Russell Martin reflects on Sunderland defeat and the key factors in second-half turnaround

Russell Martin admitted his side had struggled to cope with Sunderland’s ‘aggression’ as a much improved second-half performance from the Black Cats sealed three vital points.

Sunday, 19th January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Sunday, 19th January 2020, 4:38 pm

Martin’s side played with a composure in possession that belied their league position in the first half, controlling most of the game.

Rhys Healey was a threat and though Sunderland struggled to make much of an impression, Alim Ozturk did miss the best chance of the contest early on where he turned a free kick wide of the post.

Phil Parkinson’s side were much improved after the break, attacking the end where over 4,000 of their fans were gathered.

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Max Power and Lynden Gooch celebrate Sunderland's win

They threatened the opposition goal far more regularly and took the lead when Lynden Gooch scored a stunning goal from outside the area.

Martin felt a draw would have been a fair result but admitted his side had struggled in the second half.

“I thought first half we were excellent, I thought we controlled the game,” Martin said.

“I thought we looked really strong defensively, I thought we were the better team.

“Their players started arguing towards the end of the half, down the tunnel at half time, they couldn't get to grips with what we were doing.

“Credit to them second half they did that much better. I didn't like the second half to be honest, it lacked a bit of structure, anxiety crept in because they had good backing and they came out a bit more aggressive.

“I think a draw would have been a fair result.

“It's a great strike from him but it all happens a bit easy, a quick free kick and we let him come inside on his left foot to score.

“It's disappointing but those are the details that have hurt us.

“It's another team from the top six that have come here and shown we're really not that far away.”

The defeat leaves MK Dons three points above the relegation places, though Tranmere Rovers one place below them have two games-in-hand.

Sunderland, meanwhile, kept their place in the play-off positions.