The change in Sunderland's defensive pecking order explained and why Dylan McGeouch missed Plymouth win

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Early in the 2-0 win over Plymouth, it looked like Jack Ross might have to make a defensive change.

Tom Flanagan needed treatment on his knee and looked in severe discomfort.

Jack Ross has been impressed with Alim Ozturk of late

Jack Ross has been impressed with Alim Ozturk of late

As it was, he was OK to play on, his partnership with Jimmy Dunne landing a second clean sheet in as many games.

They have emerged as the first choice pairing for Ross at the back, but it will not have gone unnoticed that Alim Ozturk was the man ready to come on.

Ozturk has climbed ahead of Jack Baldwin and Glenn Loovens in the pecking order, having not featured in a league game since December.

Ross has been impressed with his application in training and his performances in the Checkatrade Trophy, and dropped a big hint in his pre-match press conference that he would get the nod again on Saturday, which he duly did.

"Jack's fully fit and has trained," Ross said.

"The thing is, Alim constantly trains well and has done well every time he has had an opportunity.

"That competition for places has become more intense.

"I had a good chat with Jack, I think it was a good decision to take him out of things for a couple of weeks and see how he reacts.

"Then we start looking at things on merit again.

"We just wanted to give him a breather both physically and mentally."

The pair could get an opportunity in the Checkatrade Trophy semi-final on Tuesday night, with Sunderland heading back to Bristol Rovers during a demanding fixture schedule.

Glenn Loovens is fit and Ross has regularly praised his contributions behind the scenes, but he has not had any senior minutes since being sent off at Portsmouth just before Christmas.

Another player who will hope for an opportunity in that game is Dylan McGeouch.

The midfielder has struggled for regular gametime of late, and the outstanding form of Grant Leadbitter has pushed him further down the pecking order.

He dropped out of the squad on Saturday but Ross confirmed there were no injury issues.

Ross preferred Max Power ad his midfield option on the bench and brought Lynden Gooch back into the squad after his recent hamstring injury.