Ross Stewart shows why he isn't your traditional target man as he stakes a Sunderland play-off claim

It would be easy to bracket Ross Stewart as your typical target man.

Sunday, 2nd May 2021, 4:45 pm

But even from the moment he was unveiled as a Sunderland player, where Lee Johnson praised how ‘fit and quick’ his new recruit was, it was clear that Stewart would not be your run of the mill, back to goal striker.

His height may suggest that would be the case, but the Scot has plenty more in the locker.

And now Sunderland fans have finally seen just what their January signing can offer.

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Ross Stewart (Picture: Ian Horrocks)

After his goalscoring debut at Accrington Stanley in March, Stewart’s opportunities have been scarce in recent weeks and have largely been limited to cameos off the bench.

Indeed, Stewart has often been introduced when Sunderland have been chasing games and the temptation has been to go long.

That has often left the 24-year-old without any real sights of goal while having to play largely in the air – but he has shown his strength in that department.

That was also the case at Plymouth on Saturday, where Stewart was completely dominant in the air against Argyle’s young backline and held up the play exceptionally well. Indeed, the biggest compliment we can probably give him was that he seamlessly filled the gap left by Charlie Wyke – whose hold-up play has been superb this term.

Also useful was the striker’s ability to peel away from his markers at set-pieces, offering a good option for a deep delivery to the back post.

But Stewart was also able to show the other side of his game at Home Park, and it was this that brought him a second goal in red and white.

Some clever movement and a well-timed run saw him latch on a Lynden Gooch through ball before accelerating away from the Plymouth backline and slotting home.

It was a well-taken finish, but it was the work that allowed the striker to get into a goalscoring position that was particularly impressive.

There are few traditional target men who will offer that kind of pace and intelligence; those key attributes Johnson alluded to at his unveiling.

It’s clear that Sunderland have a slightly different forward option with Stewart – and with a play-off campaign on the horizon, a variety of options can only be a good thing.

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