Sunderland’s automatic promotion hopes died at Fleetwood Town’s Highbury Stadium on Tuesday, and Jack Ross made a fatal error that he keeps on repeating.
The Black Cats arrived to face Joey Barton’s Fleetwood knowing only a win would keep them in the race for automatic promotion.
And while Portsmouth helped out by losing to Peterborough, Ross’ side just couldn’t hold on to the lead earned by Lee Cattermole’s first-half goal.
The midfielder headed the visitors in front after half an hour, but Paddy Madden equalised in the second half before Ashley Eastham grabbed a stoppage time winner.
Sunderland’s performance in the second half was woeful compared to their display before the interval, and it was all down to a mistake that Ross just can’t seem to eradicate.
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During the Checkatrade Trophy final, with the score at 1-0, Ross introduced Lynden Gooch and Max Power for Lewis Morgan and Will Grigg.
In doing so, the Scot invited more and more pressure onto his side until eventually they caved, and Pompey went on to win the match on penalties.
At Fleetwood on Tuesday, he made an almost identical error, bringing on Kazaiah Sterling and George Honeyman for Grigg and Chris Maguire. Or in other words, he brought on two players with far inferior end product, inviting the hosts to have a go without fear of being punished on the break.
Once again, the boss put his team under the cosh with negative changes, and it was actually Honeyman who gave the ball away leading to the winning goal.
The Black Cats have drawn a frankly ridiculous 19 out of 45 league games this campaign, and just one of those was goalless. Ross has no problem getting his side in front, but the young boss has absolutely no idea what to do once that happens.
The ex-St Mirren gaffer is only 42 and has just four seasons of managerial experience under his belt, but if he doesn’t develop his game management skills, the “Ross out” calls will only get louder.
His poor tactical switches, like often moving to a 4-4-2 with one-goal leads, and uninspiring substitutions have cost the club a trophy and automatic promotion this season – will they cost him his job as well?