Chronicles

Lee Johnson pleased with Sunderland’s determination – despite late scare

Lee Johnson praised his Sunderland players after they broke down Swindon’s spirited resistance – but he admitted the Black Cats almost paid the price for failing to kill the game off.

Charlie Wyke scored what turned out to be the only goal of the game 20 minutes from time, but Sunderland were unable to add to that lead as they spurned several chances on the counter-attack in the latter stages.

And Swindon were inches away from snatching an unlikely point when Scott Twine crashed a free-kick against the bar with virtually the last kick of the game.

“In the first half, in possession, we had loads of control but we didn’t work their keeper at all,” said Johnson.

“We had a lot of bright play, switches of play, centre-halves coming out with the ball, good overloads, but it didn’t really result in a positive action in and around the six-yard box – just the one that [Lynden] Gooch pulled back, but Charlie didn’t really make good contact.

“We didn’t get enough numbers in the box in the first half, so we switched to put Goochy in the number ten position which got somebody near Charlie and at least we had a bit of movement off him.

“At half time I just asked the midfielders to play the ball forward earlier.

“They were having a good game, the stats would be something like a 95 percent pass completion rate, but not enough forward passes.

“In the second half we did much better and we got our goal from a set-piece, another wonderful ball and a fantastic header.

“But after all that good work and then scoring, we have to punish teams then.

“We had three or four really good chances to kill the game, and if you don’t do that then you are always at the mercy of that late free-kick, a refereeing decision, a major individual error, or a worldy strike.”

But while Johnson would have liked a second or third goal to put the game to bed, he was pleased to see his team keep another clean sheet and claim a win which saw them climb one place to fourth in the table, even though they are depleted by injuries.

He said: “Don’t get me wrong. I’m delighted. I’m absolutely buzzing with the three points.

“Swindon have a very good coaching team, they came here in decent form, and they have some good players.

“I was really pleased considering we are down to the bare bones and we have a makeshift back four.

“The boys are being asked to churn out performances and they’ve been superb in that.”

“We were disappointed with the first-half performance against Crewe [on Saturday], but given that we nicked that point at the end and with the three or four wins we’ve had, if you keep going like that until the end of the season, then you’re going to be right where we want to be.

“We’ve got to keep building these boys up at the moment, especially when you’re asking them to do so much physically.

“You’ll see other clubs start getting injuries to their big players, and you’ll see the big clubs with bigger squads coming through.

“Your Ipswichs will start to come through, and the smaller ones might start to fall away unless they get very lucky and avoid niggles and knocks.”

Sunderland tightened their grip on a play-off place, and also cut the gap between themselves and the automatic promotion spots to five points.

“There’s a lot of football still to play, that’s for sure, but you want to time your run – and now’s the time,” said Johnson.

“We know how difficult our March is, and there might be a few bumps in the road.

“We hope there isn’t, but if there is, then all the more reason to capitalise now and make sure that we’re relentless getting those wins when we’re on this kind of run.

“Then every game becomes even more magnified in terms of how big it is because effectively, you can knock someone else out of the way with a good win and performance.

A last minute Swindon shot hits the crossbar

“Teams in this division are always going to take points off each other, so with 15 games left, we’ve just got to be relentless and try to win every game.

“We’ve got to keep building the performance and that doesn’t change.

“The players have been outstanding, and those draws turning into wins are credit to them.”

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