The key tactical tweak that sparked Lynden Gooch and Chris Maguire's superb Sunderland performances explained
Rochdale were given a warning minutes before the goal that opened the floodgates.
Lynden Gooch had gone close with a deft volley just nine minutes into the game after a cross from the right and within a couple of minutes, he was up and running after an almost identical move.
Brian Barry-Murphy’s side couldn’t cope with the movement of Gooch and Chris Maguire, and their performances were a source of particular delight to manager Phil Parkinson as he works on shifting their mentality as attacking midfielders.
Both have a habit of scoring spectacular goals from range and while that is a major weapon for the Black Cats, Parkinson is also working to ensure they embrace the challenging of poaching crucial goals from close range.
“We had to start quick,” Parkinson said.
“They'd had a long journey, it was a horrible night, we just had to make sure we tested their mental strength early and I felt we did that.
“The only way you do it is put the opposition back four under pressure and I was pleased with the quality in the box which led to the goals, but also the movement.
“That's the defining line between getting a goal and not and we'd spoken to Goochy and Chris before the game, because although we were delighted with the win against Ipswich, there were still times when balls were coming into the box and they were on the edge, waiting for the cutback.
“We want our two midfielders to be backing the play up there, and for them to make those near post runs or get to the middle of the goal,” he added.
“Goochy did that great last night, and whoever is playing in those positions has to got to think like a number nine.
“They're getting better at that and we need to keep working on it.”
After the euphoria of beating Ipswich Town in a crucial test of the club’s promotion ambitions on Saturday, Parkinson was thrilled to see his side put in such a professional performance days later to ensure they keep building crucial momentum ahead of the visit to Oxford United this weekend.
“It was a big test,” he said.
“Driving up to the game, I thought this would be a test for all of us, for the crowd as well.
“The supporters coming in from the euphoria of getting that late goal and win against a decent team against Ipswich, there is that feeling that we should now go and beat Rochdale comfortably.
“But to do that certain qualities have to be in place and I thought the lads showed that, implementing what we needed to do to get the result.
“We were pleased with the night’s work, 3-0 at home is a good return.
“You look at Nottingham Forest, beat Leeds [and then lose], you can sometimes have that after The Lord Mayor’s show scenario.
“That’s why I was so pleased with the mentality to get the three points.
“Now we dust ourselves down and go again.”