Sunderland are 'playing in a different ball park' says Bristol Rovers boss after Checkatrade Trophy defeat

Bristol Rovers manager Graham Coughlan was disappointed with the goals his side conceded against Sunderland in the Checkatrade Trophy, but believes the Black Cats are playing in a 'different ball park.'

Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 3:39 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 5:57 pm
Bristol Rovers manager Graham Coughlan says Sunderland are playing in a 'different ball park' to his side.

Sunderland reached the final with a 2-0 win at the Memorial Stadium, following goals from Will Grigg and Lewis Morgan either side of half-time.

Grigg's opener one minute before the interval stemmed from a Black Cats throw-in, while Morgan's second came after Rovers goalkeeper Jack Bonham spilled Lynden Gooch's initial shot.

And while Coughlan was pleased with his side's effort levels against the Black Cats, the Rovers boss felt both goals could have been avoided.

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"Yeah they did," said Coughlan when asked if his players gave everything on the night.

"But we are sat here once again talking about the details against Sunderland, we are talking about two throw-ins tonight when we switched off, which is disappointing, but we don’t come up against a team like Sunderland every week.

"At the end of the day the better team won and we wish them all the best in the final."

Despite his side's lapses in concentration, Coughlan praised Sunderland for demonstrating their extra quality in the final third.

The Gas defeated Blackpool 4-0 in their last league game and Coughlan thought his side produced a similar performance level against the Black Cats.

Yet, according to Coughlan, a meeting with Sunderland represented a step-up in quality, a step-up which Rovers struggled to match.

When taking about Grigg's opener, Coughlan added: "It was a quality pass from Max Power, you have to take your hat off to that.

"That pass belongs in the Championship or the Premier League, not in League One; and it was a quality finish from Will Grigg.

"But listen, they are the moments possibly other teams don’t take, we don’t take those moments, and that is the difference in the quality."

It was a similar story when the two sides met 10 days earlier at Memorial Stadium in League One, when a Luke O'Nien finish and spectacular Aiden McGeady free-kick earned the Black Cats all three points.

Since taking charge of Rovers in December 2018, Coughlan has lost just four games in charge of the Gas - three of which have come against Sunderland.

"Cheers for reminding me of that," said the Rovers boss when told about his record against the Black Cats.

"They are a quality outfit, they have got quality players, they are playing in a different ball park to us. We knew that. All you can do is do your best and give your all and our players did.

"Fingers crossed they can learn from that and hopefully in 12-18 months we are in a similar position to what Sunderland are."