Sunderland boss Alex Neil delivers verdict on Rotherham United draw and his 'biggest frustration' from it

Alex Neil insisted his Sunderland side deserved a point from a tough clash with promotion-chasing Rotherham United.

By Phil Smith
Tuesday, 26th April 2022, 10:45 pm

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The Black Cats did not register a shot on target but kept their play-off fate in their own hands when Michael Ihiekwe, who opened the scoring from a corner in the first half, turned Jack Clarke’s cross into his own net via the crossbar.

Neil said his biggest frustration was that his side had let the visitors take a valuable lead from a set play in what he always expected to be a game of fine margins.

“I thought we deserved a point,” Neil said.

Sunderland boss Alex Neil

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“I thought they had moments in the game and we had moments in the game, I thought it was fairly even.

“We knew how the game was going to pan out. My biggest frustration is the goal we conceded. We went with a big, strong team because we knew that set plays were going to be an issue, that direct balls were going to be an issue.

“The first goal comes from us losing three headers on the bounce, from a goal kick, from the thrown in and then from the corner. It's something we focused on before the game and we knew they would have that threat.

“The plan was always to compete, be big and strong for 60 minutes, they're the best pressing team in the league and they don't let you play.

“The game is always going to loosen up in the last 30 minutes. We brought some of the other lads on to move the ball a bit quicker, a bit cleaner, to try and win the game.

“We had a couple of chances, Luke flashing a couple of good crosses across the box, Pritch's free kick, and the goal happens because Ross is coming in at the back stick.

“It wasn't going to be a game full of chances, it was never going to be like Saturday.

“These teams don't allow you to pop it about, you beat them by going up, back and through. We didn't link the ball well enough in the first half but from the second half, I think we deserved a point.”

Sunderland now know a win at Morecambe on the final day will secure a top-six spot and Neil said that was a positive outcome from the night.

“They're in a better position than us, and they beat us heavily last time we played,” he said.

“What we needed to make sure was that first of all, we didn't lose the game.

“We want to keep things in our hands at all time. Naturally we wanted to win the match, but I can assure you if we had approached the game in a different manner in the first half, we might have had a worse outcome in the end.

“I thought in spells we landed on things in the middle of the pitch well, I think we can move the ball quicker, but the game panned out as I expected it to.

“It was a tough match and I'm glad we got the point.”