Tony Mowbray explains his biggest challenge at Sunderland right now and how he's trying to overcome it

Tony Mowbray admits he is facing a major hurdle in trying to overcome Sunderland's lack of balance in the final third, but hopes that extra time on the training ground in a slightly less intense March schedule can make the difference.
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Ross Stewart's injury has left Joe Gelhardt as the club's only recognised striker, but the young Leeds United loanee is most comfortable dropping deep to join in with the team's impressive build-up play.

The second half at Coventry City was a prime example of Mowbray's challenge, with his side enjoying control of the game and playing some excellent football without being able to find a cutting edge.

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"I've always said that it's very difficult to change the natural habits of footballers, they've got to where they are because they're a dribbler or a physical player who runs without the ball etc," Mowbray said.

"It's difficult to change habits in a very short space of time, because players will instinctively do what they do. We have a lot of very technical footballers who like the ball to feet, to manipulate it and slip players in, play 1-2s. In my mind we haven't quite got the balance of footballers to really benefit from the technical players that we've got.

"If I go back to Ross Stewart, he likes to run into the space beyond defenders, get slipped in, put his body across and smash it in the net. At this moment, we don't have enough people in my mind who want to run in behind. We have a lot who want to get the ball and dribble, and look for someone to slip in.

"So for us, we've got to find a way to exploit the space behind defences. Once we crack that, or repeat, repeat, repeat on the training ground so that it becomes a little bit more natural for players, we'll start scoring more goals."

Sunderland boss Tony MowbraySunderland boss Tony Mowbray
Sunderland boss Tony Mowbray
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Championship opponents have been increasingly adapting their style to combat Sunderland's style and Mowbray expects Alex Neil's Stoke City to be another who press them high up the pitch.

Mowbray insists he is willing to be pragmatic and give his players the freedom to adapt from game to game.

"We've talked a lot about how we play when teams push a lot of players up and press us right on the edge of our box," he said.

"I think Stoke City will do it as well, they'll play a really high press and try to nick it off us. We know how we want to play but sometimes... only because I don't think we are a Manchester City or even a Brighton, who did it really well the other night, they play at all costs and find a way out because they are an amazing team. If Stoke nick it off them and bang on in, it's 'what's all this modern football nonsense, building out from the back...'

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"Football is about a balance and we're trying to find a low-risk way of playing out from the back. If we have to hit a diagonal onto Aji pushing up a bit higher, or to Trai on the other flank who has got a fantastic leap, we will.

"We're trying to get that balance and that's all part of the education of these footballers."