Jack Ross has this challenge for Dylan McGeouch as he explains the factors behind his stellar Sunderland return

ASFC 0-3 SAFC EFL1 03-04-2019. Picture by FRANK REID
ASFC 0-3 SAFC EFL1 03-04-2019. Picture by FRANK REID
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In 2011, Dylan McGeouch scored the Scottish goal of the season.

St Mirren have a set piece at Celtic Park and when it dropes to the edge of the area, McGeouch wins a 50-50 challenge. He carries it forward, beats one player, keeps going, keeps going.

Beats another plan, takes a look and buries it in the bottom corner.

There was nothing quite so spectacular at the Wham Stadium of Wednesday night but it was this box-to-box player that Sunderland saw dominate the game.

McGeouch had endured a long wait to get back into the side after losing his place as the midfield anchor to January signing Grant Leadbitter.

This display showed plenty of different elements to his game and Jack Ross was thrilled to see it.

With Lee Cattermole still absent for the trip to Rochdale with an ankle problem, the former Hibs midfield will have put himself right in contention for another start.

“If you look historically at Dylan’s career, when he first came through at Celtic he was more of an advanced midfielder,” Ross said.

“If you look at his goal of the season there as a youngster, he ran the length of the park.

“So his game has kind of evolved a bit but I think when you become seen as more of a sitting midfield, there can be a tendency to play off the game at times.

“I think he’s at his best when he doesn’t do that. [He’s best] when he’s up and after the game.

“I thought in pre-season he was doing that, although he was taking the game he was up on top of things. He trained in the same manner, too.

“He’s still played games this season where he has been good but that’s when he is at his best.

“So I was delighted he did that [against Accrignton], he’s trained like that for a while now, and he was very much like that in the couple of behind-closed-doors games we had as well.

“It’s just continuing to get him to do that because he undoubtedly has it in his locker, physically and as a footballer, to do that.”

With Leadbitter likely to return to the XI on Saturday, Ross could face a difficult decision with Max Power also very impressive against Accrington Stanley.

George Honeyman, too, is available again after suspension.

It’s a welcome dilemma for the Black Cats boss but if McGeouch keeps performing like this, he is unlikely to ever be far away.

“It’s just encouraging him and making sure he believes in himself that he can do it,” Ross said.

“His footballing ability has never been in doubt.

“This season has been a different challenge for him, it’s been his first experience of English football and there are some differences.

“As I’ve said, his attitude throughout has been terrific,” he added.

“I speak to him regularly and he’s always said, ‘I’m just waiting on my opportunity and I believe that when I get it, I’ll take it.’

“He certainly did that the other night and it’s just a case of replicating that.

“It’s not like the other night surprised me, I was just pleased for him because I know that’s what he can do.”