Lee Johnson delivers this verdict on Sunderland's draw with Oxford United
Lee Johnson said his Sunderland players deserved praise after a frustrating 1-1 draw with Oxford United at the Stadium of Light.
The Black Cats took an early lead through Leon Dajaku but struggled to build on that advantage through the first half, with Matty Taylor equalising not long before the break.
Sunderland dominated the second half, striking the woodwork through both Ross Stewart and Nathan Broadhead.
Johnson said that he was pleased with that performance level, particularly given that he is without eight senior players due to injury.
"The commitment and effort was there," Johnson said.
"We had a lot of academy graduates involved today which is a nice narrative, but on the flip side it shows our plight with injuries and we have players out of position.
"I think you have to credit our boys for how hard they've worked in that situation, and another day they could have won comfortably against a vey good Oxford side.
"They caused us problems in the first half, so we flipped the shape for the second. We decided to put a different square peg in a round hole which was Bailey Wright at right back, which I thought worked.
"We just couldn't get the ball over the line, whether it be good goalkeeping or just not having quite that finish.
"I was pleased with our performance in the second half.
"It's a tight league as you can see from the table, you've got to be consistent and creative and do everything you can to score two or three.
"I actually thought we did enough today to do that, but we couldn't convert."
Johnson changed Sunderland's shape at half time, moving away from the five-man defence and reverting to the usual 4-2-3-1 system.
After Elliot Embleton's introduction later in the half the Black Cats looked threatening, but were lacking the final ball to secure the result.
"There was a shape change at half-time, we put Bailey Wright at right-back and pushed Leon Dajaku up to right midfield and dropped Lynden Gooch to left-back," Johnson said.
"That's why you have to give these boys credit, because that's Dajaku playing out of position and scoring a goal, Gooch having to play right side and then left side, and then Bailey Wright slotting in at right-back despite being on a booking which made it a bit risky, but these are the things at the moment we have to do.
"I was positive with the players both at half-time and at the end of the game because I know how much they are putting in and how much effort they are giving.
"It's unfortunate that we just couldn't find that final ball, but there was some really good play and I bet that if you look at the highlights reel you'll be thinking 'how have they not scored there?'.
"But I'm full of praise for my players today.
"We haven't got the win, but in terms of the quality on show and the level of sheer territory we had in the second half, we deserved more from the game."