Sunderland weigh up a different challenge as Jack Ross opens up on frustrating draw

Jack Ross in discussion with his backroom staff
Jack Ross in discussion with his backroom staff
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At the start of the season Sunderland's biggest challenge was coping with the full throttle starts their opponents were making at the Stadium of Light.

Often they had to fight back from a goal down to force a positive result.

They began to manage that, and it was noticeable how many opportunities they were forging in the closing stages when the opposition's early exertions caught up with them.

Saturday's draw with Wycombe offered a very different challenge.

Gareth Ainsworth's side sat deep, waited for Sunderland to make an error before breaking in numbers.

The Black Cats adjusted well as the game went on and came close to forcing a winner, but Ross is well aware that it is something other teams may well look to replicate in the coming weeks and months.

"They have a particular way of playing and it was a different thing for us to face here," Ross said.

"We have to look at how we get better at breaking teams down who play that way. Their desire to get something from the game was evident, that was summed up by the way they blocked Max’s header at the end. Gareth will feel that what they put into the game merited them getting something from it. It’s just an example of how tough this league is.

"I don’t think it was a reminder [for Sunderland's players] about their attitude, it was just a reminder how tough it is to win games. A reminder for everybody, we can’t expect to just rock up here and roll teams over, regardless of the league. I’ve no complaints over the attitude."

Sunderland's performance was marked by a frustrating afternoon for their attacking players, though Ross was keen to stress that he was not disappointed with their efforts.

"I don’t think individually any of them were poor, I just think there were little bits of quality [missing] that they normally have, little things that just ran away from them, or made a poor choice," Ross said.

"That can happen. We also have a lot of similar forward players so on a day like today, I’ve spoken about it before, everyone starts to come towards the ball, it becomes very condensed. I can’t complain about that because they’re good players, we just don’t have that different option.

"When Duncan comes back, when Charlie comes back, we’ll have those options. We’ve managed very well with these players and there’s been plenty of days, and there’ll be plenty more, where their quality really counts."

Ross said the result was a reminder of the work ahead and gave credit to his players for rescuing a point.

"I’ve never hidden away from expectations and I know there’ll be people who feel that this was a poor result and that we’ve not played well," he said.

"I don’t think we were poor today.

"I think we’ve played better but our second half performance in particular, I think there was only one team trying to drive on and win the game. We carry that expectation of winning every game in this league and we’ve already seen that it’s not as easy as that.

"I’ve always been keen to build ambition but temper expectations. The pleasing thing for me is that they deserved to come back and get the goal."