Cheesy Chips/Wembley Way

Jack Ross was delighted with our 2-0 Checkatrade Trophy win over Manchester City Under-21s. We will now face Portsmouth, Bristol Rovers or Bury in the semis. The draw is made on Friday. Ross said: “I was made acutely aware from an early stage of the prize that is at stake in this competition. And I do think we have treated it properly. We’ve used a lot of different players and played a lot of different teams in it, but now getting to this stage makes it exciting for everybody. I made that point to the players post-match. We’re going to have a couple of days off at the end of this week, so I wanted to remind them that when they come in on Monday, they’re coming back in third in the league, with a game in hand, right in amongst it to be promoted, and one game away from a cup final at Wembley. It’s not bad. You should be excited about it. We could have a special season. We’ve got to improve in different aspects of our game and get back to the standards we were at before, but they believe they can do that and the rewards are there for them. A cup final at Wembley is a big thing for any player, at any stage of their career. This competition has provided different challenges for us, and the Under-21 games in particular are not straightforward for a whole number of reasons. The expectation is for us to win the game and for it to be straightforward, but you play against some good teams. I couldn’t have asked for a lot more tonight. They were patient out of possession, and they’ve progressed through this tournament well. They’ve met every challenge and to have progressed through the six games to get to the point now where they can see a tangible reward is pleasing.”

The boss also praised Duncan Watmore, who scored his first senior goal since before his injuries. “I think that anything we get from Duncan this season is a bonus,” he said. “The length of time he’s had out of the game is challenging physically and mentally. He’s not going to be bang at it right away, and arguably until he gets a full pre-season period under his belt, we won’t see that. For him to get another 60 minutes and score – it’s the first time he’s scored for three seasons – that will mean a lot to him. It makes all the long, hard days worthwhile for him, and I’m delighted for him.”

In terms of transfers, Will Grigg’s injury is not as bad as first feared and Sunderland are set to increase their offer to Wigan for the Ulsterman. “Nothing’s really changed, but we’re continuing to work hard on strengthening the squad in a couple of areas,” said Ross. “I think we’re making progress on them. We’ll get straight back to it, and I would hope that over the next 24 hours, we’re going to be able to push things along further. If that’s not bringing in the ones we identified in the first place, then it’s going on to the next ones because time is marching on as we head towards the end of the month.”

The gaffer also gave an update on Josh Maja, after the player didn’t feature against City and has also been linked with moves to Middlesbrough, Rangers, Celtic, Crystal Palace and several clubs in the German Bundesliga: “No, he didn’t play [against Man City] as he came off on Saturday with a calf injury. He was touch and go, we can’t take any chances with it. I want clarity and I believe that clarity might come over the next couple of days. As things stand, I can’t bring that to you. I would hope that would be the case. We need it one way or the other. Every first team player not involved was injured, what we had available was it, they are all relatively minor knocks. They would have been involved had they not been, we have no game on Saturday. I would have rotated the team a bit anyway but that was all we had available.”