Jack Ross has explained his decision to withdraw Will Grigg with Sunderland leading the Checkatrade Trophy final against Portsmouth.
The Northern Ireland international was forced off partly with fatigue as a result of his ongoing issue with his ankle, which Sunderland are having to manage.
Aiden McGeady’s free-kick had given Sunderland a first-half lead but with 77 minutes on the clock and the Black Cats leading Ross withdrew Grigg, with Max Power coming on instead of Charlie Wyke, who remained on the bench.
Five minutes later Nathan Thompson equalised before Jamal Lowe fired Portsmouth ahead in extra-time with a delightful chip over Jon McLaughlin.
Sunderland staged a late comeback through McGeady’s second at the death of extra-time, the final going to penalties with Sunderland lost 5-4.
There was criticism from some fans for the substitutions but Ross explained Grigg was suffering from fatigue having barely trained due to an ongoing ankle injury.
Ross told the Echo: “It was partly the ankle injury and partly fatigue.
“He has really not trained, he has actually not trained much recently full stop.
“We are having to nurse him through little bits of training and games.
“When you are doing that there is obviously doing that, there is that fatigue element, both that and we have some big games coming up where we are going to need him.
“There were a lot of different factors in that decision.”
With Power on for Grigg, Lynden Gooch was pushed into the striker role before Charlie Wyke - who had been stripped ready to come on in the 88th minute before being told to sit down as Reeece James had picked up an injury. Wyke came on in extra-time as he fourth sub.
On Wyke, Ross added: ““It was because Reece James had picked up an injury so we had to brind Denver Hume on.
“We knew that at that stage of the game we would still have another sub to make in extra-time.
“Charlie would have come on and we thought it was right to do so but obviously the circumstances meant to use Denver.”