Sunderland boss delivers honest verdict on performance in Sheffield United defeat and where his side stand
Tony Mowbray said Sheffield United set the standard Sunderland need to reach over the coming years after the Black Cats fell to a frustrating defeat at the Stadium of Light.
The game was settled by a hugely controversial goal which was allowed to stand despite Sander Berge clearly intefering with play from an offside position; Tommy Doyle's free kick bouncing into the far corner.
Mowbray nevertheless conceded that the Blades had shown their quality in the first half, when they threatened regularly with their pace and power on the break.
"I thought we played against a good team and in the first half we found it difficult to match them," Mowbray said.
"We knew that they would sense an opportunity for themselves with Middlesbrough dropping points. We knew they'd be at their maximum, and they showed their quality and experience. We scored a really good goal which gave us something to hang onto, and the timing of their goal was very damaging.
"Second half we matched them much, much better and the longer the game went on... we were good second half.
"I had a bit of a go at them at half time, we've got an inexperienced team with probably only three players who've played at this level for any amount of games before. I think they're doing pretty well, so I was pretty disappointed first half that we couldn't lay a glove on them.
"We were better in the second half, I know we've got really good individuals who can hurt teams. We pushed them back a bit, though maybe that's because they were chasing.
"I don't want to sit here and talking about having a young team, I think inexperienced is the best thing to say. It's not a physical team and sometimes we find the physicality of the game difficult.
"We're battling the physical aspects of the match against the technical aspects, we grew into in and found the confidence and got some passes going, but I think they showed their quality in the first half. They were playing in the Premier League while we were in League One, we're trying to close the gap but it does take a few transfer windows and time to do that.
"It's a tough division, and we'll have nights like tonight."
Sunderland dominated possession in the closing stages but without a recognised striker, struggled to create chances.
"We have to push Danny Batth up front late on because that physicality can be important, to keep the ball around an area and allow you to go a bit more direct," Mowbray said.
"Isaac comes on who is acclimatising, and while Lynden and Alex are experienced they're just coming back from injury and we have to be careful with them.
"I'm frustrated with the way [officials] we've lost but we're not looking over our shoulder, I've told them that they've got nine big events now to go now and test themselves, to see if they can be a big part of this club progressing to the top end of this league, because it needs to over the next two or three years. We need to recruit well and add some competition within the squad."