The Sunderland players who drew special praise from Max Power and his key message ahead of Bristol Rovers test

Max Power reserved special praise for Alim Ozturk after Sunderland’s crucial win over Oxford United.

Tuesday, 18th February 2020, 6:00 am

Ozturk had come on for the final minutes to help his side protect their 1-0 lead after Bailey Wright suffered an ankle injury.

Wright had taken Ozturk’s place in the side for the game at Tranmere Rovers in what Phil Parkinson admitted was a ‘very, very tough’ call.

Ozturk had been in good form and with Sunderland concerned that Wright’s injury could be serious, he may yet have a crucial part to play.

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Sunderland celebrate their win over Oxford United

Power says his response and performance was testament to his professionalism, and also praised fellow substitue Josh Scowen for his role in the win.

“The lads that came on have helped the team out massively,” he said.

“Special praise for Alim, coming on at 1-0 and it's backs-to-the-wall at such a late stage in the game.

“It would have been really easy for Alim to have sulked of late and it's credit to him, he's been a model professional.

“Bailey has come into the team and done great, we've kept clean sheets, but Alim's come on and helped us see the game through.

“Same with Josh, he's come to the club and is chomping at the bit to play.

“Opportunities are going to come, it's a long season, but that lads who've came on at Oxford, that's all they can do, do as well as they have, Laffs helped us get over the line as well.”

The win leaves Sunderland just three points off top spot.

“It was a really pleasing day in every aspect,” Power said.

“You've only got to look at the table to see how tight it is, and Oxford have been up there for the majority of the season.

“I think the last two seasons there've been a lot of 1-1s as well, so everyone is looking at that thinking, 'is it going to be more of the same?'

“That's a proper away performance.

“Oxford started the second half really well, they've got good attacking players, centre-halves willing to drive into midfield.

“I don't think they've lost too many games at home.

“So for us to come here and put in that kind of performance, and special mention to the fans who've come here and got drenched and freezing, we can only thank them.

“We're coming into the crunch time now and we want to keep this going.”

Back-to-back home games give Sunderland the chance to push on but Power has said there’ll be no complacency.

“It's not time to get ahead ourselves or start getting giddy,” he said.

“We're on a good run, put the Portsmouth defeat behind us quickly, but we can't take our home form for granted, we've got to go out and replicate what we've been doing.

“We've got a good squad, we know what we're good at, there's a really good spirit.

“You see lads who've not got on today come onto the pitch at the end and they're really happy for the ones that have come on, we need that togertheness.”