Phil Smith's verdict: The Jack Ross system delivering goals and results for well-placed Sunderland

A Saturday when the currently two contrasting worlds of Sunderland AFC collided again.

Sunday, 15th September 2019, 12:45 pm
Updated Sunday, 15th September 2019, 1:01 pm

Late in the evening, news in the national press broke that should Sunderland’s takeover be completed, Sam Allardyce would be interested in a future return.

There’s no reason to doubt that and it’s something that both Jack Ross and supporters will have to get used to.

That these are serious players in the world of business is well known, as is their access to capital. There will be no shortage of parties interested in being involved with that, on the pitch and off it.

Lynden Gooch celebrates his goal at Accrington Stanley

Sign up to our Sunderland AFC newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Of course, what we know so far, and last night’s report acknowledged as much, paints a different picture of what Sunderland would look like after the takeover.

Ross is under no threat and that Stewart Donald and Charlie Methven are expected to stay on tells us that the model will not change drastically.

It’s the right approach for a club that has spent heavily in the past and is still coming to terms with the ruinous legacy it brought.

Earlier in the day, Sunderland had efficiently gone about their business in making it six wins out of seven as League One showed yet again that it is not for the fainthearted.

A league where Blackpool, with a strong squad and a flying start, are now winless in five and lost 3-0 at home to newly-promoted MK Dons.

Where Rochdale could be 4-0 down in a game where they had enjoyed over 70% of the ball.

Where Fleetwood, so impressive for much of the early weeks of the season, shipped three and dropped two points against a Southend United side beyond out of sorts coming into the contest.

The defeat against Peterborough was chastening but this 3-1 win leaves Sunderland well placed.

This was a good fixture to bounce back in, at a ground where the Black Cats have enjoyed playing on their four visits in the last nine months.

It was here that Sunderland started this encouraging run back around a month ago, with Ross using the Carabao Cup first round to move away from his early season wing-back system and go to a very open 4-4-2.

They have scored sixteen goals in the seven since then and got themselves back at the two-points-per-game marker.

With some tricky fixtures in the opening weeks, it gives them a good platform from which to kick on.

This was a contest that underlined both the risk and significant potential upside to the system that Ross has been using.

Just as he had done after the cup game, John Coleman insisted that his team were the better side, beaten only by their own individual mistakes.

“It's ourselves today, let's get that straight,” he said.

“People will laud Sunderland for being clinical and having good players, which they have, you can't deny that, but the game could be a lot different.

“You can say they tried to see the game out in the second half and I think we were the better team overall.

“They had a chance at the end and that would have made it, disgustingly, 4-1, but we've got to learn and we've got to learn quickly.”

His Chairman, Andy Holt, posted on twitter that other than two mistakes, there was ‘nowt in it’.

It was without doubt a game in which Accrington Stanley had openings. Particularly in the early stages, they moved the ball well and found gaps in the Sunderland defence.

This, though, is the calculated gamble that the Black Cats take in games at the moment.

They are happy to accept that they cannot have complete control of the midfield, in the belief that an open game will suit them and create opportunities for their attackers.

The pace and strength of Jordan Willis in defence is unquestionably helping them in coping with opposition breaks, even if a clean sheet remains frustratingly elusive.

It is working well, and here they scored three goals of exceptional quality.

The third summed up where the system works well. Accrington had players high up the pitch an were attempting to spark an attack when George Dobson showed good energy and awareness to intercept.

He quickly found Chris Maguire, enjoying a more advanced role of late, and his quality and composure created the simplest of finishes for Marc McNulty.

Though Accrington had much of the ball in the second half, their chances were almost entirely limited to set pieces and it was the away side that came closest with a swift break at the end.

Sunderland were not at their best but it was a game that they comfortably deserved to win.

Next opponents Rotherham United will be buoyed by their emphatic win over Bolton Wanderers but September offers an opportunity for Sunderland to turn a good start to the campaign into an excellent one.

At the moment, Ross has a system and a style that is offering his attacking threats plenty of opportunities and delivering consistent results.

While that continues, there will be little need for talk of other managers, takeover or otherwise.