Jack Ross hailed George Honeyman after the Sunderland captain off the bench to win three vital points for his team.
Honeyman was available again after completing suspension but after a stellar showing from his team-mates at Accrington Stanley , had to settle for a place in the dug-out.
A first half injury to Lynden Gooch gave him an opportunity and it was one he seized with relish.
“George every single day is brilliant and on Saturday he came on and played various different roles for us,” Ross said.
“His hunger to be a successful captain here is brilliant and his performance levels have been consistently good so he’s always made a contribution.
“You could see how much the goal meant to him. He’s a happy young man but he’s level-headed. He’ll enjoy the euphoria of the goal then get back to it.
“We had a bit to consider because the players performed so well at Accrington,” Ross added.
“Aiden was an enforced change and there were different ways we could have dealt with that but we decided to be quite bold by bringing Lewis [Morgan] in from the start, and not playing Grant [Leadbitter]. Grant’s been really good for us since he came in but it allowed him to just recharge his batteries this week.
“I heard how George was in the dressing room with players before the game. He knows his role.
“He knew he would get an opportunity to get onto the pitch, whether it was five minutes or 55, whatever it was.
“I have no concerns about how my players react but it’s great when you have that within your group,” he added.
“It makes it sound really fluffy and all nicey-nice. It’s not like that, and I get loads of players coming to see me fed up and disappointed, but when you have conversations, that’s different.
“I want them to be disappointed being on the bench or not being stripped but as long as you can make sure you get the right reaction whenever they step onto the pitch, that’s all I can ask for as manager.”
The win also saw Bryan Oviedo make his long-awaited return to action. Oviedo had been expcted to leave the club on deadline day but a loan move to West Brom fell through.
Since then he has a had a number of injuries but impressed in a brief cameo at Spotland.
“Denver [Hume] been booked in the first half and some young players are a wee bit up and down at times,” Ross said.
“We felt like we were getting quite a bit of joy in forward areas and the one thing we know Bryan gives us is composure and quality in that area. We felt we weren’t going to have to defend that much – that’s not disrespectful, that’s just the way the game was going – and Bryan was good when he came on the pitch.
“It’s obviously been difficult because he had a lot of niggling injuries and through the course of December/January he probably played for 25 per cent of the time, so you can’t really then put yourself in serious contention,” Ross added.
“In that time other people came in and I’m quite fair with players.
“But I’ve never really concerned myself with that because Bryan and I speak and he’s always known where he is, where he’s at.
“I knew if he got the opportunity he would be fine. He’s a good player.
“It’s not just testament to individual players but the culture within the group that there’s nobody will go the wrong way because they’re all pulling in the same direction.
“I was pleased for him on Saturday because he wants to play football.”
Sunderland now face another pivotal week with Burton Albion the first of three visitors to the Stadium of Light.
Ross admits changes are likely.
“It’s been a heck of a big week emotionally,” Ross said.
“Large parts of it have been really good.
“It’s just about refocussing now. We’ll take stock of where we’re at squad-wise and team-wise because the team was by and large the one that played on Wednesday. Tuesday will be our fourth game in nine days, so we’ll look at it but they’re looking forward to getting back home as well because at the last two venues pitch-wise it’s been difficult at this time of year.
“To get two wins is brilliant.”