Jack Ross gives his verdict on where his Sunderland side stand and the key area for improvement

Jack Ross says getting it right in the final third will be the priority in the final build up to the League One season.

Sunday, 21st July 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Sunday, 21st July 2019, 7:00 am
Jack Ross is happy with the progress of his Sunderland side but knows they must be more ruthless

Sunderland fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat against Belenenses on Saturday night, after drawing 0-0 with Benfica B earlier in the week.

The Black Cats did create some promising openings, particular in the first hour of the game, but they lacked the final product.

Ross was encouraged with the way the players played within his 3-4-3 system, and particularly with their build-up play.

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Elliot Embleton and Duncan Watmore combined impressively and have the Black Cats boss encouragement.

However, he is acutely aware of the need to be more ruthless.

“There were times last season where we felt that if we had been more ruthless we could have turned games around,” he said.

“The one thing I would say in defence of the group is that a lot of the work we have done on that system has been building it up towards that final third and the work we did tonight on that was brilliant, even on things we had only worked on this morning.

“It’s just then the next part we have to get right and that’s what we will work on now.

“The good thing is that we have got a fortnight before the first game so there is still the time to do that.”

Sunderland face Heerenveen at the Stadium of Light next Saturday night before Oxford United visit for the opening game of the season on August 3rd.

Ross insists he is pleased with the progession of his side as they continue through the pre-season campaign.

“Overall, I gauge pre-season on improvement and conditioning levels and I think you could see we were better on both counts this evening,” Ross said.

“From South Shields to Thursday’s game against Benfica B and then to now we have got better with each game.

“Yes, we would like to be more ruthless with the opportunities we created and there were a couple of things we need to look at with the goal we conceded, but there was still that improvement there against a better calibre of opposition.”