Sunderland boss rejects talk of complacency but admits physicality is an issue

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Jack Ross says his players are not complacent after losing for the first time this season.

Ross had named a strong starting XI for the trip to the Pirelli Stadium but they were comprehensively outplayed in a troubling first half.

They threatened a second half fightback but Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion were more than worthy of their win.

The Black Cats boss says his players know they have ‘no divine right’ to win games but says they must cope better with the physical challenges in early periods of the game.

“I would be entirely honest with you if I thought there were any players in there that believed they had the divine right to be successful in this league and the divine right to come to Burton and win,” Ross said.

“I said to them at the end of the game, I don’t think there is that but you have to have that mental and physical synergy and I think at the moment mentally we’ve got the right approach.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, but I think physically we’ve not. I think physically we’re wilting in that opening period.

“I don’t think we’re preparing ourselves for contact enough and preparing ourselves to use our bodies in that period,” he added. “Sometimes you don’t realise how physical the game is and that’s at all levels. Even teams that pop it about still have a physicality about them.

“That’s not because we’ve not got physicality because that team on Saturday was arguably getting towards the biggest and strongest we’ve named in an actual physical sense. We just need to get better at that.

“We’re probably encouraging teams to gain territory. That’s something we’ve psoken about and practised but they need to then produce it out on the pitch.”

Sunderland are next in action on Saturday, with Keith Hill’s Rochdale the visitors at the Stadium of Light.

They beat Gillingham 3-0 on Saturday.