may have gone out the window, the 21-year-old was delighted to get on the scoresheet – and even more pleased to register another important triumph.
"At the time there were a load of emotions going through my head,” he said of his goal.
"I had a celebration but it never happened, I was just overwhelmed with the goal. But I couldn't have been more happy.
“We were still looking to get out there and get more goals, of course. Chaz got the second and we wanted a third just to put the game to rest. But we played a professional game defensively on and off the ball.
“It was a tough game,” he added.
"They caused us quite a few problems with the runners they had coming forward, a few of the centre midfielders making forward runs and creating that overload on the back line, but it's just about communication and getting our centre midfielders to fill in as that extra body and be more secure behind the ball.
"They were a good team so we're happy to get the three points and a clean sheet.”
As well as contributing in the final third, Sanderson was once again imperious at the back as he continued his fine form of late.
The Wolves loanee has had to become the senior centre back in the Sunderland side in recent weeks given injuries to key players, but is relishing the role.
"Since Bailey and Jordan haven't been in the team I've had that responsibility to step-up,” Sanderson explained.
"Especially playing in the heart of defence, the communication I've had to bring in from them has been key for myself and the team.
"It's been every enjoyable, a challenge, but I'm happy with how things are going.”
And with the unbeaten run extended on Saturday, Sanderson says the spirit in the camp is now as good as he’s seen it – as the squad prepare to head to Portsmouth.
"There's been a mood change in the dressing room.
"It's a good vibe, you want to be around the players. They're good people as well as footballers.
"It's been the best since I've been here and that's a bonus with all the changes we've had, like the new gaffer coming in. We've had to adapt to what he's trying to build around Sunderland and it's been going really well.”