Ross Stewart makes this Sunderland vow after more play-off agony against Lincoln City
Ross Stewart has vowed to use Sunderland’s play-off agony as the catalyst to deliver a 2021/22 season ‘filled with success’.
The Scottish striker netted the opener in the Black Cats’ 2-1 win over Lincoln City on Saturday, which was not enough for the side to progress to Wembley.
A number of Sunderland’s player were visibly emotional at the final whistle as the club were sentenced to a fourth term in League One – and Stewart wants to use that pain to fuel a promotion push next season.
"That dressing room in there is hurting, myself included,” he said.
"It will take a few days to wear off but once it does, I'll certainly be using it as motivation to come back next season.
"I don't want to have that same feeling that's in that dressing room. Hopefully the season next year can be one filled with success.”
Sunderland began the game brightly – and could have been out of sight had a first-half penalty been award after Stewart was clattered in the box.
Referee Michael Salisbury waved away the appeals, before Lincoln the netted a crucial goal after the break.
"Being the player on the end of it, I thought it was a stonewaller,” said Stewart of the incident.
"I thought it was a penalty all day. The keeper has come out and got nowhere near the ball and collided with me. I don't know how the ref hasn't given it.
"There's been a couple of decisions today that I think he's got wrong and that probably adds to the frustration. We've put a lot into it and the refereeing decisions are out of our control.
"The first half was exactly how we planned it,” he continued.
"We came out all guns blazing and pressed them high, put them under pressure, got the goals and got right back in the tie.
“Second half was probably a bit more frustrating and we didn't find those same levels, but we did put a lot into that first half and in the end we're disappointed in that dressing room to have not got through the tie.
“You do have to give them a bit of credit. They settled down and started to play and we didn't really cause them as many problems maybe up until they got the goal.
"Then Burgey saved the penalty and we got back into it. But you've got to give them credit, they're the team going to Wembley.”
Saturday’s game was Stewart’s first taste of a vocal Stadium of Light crowd – and the experience has left the striker desperate for more.
"It was a bit of surprise for me,” he admitted.
“10,000 is a big number, and when we came out the noise they made was incredible. You saw how we came out the blocks and got right on top of them, and that's what they can do.
"We're going to need them next season because it can carry us at times.
"There was only 10,000 in there but the noise they made was incredible.
"I'm looking forward to seeing that next season and hopefully the numbers will increase and this place will really get rocking. They were excellent today and I look forward to more of it next season.”