Sunderland beat Barnsley 4-2 in an exciting game at the Stadium of Light on Tuesday night. The rain didn’t dampen the player’s performance as they produced a six-goal thriller to keep us second top. Jack Ross said: “It was a good match against a good team, a team I would expect to be there or thereabouts at the end of the season. They showed their strength and we showed how good we are in spells. It was similar when we played Peterborough here earlier in the season, under the lights too has a special feel here. This was a test, to come through it again strengthens the belief we have. They have enormous belief. I don’t differentiate between the wins. I get as much satisfaction from any of the wins. What I do recognise is the calibre of opposition, they proved that tonight. They have good individuals. I know the belief that grows when you win games like this. We keep going as a team and that opening 30-35 minutes we were as good as we have been in terms of putting it together. The resilience is getting greater with every passing game, that was another example of that tonight. We didn’t give up too many clear-cut opportunities, Jon McLaughlin didn’t have that many saves to make. We finished strongly in the last quarter. It was more my type of game. We knew it would be a basketball-like game because we would give up opportunities. I was enjoying it at 3-0 but not at 3-2. The last 30 seconds was alright!”
Ross was also delighted with the contribution of 12 goal Josh Maja and also gave a head’s up to Aiden McGeady, who has now scored five in his last six games. “I thought at the time Josh’s finish was very good, we have watched it again and it was really good,” said Ross. “He could have had a hat-trick with two headers, so he might be disappointed, but that goal was him in a nutshell, that is why at 19 he is so well regarded. He has that ability to shift the ball and finish in that manner. We spoke about responsibility on a striker’s shoulders, we didn’t have many strikers available but the recent contributions from goals all over the pitch has been very good. Aiden’s goal record since he came fit again has been terrific. Lynden’s goals and assists have been great. Then you can add Max Power and Luke O’Nien into that who can score. We love to have players scoring across the pitch and that’s nice to see."
But Barnsley boss Daniel Stendel had a little moan. Stendel said: “In the first 35 minutes we were not here, after that we played very well. We played so much better but that was 3-0 at that time. I watched the penalty in a video clip, you can see it is not a penalty. He is ten metres behind it so surely he could see it was not a penalty. It was not the right decision. That was one goal though. The other goals were our fault. Sometimes not all decisions are right. At 2-0 we might have had more chance to win it. This is a big club here at this stadium, maybe players from League One were a little too impressed in first 35 minutes. We can play so much better. We showed that in the second half. When you want to win at Sunderland you have to play two good halves. Sunderland are not five points better than us.”
Meanwhile, Duncan Watmore managed 60 minutes for the U23s on Monday night and looked decent, although he did manage to miss a penalty! Sunderland U23s: Johnstone, Hunter, Young, Mumba, Taylor, Bainbridge, Smart (Diamond, 60), Hackett, Watmore (Nelson, 60), Neil, Kimpioka. He had this to say afterwards: "That is a psychological hurdle," Watmore admitted. "I'd be lying if I said it's not. I've done it once and it is a horrible feeling to have 12 months out of the game. Being injured is so much harder than being fit in terms of the work you put in and psychologically as well. I've experienced that and the last thing I want is for that to happen again. At the same time, I try not to think about it. I try to be as positive as possible because I have done everything I can and I am in a good frame of mind - I don't worry about it happening again or anything like that. I think, second time around, I have to be careful and look after myself. The way I play, I find it hard to hold back - I want to get out there, I want to take people on, and I want to run, so people are going to want to tackle me and I am going to take heavy challenges. I have to try and play my normal game and forget about the past because I have done everything I can in terms of rehab sessions, I've had the best physio, the best surgeon, the best sports scientist - I've had everything to get me back here. Now I have to get on with it and get back in the game. Physically, I felt good in the game. I've done so many rehab sessions now that I feel physically fine, but obviously playing games is a different matter. In terms of the knee and everything, I felt really confident and in a good place. In a strange way the strong challenges were a positive. There were three or four lunges in at me and I was wiped out a couple of times, and that is something you can't really recreate in training, it comes in the intensity of games. The way I play, it's going to happen, so it is something I have to get used to and there was no harm in me getting through that. I feel like I haven't lost any pace, I felt sharp, strong, and I've done loads of work with the guys. I was disappointed to miss the penalty, of course, and in the second half our performance wasn't so good and we ended up losing the game. The gaffer has been fantastic with me, as have all the coaches," he said. "They have been so patient and they have said they have a duty of care to me and they want to make sure I am 100 percent before I come back because I am a young guy and hopefully I have long career ahead of me. The fact that he is like that and is looking after my interests, being patient and not forcing me back, is brilliant and I am really grateful for that. It is all about getting the balance right because I am so excited and I want to be back playing in the first team right now but I have to keep holding myself back and holding myself back because the more patient I am, the better it will be for me and for the team in the long run. I think I can make an impact in this team but at the same time the lads in the team are doing a great job, and all I want is the team to be winning games. If the team is winning and that means I can't get in, so be it! But I will definitely be ready, when required, to try and make an impact. As for the next step, it will depend on how I react after last night's game, and then we will formulate a plan."
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