Why Jerome Sinclair’s first Sunderland goal nearly never happened as Watford loanee makes a big impact

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Tuesday night ended in frustration but for Jack Ross there were positives everywhere you looked.

Nowhere more so than up front.

Jerome Sinclair was singled out for praise after the game and little wonder.

Yes, there was the superb turn and finish that almost sealed an unlikely win for Sunderland.

But more important to Ross than that was the way he battled with Peterborough’s defenders, pushing them back with his work ethic and his physicality.

If Sunderland’s deft, creative players had thrived in the first half, then it owed much to the platform Sinclair built for them.

He led the line with tenacity and showd that he can thrive in League One.

For Sunderland supporters, it is a welcome sight.

Their loanees last season were unquestionably talented, Ovie Ejaria now thriving at Rangers, Jake Clarke-Salter in the Eredivisie.

Ashley Fletcher has managed to keep himself in Tony Pulis’ plans.

But they didn’t look ready for the challenges presented by the Stadium of Light and the rigours of senior football. Not at the stage, anyway.

Sinclair does.

“His physical stature belies his age,” Ross said.

“You can forget he’s still young becase he’s so strong, and he made his debut for Liverpool at 16, which was a long time ago.

“Though it’s not reflected in games he’s been on the scene for a while and been known for a while.

“His attitude as a loan player has been very, very good. How he trains, how he interacts with everyone. He’s been really, really good and that’s a brilliant thing because it can be so hard to get it right with loan players.

“You just don’t know and that’s why I was so pleased he took his chance so well the other night, because I’ve been desperate for him to do that.

“I’ll take my responsibility for what happened at Burton because I played him in a slightly different role. He knew himself he didn’t play well, we spoke about it and had conversations about what he could do to improve.

“He’s done that, and I feel as if over the last week or two he’s trained at his best since he came here, maybe that is because it’s the longest period he’s had in terms of his fitness build-up.

“His performance the other night was really good but it was committed as well, which was good to see.

“He stretches the game and we’ve had enough conversations about that, we don’t really have enough of that in the whole squad, never mind on a regular basis.

“His role in allowing the three in behind him to play was really important.

The Black Cats boss admits, however, that Sinclair’s first Sunderland goal almost never happened.

“I was actually going to take him off in the wake of the sending off the other night, I was worried about how long he could last,” he said.

“We were going to leave Josh up top but I changed my mind, we had a bit of a palaver over it.

“But it was about that stretching the game and he really did it, he dug in for us.

“It would have been a masterstroke if I knew exactly what I was doing!

“I just worried about his fitness because he’d started to cramp up a bit as well. But then we had our wildcard, Benji, to throw on anyway.”

Kimpioka is set to be involved in the squad again this weekend as the Black Cats travel to Valley Parade to face Bradford City.

Ross admitted after the Peterborough draw that the 18-year-old is an ‘enigma’, but one who feels could have a very bright future.

He said: “He’s an enigma at times.

“He’s got really good attributes. It’s just about trying to piece it all together.

“He only played half the game last night for the U23’s because we knew that he was going to be on the bench and that he might have to play a part in the game.

“I’m delighted for him to make his league debut, it’s a big thing for a young man.

“Even in those few minutes on the park he showed that he’s got the attributes, if he keeps working hard in the U23’s and around us then he’s going to have every chance of getting more opportunities as the season unfolds.”