Jack Ross praised his two January loan signings after their eye-catching contributions in the 2-0 win over Bristol Rovers.
Irish defender Jimmy Dunne had a tricky week on home turf but against one of the most direct teams in the league, Dunne stood firm and made a significant contribution to a welcome clean sheet.
Jon McLaughlin did not have a save to make as the Black Cats dealt well with the long balls and crosses from Bristol Rovers.
Dunne's quality in dealing with first balls was a key reason Ross brought him to the club and it was a game that showed why that could be important between now and the end of the season.
"It's like everything, the team has been criticised at times, individuals have been criticised at times," Ross said.
"We've got quite a few young players and this is a whole new learning experience for them at times, and they've experienced different types of games on a weekly basis.
"There were a lot of balls forward, a lot of balls into the box.
"We knew that [would happen].
"If you're stripping it right back, we wanted a more physical presence in the box and he, I'll look back at it but I would guess he's into double figures in terms of the headed clearances or clearances from his own box."
The 2-0 win at the Memorial Stadium also saw Sunderland's other loanee make an eye-catching contribution.
Celtic's Lewis Morgan came off the bench in the second half and set up three chances for Charlie Wyke, on each occasion carrying the ball from his own half to the byline, beating a number of opposition defenders in the process.
"Lewis is a good player," Ross said.
"He wants to play all the time, that's how he is and why he's come out on loan.
"It's that demand on him to show that level all the time.
"That [performance] is him, I've seen him do it time after time.
"He is very quick when he moves the ball and he is so two footed that he can go either way.
"I'm glad when the game opened up that supporters got to see what he'll bring to us."