‘Sunderland will relish big occasion against Portsmouth’ Jack Ross promises changes for play-off match

Jack Ross will be making changes to his team for the League One play-off match against Pompey and has promised the big occasion will bring the best out of his team.

By Dave Brawn
Sunday, 5th May 2019, 1:30 pm
Updated Sunday, 5th May 2019, 1:33 pm
Jack Ross is expecting a much-changed Sunderland side to step up against Pompey
Jack Ross is expecting a much-changed Sunderland side to step up against Pompey

Although they lost to Kenny Jackett’s in the Checkatrade Trophy final at Wembley and were beaten in the league at Fratton Park Ross is predicting his players will step up.

The two-legged tie sees matches on Saturday, May 11 (7.30pm) and Thursday, May 16 (7.45pm).

Pompey are away first and while Sunderland lost to Southend 2-1 on the final day of the season Ross is keeping full belief his men have got what it takes.

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The boss told the Sunderland Echo: ‘The defeat at Fratton Park is the only game we’ve lost to any of the teams in the top seven. That’s a positive obviously.

‘We lost the Checkatrade final, but it was a draw over the course of the game. I do feel as if the players have generally responded well to playing against the best teams in the league and the bigger atmospheres.

‘That’s something we’ll stress to the players. We’ve got an opportunity to reset and refocus now.

‘You can’t just sweep everything under the carpet from the last couple of weeks, but the truth now is that it becomes about focus and having a big focus on this game on Saturday and the second leg the following midweek.

‘I would look at it and say if you are going to have back-to-back defeats for the first time all season, it’s probably the best time to get it. It’s a clean slate over these three games.

‘People might point to a lack of momentum of whatever it may be, but the truth is that these three games are very much in isolation.

‘They’re very difficult to predict in terms of what you will get from them, but that might help us. It might just help us reset and refocus.

‘When we come back to work, it’s about just focusing on this game on Saturday.’

Saturday’s team was quite different from the side which takes on Pompey, according to Ross.

He added: ‘Saturday bothered me performance wise, and the latter stages of the game at Fleetwood, but prior to that, I thought we had been displaying a bit of consistency, which I was pleased about.

‘Saturday was a long way short of it, but it was probably a team that will vary considerably from the team that plays in the play-offs. That’s the truth.

‘I think in some cases, it probably gave me more answers than questions in terms of the games that are coming up.

‘They knew there’s an opportunity to be involved in these games that are coming up because I’ve been quite fair in that respect this season.

‘Some of the changes we made were enforced, but there were a couple that were trying to bring a bit of freshness to it.

‘When you do that, you’re looking for those that have been given the opportunity to take it. But we just didn’t play well.’