Jack Ross opens up on Will Grigg's form, his main Sunderland frustration and the 'myth' of what they must improve
Ross says Sunderland are doing ‘as much as they can’ to get the best from Will Grigg.
The Black Cats endured a frustrating start to the season against Oxford United on Saturday, rescuing a point after Tariqe Fosu’s early goal but failing to find a winner.
Grigg struggled to get much sight of goal and was replaced by Aiden McGeady in the 70th minute as Ross searched for a second goal.
Sunderland had just three shots on target despite dominating both possession and territory for most of the game.
Grigg’s last goal came in April, going eight compeititve and four pre-season matches without registering.
“If you have 34 crosses in a game then that's not bad and we are doing as much as we can to get the best from him,” Ross said.
“We have played different ways, different players, and today we played with players higher up the park, as much as we could, which left us a bit open at times but we tried to do that because we understand the importance of winning at home.”
Sunderland’s inability to be ruthless in front of goal and score a second was an issue last year, with Ross speaking openly on the eve of the season of the need to turn draws into wins.
After the game he admitted that Sunderland’s final ball must improve after a number of good crossing opportunities were wasted.
His main frustration, though, was was the soft early goal that left his side needing to force the issue.
The Black Cats had been inpossession near their own goal when Ben Woodburn pounced on some indecision, robbing Conor McLaughlin and teeing up Fosu.
“I spoke before the season started about the number of clean sheets on average we need to keep to get promotion and it is about 20,” he said.
“Last season we had 13 at home so that platform to win games, particularly here, is important for us, If you get cut open and someone scores a goal you can't prevent, there is not much you can do about it but we were in possession of the ball [for their goal] and it was avoidable which is the most frustrating thing.
“We never had any easy games home or away last season, I understand the expectations of this club and the reality is different to the perception and what we have in the group and it is fine lines but we dominated that game territorially and you only do that with good players and when you are pushing,” he added.
“But it does become more difficult when you go behind because the whole game is more frustrating for obvious reasons such as how difficult it is to get a flow.”
Ross feels he has improved his squad with his summer business, but has urged his players to be more ruthless in both boxes.
“We feel we have attributes we didn't have last season, see that with George and Jordan in terms of more pace and mobility, but the thing is clean sheets,” he added.
“There is a real myth about last season, on average you need to score 75/76 goals to get out of this league and we scored 80. So it frustrates me because the actual truth is we needed to keep more clean sheets, especially here, because if we'd done that we would have turned draws into wins. Today is another example of that.
“We don't want that to cost us, we can't keep having hard luck stories and I can't keep repeating the same message but there is an understanding in the squad that is what we need to do.
“It wasn't scoring enough goals that cost us although we need to be more ruthless and make better decisions in the final third, 34 crosses is a heck of a lot and they were not all poor. Some were poor, some were good and we need to work hard at that to make sure our creative or attacking players continue to get goals.”
That early goal allowed Oxford to take time out of the game, warned for their timewasting as early as the 20th minute.
It continued throughout the game, with two players booked late on.
Ross admitted his frustration with that element of the game and pointed to it as another reason why Sunderland simply cannot afford to give their opponent the advantage on home turf.
“I attend a lot of meetings about officials and I do think they don't do an awful lot about it here and the game is allowed to become very stop-start,” he said.
“I sympathise with them to a degree, it is not easy to officiate in those circumstances, but there are times throughout the game when it is allowed to stop for a significant period more than it should but we have to deal with it and accept that. It comes back to the fact we have to make sure we don't fall behind.”
Meanwhile, Ross defended his 3-4-1-2 Sunderland system.
Ross said: “We've done a lot of work on it in pre-season and the general part of the game was pretty good, it was just the final bit wasn't very good. That can happen with any system.
“A lot is made of systems nowadays and it's probably over-egged.
“It's what happens in both penalty boxes that determines results.”