Sunderland boss Jack Ross has defended centre-back Jack Baldwin following criticism from former Black Cats striker Stephen Elliott.
Baldwin, who joined Sunderland in the summer, has missed just three league games this season, but struggled against Oxford and Blackpool, before giving away the penalty against Accrington Stanley on Friday night.
After the 2-2 draw with Accrington, Elliott tweeted: "Maguire and McGeady were the difference between Sunderland losing the game and drawing it. Big improvements needed. Defensively looked very disjointed tonight. Baldwin diving in erratically becoming a big problem."
Yet Ross has defended Baldwin who impressed initially impressed following his transfer from Peterborough in July.
"Over the course of the season if you look at the number of minutes Jack Baldwin has played, he's played the most accumulative minutes apart from Jon McLaughlin," said Ross, ahead of Tuesday's clash with Gillingham.
"He's in the main dealt with the challenge, not only playing regularly in the league, but also a very new challenge of playing for a club of this stature.
"I say it all the time, the rewards are fantastic, the challenges are huge and for some of these young players it's a steep learning curve.
"They'll learn more about themselves in the periods where they might come under some scrutiny or face criticism than they would in the good times.
"If they can come through that period they will be better for it, not just as a footballer but as a person."
Ross has also faced some criticism in recent weeks, with Sunderland winning just one of their last five league games.
But the Black Cats boss is trying to look at the bigger picture, and believes the club has made a lot of progress since his arrival last summer.
"It is part of modern society," added Ross when asked about recent criticism. "We live in a world where opinion and judgement is offered instantly."
"There are huge benefits of that, and advantages to it but it is often reactive and emotive.
"My job as a manager is, I wouldn't say the polar opposite, because you have to have emotion being a manager but you have to be a lot more balanced."
"Our analysis of not just the team performance, whoever we play it's always there, it's always consistent and a lot of the opinion on that and the work that's done is of course unseen."
On the side's recent performances, Ross added: "You can't have the good parts of it without the challenging part of it, I know how far we've come from the summer.
"Big parts of our last two performances have been good. The end result will always determine people’s thoughts but there has been a lot of creativity in our last two performances."