Jack Ross admits that Saturday’s league return was a significant step up for Duncan Watmore, but declared himself pleased with 24-year-old’s contribution.
Watmore was a late replacement for Lynden Gooch and led the line well for his side as they held out for a vital 2-1 win against Bristol Rovers.
Ross said the cameo inevitably left the forward ‘catching his breath’.
“It’s been a big couple of weeks for him and I don’t think that should be forgotten,” Ross said.
“The best part of two years out of the game is a long time and you saw what he gives us again on Saturday.
“You can see it’s going to take time for him because he was probably catching his breath in the ten or 15-minute spell he had on the park because it’s so different.
“Nothing can replicate playing or prepare you for it, and league action is different [to the cup games he played previously], because of the intensity of it.”
Ross will continue to be patient with the talented attacker but does not think he will be limited to a supersub role.
The Black Cats boss admitted after the FA Cup defeat to Walsall last week that Watmore’s current striking role was, at least in part, designed to reduce the workload on his body as he recovers from such a long absence.
“It’s a question of how we use him during this busy period, and whether we use him in all the games because we’ve got to look at how his body is after each game but we’ve done that so far and the great thing now is he trusts what I’ve said to him,” Ross said.
“We’ve never changed our mind with him because he did well during the week and I thought on Saturday he did well, which is great for him psychologically.”
Watmore and the Sunderland squad will benefit from a rare midweek without a game as they prepare to face table-topping Portsmouth on Saturday.
Ross says it will be a very different challenge to previous away games but believes it is one his squad will relish.
“It’s good for everybody – players, staff – to have a wee breather for a couple of days and it’s a great game for us,” he said.
“It’s unusual for us to go to such a big stadium and it be a full house. It will be good.
“I’m excited about it and the players will be as well but we’ll enjoy the brief respite.”