Jack Ross has hailed Sunderland’s ‘remarkable’ winning run after the Black Cats made it seven straight victories.
Sunderland are in the hat for the second round of the FA Cup thanks to goals from skipper George Honeyman and Lynden Gooch in a 2-1 win over League Two Port Vale at Vale Park.
In all competitions, Sunderland have now managed seven straight games and are back in action tomorrow night when they travel to Morecambe in the final group game of the Checkatrade Trophy.
Ross enjoyed his first FA Cup game in charge and has praised his Sunderland squad for their stunning form.
“To achieve the number of victories they have done is remarkable. At any level of the game, it’s not easy to keep banging out wins,” reflected Ross.
“Even the top teams, it’s very rare they hammer out the consecutive number of victories that we have. The players have done it, in very different circumstances and different competitions, and they deserve a lot of credit for that.
“The players are the ones doing the business on the pitch, everything else is just prep for that. They’re enjoying it, and I think they’re determined to keep that run going for as long as they can. I think that was evident from the way they played.
“It’s amazing how unusual it is to go on a long winning run at any level of the game. Even the top, top teams don’t tend to batter out win after win. I know it’s at a very different level, but when I was Alloa manager, we did ten wins in a row in all competitions.
“We said to that group of players, ‘You’ll probably not do it again’ because it’s so unusual.
“The players deserve a huge amount of credit. They’ve done it in lots of different ways – sometimes we’ve been good, sometimes we’ve been average, but we’ve found ways to win games. Hopefully, we’ll keep doing that. The whole group wants to keep that run going.”
And what does Ross put the winning run down to?
“They’re confident, which comes with winning games.
“But I’ve also got as group that listen and take on the information they’re given. There’s always frustrations because sometimes they don’t do as much as you would like, but the things we worked on and wanted to do in that first hand, we did it brilliantly.
“You’ve got to be brave to do it. Sometimes, when we have phases in games where we’re so dominant, we sometimes slip into not keeping on doing it. You’ve just got to keep on doing the same things, but that comes the more you’re in that position.
“They deserve credit because you forget in that opening period, they’re away from home against a team that I’m sure would have been told to start the game fast and get after us. To start the game in that positive manner was terrific.”
Victory at Vale Park was far from comfortable, Sunderland were pushed all the way after Tom Pope had cut the 2-0 lead after 35 minutes.
Sunderland had to defend doggedly and they were on the end of a favourable penalty decision midway through the second half.
Ross added: “It was a proper cup tie – especially the middle period of the game. The first half-hour was maybe not what we quite expected because I thought we were really good in that period, and really dominant.
“If I’m being hyper-critical, maybe we should have scored that third goal that would really have finished the game off. To their credit, Port Vale made a sub and changed their shape, and scored a good goal.
“That period from 30 minutes in to maybe 70 minutes was proper cup-tie football.
“We had to defend a lot of balls into our box, but we expected that. It’s not easy to do that at any level of football, and the players deserve a lot of credit for dealing with them in the main.
“That period from 70-odd minutes to the end, we got a bit of a grip of the game again and probably could have scored again in that period. We looked reasonably comfortable. It’s another good learning experience for us.
“You’re going to come under pressure in any game, at any point, and quite often in that manner.
“We’ve got a lot better and dealing with that, and realising that if we do it, then we will have those periods again when we control it. I think, on reflection, it’s a good performance in difficult circumstances.”