Stephen Elliott: Sunderland deserve huge credit after win over Joey Barton's 'horrible' Bristol Rovers side - and why Ireland got Aiden McGeady call wrong

I always suspected the trip to Bristol Rovers would be far from a pretty spectacle, even with a much-needed rest midweek, some time that gave the players to recover and reflect.

Monday, 29th March 2021, 5:00 pm

My suspicion was brought on by the assumption that Bristol would try a game plan which involved making it difficult and ugly to play against.

Bristol did not let us down on that front and certainly showed plenty of enthusiasm in their efforts to prevent Lee Johnson’s men from playing out, they made it as horrible as possible.

Sunderland would also have been aware of their failure to beat a Joey Barton team in this division and how he gets his teams up for these matches. This game was never going to be straightforward.

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Lynden Gooch in action for Sunderland against Bristol Rovers.
Lynden Gooch in action for Sunderland against Bristol Rovers.

As we have seen on other occasions, most notably the recent game against Swindon, Saturday was all about trying to keep the momentum going and picking up another three points.

And at this stage that should be the prime focus every game from now in, win the game no matter how ugly it gets.

Aiden O’Brien may not the most pleasing player on the eye but in this recent run under Lee Johnson he has proved to be an important and effective cog in the Sunderland wheel.

This has been really evident, especially away from home, when you need that bit of character and experience to get those points on the board. His goal may have been a scruffy finish but that does not matter one bit.

I thought Aiden McGeady should have been picked in the Ireland squad. He is a player who has undoubted ability and I feel his quality would have helped Ireland manager Stephen Kenny transition into his new style.

After watching Ireland get beaten so embarrassingly by Luxembourg in Dublin on Saturday night, I stand by that statement even more!

Anyway, Ireland’s loss is most certainly Sunderland’s gain and McGeady once again came up with goods with his 12th assist of the season, with his first not even coming until December.

He has been Sunderland’s talisman since getting back into the team and he was unlucky not to score with his free kick late on.

The thing that pleased me most was the character shown by the team. Winning games is a habit and it’s becoming a really good one now. When the team take the lead now there is that feeling that you know they will go on and win it in most cases.

A couple of months back I said Sunderland needed to start having these winning runs to catch the top teams in the league.

They are doing that and more. I keep saying it, but it really does feel like a good time to be following the team again.

Once again, results generally went for Sunderland elsewhere. On that, I can’t help feel that Sunderland’s consistency is affecting other teams mentality.

It could be that they know this Sunderland team is on the cusp of a big wave and maybe they are vying for only one automatic suddenly as a result.

It may not have been beautiful to watch but, once again, I have come away with this ever-growing confidence that we will finally see the back of this division.

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