Lee Johnson reflects on Ross Stewart's crucial Sunderland contribution and what it showed about the striker
Ross Stewart may have 'megabucks' of work to do on his game, but Lee Johnson says the striker's performance at Home Park showed why he was brought to the club.
Stewart was handed just his second start against Plymouth Argyle after Charlie Wyke was ruled out with a thigh issue.
The former Ross County forward responded with a fine early goal, springing the offside trap to confidently score when through 1-v-1.
The 24-year-old could have doubled his tally in the second half, his header from inside the box striking the crossbar before bouncing clear.
With Wyke in superb form, Stewart has largely had to settle for a role as an impact substitute since making the move south of the border for a six-figure fee in January.
Johnson praised Stewart for his work leading the line and said it showed many of the attributes that made him a key transfer target.
"That mobility is the big thing," Johnson said.
"He's a big lad and I think maybe at the moment he's sometimes better playing as a one [striker].
"He almost needs the width of the box to be able to arc his run.
"The goal was a great example, I know Plymouth thought he was offside but I just thought it was a really good run. He's long and he's lean and that gives him the chance to make those runs.
"Listen, Ross has got megabucks of work to do but that's why we bought him," Johnson added.
"We wouldn't have him otherwise. 6ft 4, quick, we're talking £10 million [if he was the finished product].
"He's a great lad, really good on the tactical stuff because he wants to learn.
"Technically he's a good player and physically he's extremely good."
Sunderland are assessing Wyke's injury through the early stages of this week, and Johnson has been given a boost in knowing that a top-six place is secured regardless of the result when Northampton Town travel to the Stadium of Light this weekend.
The head coach was left thrilled with a number of performances at Home Park, particularly in a forward line missing Wyke and Aiden McGeady.
Johnson agreed that the goal and performance was important for Stewart, but says the victory was important for the whole squad.
"It's massive for all of us, to be honest," he said.
"After that first game [against Wigan] we're sat 11th in the league and we've come away with a cup win, and now we've got another mini-cup competition that we can actually prepare for with players actually fit.
"The likes of Bailey Wright, back to his best on Saturday and that's massive for us going back into the play-offs.
"We've got a lot of different dynamics in forward areas, which we need.
"And we're learning all the time, learning about the individuals. Who can deal with the pressure of certain games, who you can manage through certain niggles, all these types of things.
"I'm always learning about the boys and Saturday was another tick in the box for a number of players."