Jack Ross on getting the best out of Sunderland’s Will Grigg and whether Luke O’Nien could be the answer

BFC 0-0 SAFC League1 12-03-2019. Picture by FRANK REID
BFC 0-0 SAFC League1 12-03-2019. Picture by FRANK REID
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Jack Ross has no concerns over Will Grigg after a testing week on the road.

Grigg’s goal in the Checkatrade Trophy semi final at Bristol Rovers was his first from open play since making the deadline day switch from Wigan Athletic, but he has been starved of service in the following two games.

That has led to plenty of debate about how best the Black Cats can get support to him and generate more scoring chances for him.

With injuries to a number of forward players, it is something Ross is weighing up but he was eager not to get carried away, particularly after the wretched conditions that blighted the 0-0 draw with Barnsley at Oakwell.

“In general I’ve been pleased with how he’s played,” he said.

“On Tuesday, it was maybe one of his quieter games since he came to the club.

“It wasn’t an easy game to play in, particularly for a striker to deal with balls that were either underhit or overhit because of the wind.

“It wasn’t an ideal night for him but his contribution in league games has been good.

“Probably with the exception of Tuesday, he’s had opportunities in every game.

“I’ve no worries with his abilities to take the chances when they come along.

“In football there is a lot of short-termism but I do think here the range of emotions, it can be wild at times,” he added.

“Tuesday evening for me, the conditions were utterly dreadful to play in.

“It’s not a game where you judge any player properly.

“If I was watching a game as an opposition scout and looking at a player to sign, it’s pointless.

“It was just a tough, tough night, about guts and character.

“You have to judge it on a run of games and with Will, the opportunities we have created have been pretty high and he’s been in and around that.”

Clearly, though, Ross has a decision to make about the blend of his side.

George Honeyman, Chris Maguire and Duncan Watmore are all unavailable, players who would naturally get in support of Grigg.

“Generally we start every game with three attacking players on the pitch,” Ross said.

“I said that a few weeks ago when there was a clamour to play with two strikers. We did that against Accrington and didn’t play well.

“We play with two out-and-out wide players, not every team does that. Some do, but some play with ones who are more of a midfielder.

“The ones we are missing at the moment are ones who can play in an around the striker.

“It is unfortunate to have them available because that would undoubtedly help us.”

So could the answer be Luke O’Nien?

Many think so, particularly now that the return of Reece James could allow Adam Matthews to play on his stronger side.

Ross admits he has considered it but strongly hinted that we would rather keep him at full back.

“One, we are restricted a little bit in terms of the numbers that can play there,” Ross said.

“But he’s also been voted player of the month twice at full back.

“I think he’s still got a lot to learn in that midfield role and we’ve seen that in some of the games.

“I’ve never really pigeonholed him.

“Even on Tuesday, I thought he did well defensively against one of their best players, [Mamadou] Thiam is a real handful to play against,” Ross added.

“He competed really well.

“At the moment, it’s something we’re considering because of our limited options.

“It did go through my head during the game itself but then you’re making a lot of changes to a back four that was doing well in the game.”