Sunderland's Checkatrade Trophy winners and losers assessed plus verdict on Jack Ross decisions - Our team of writers dissect cup defeat

Sunderland players take on water and words of encouragement at Wembley.
Sunderland players take on water and words of encouragement at Wembley.
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Our team of Sunderland AFC writers deliver their verdict on the winners and losers of the Checkatrade Trophy final defeat - and Jack Ross' decisions.

Phil Smith:

Aiden McGeady scores his free-kick.

Aiden McGeady scores his free-kick.

Winner: 45 minutes underlined just how much Grant Leadbitter is bringing to Sunderland.

Composure, quality, excellence. It was a pragmatic move to take him off in extra time but don’t expect to see that again anytime soon.

Loser: It was the first time that Luke O’Nien really looked like a midfielder filling in at right back. Defensively he’s generally very good but Gareth Evans caused him problems here. Still, from what we’ve seen this season you expect O’Nien to roar back quickly.

Verdict on Jack Ross' decision: For the most part his subs were forced through fatigue and injury and I could see the logic in moving Gooch up front ahead of Wyke.

In association with Grand Central rail.

In association with Grand Central rail.

Sunderland were too deep and Ross wanted someone who could get into the channels and stretch the game. It goes without saying that Duncan Watmore and Chris Maguire would have been perfect.

The big question is why the flow of the game turned so dramatically and how Sunderland can manage that better in the future.

Richard Mennear

Winner: Aiden McGeady. What a season he is having and what an impact he made on the final.

The winger has been a class above all season and Sunday was no different.

His free-kick was class, helped by a deflection, and his late equaliser clinical, latching on to Charlie Wyke's lay-off.

His all round game was a step above. He had the Pompey defender on toast.

A class act.

Loser: Will Grigg. An afternoon to forget for the £4million striker. It was a boost to see him named in the team after his ankle concern but he never got going.

He failed to latch on to a George Honeyman cross 30 seconds in and he rarely troubled the Pompey defence.

The service to him was poor, Sunderland not playing to his strengths. Fatigue caught up with him, his ankle still causing him problems.

Sunderland need him firing for the final nine games.

Verdict on Jack Ross: His decision making all season has been shrewd, decisive and bold.

He made another bold move in the final, pushing Lynden Gooch through the middle when Grigg went off, opting not to bring on Charlie Wyke at that stage.

It was the wrong move. The logic was understandable with Ross keen for Gooch to get Sunderland up the pitch quickly but it just ended up inviting pressure with SAFC sitting deep, with no out ball or target man to aim for.

Sunderland had to better protect their lead. Grigg's departure was forced on him through fatigue and injury, but Wyke should have come on earlier.

Joe Nicholson

Winner: Aiden McGeady - McGeady was a class above at Wembley, especially in the first half when Sunderland were dominating the game.

The Black Cats winger produced the two standout moments for Sunderland, first opening the scoring with a free-kick, before his equaliser late in extra-time forced a penalties

He was also the first to step up to take a spot kick in the shootout, unerringly converting from 12 yards.

Loser: Reece James - The Sunderland full-back had a difficult second half as Portsmouth exploited the pace and trickery of Jamal Lowe on the right flank.

James was also forced off with an injury in the final few minutes of normal time, with Denver Hume taking his place and impressing in extra-time.

With eight games in April, Jack Ross will presumably rotate his squad in the promotion run-in, yet James’ place could now be under threat.

Verdict on Ross' decisions: Sunderland should have put the game beyond doubt in the first half but still looked a bit disjointed in the final third.

Ross’ decision to remove Will Grigg was justified at the time, especially as the striker was clearly fatigued and Sunderland were under the cosh late on.

It still looks like Sunderland are learning how best to utilise Grigg, who was often isolated and left chasing lost causes up front.

Many would have been happy to see the striker in the starting XI, yet if he wasn’t fully fit it may have been wiser to rest the striker for the League One run-in.

Mark Donnelly

Winner: For me, there can only be one winner this weekend - the Sunderland fans.

While their side put in a committed display on the field and, in the first half at least, there were many worthy candidates among Jack Ross' squad, the abiding memory of this weekend will be of the Black Cats' faithful.

Their passion and pride was clear for all to see across the weekend and the way in which they conducted themselves did their club and city proud. This weekend was for them, and boy did they enjoy it.

Loser: It wasn't an easy afternoon for Luke O'Nien, who endured arguably his toughest test yet at right-back.

Up against Ronan Curtis, and later the impressive Gareth Evans, the fans' favourite faced a tough assignment and looked understandably lethargic.

He dispatched his penalty with confidence aplenty, but it won't be a performance that will feature in any showreels for O'Nien.

Verdict on Jack Ross: Some of his decisions were puzzling at the time but, with the benefit of hindsight, you can certainly see the rationale behind the changes he made.

The Scot has generally got his changes spot on this year and all four were calculated and done with a specific purpose in mind.

They may not have worked out as planned, but it would be extremely harsh to pin the failure to lift the trophy on Ross.