Conor McLaughlin stole the show as Sunderland were held to a one-all draw at Doncaster Rovers, having produced a Man of the Match-worthy display from centre-half on Saturday.
Black Cats boss Phil Parkinson had been without McLaughlin for the Stadium of Light natives’ 2-1 defeat to MK Dons last week through international duty, with the 29-year-old away with Northern Ireland for their UEFA Nations League Play-Off Final tie with Slovakia.
McLaughlin did not feature in the Group B clash that saw Slovakia score a winner deep into extra time at Windsor Park, but returned to the North East after playing the full 90 minutes in defeat to Austria and an 11-minute run-out at home to Romania to earn his 41st-cap.
Parkinson will have been delighted with the performance McLaughlin was able to produce on his return to League One action, offering a key presence on the right of Sunderland’s three-man defensive line and venturing forward to produce a number of dangerous crosses.
Ross was over the moon to welcome McLaughlin to the Stadium of Light from Millwall in a deal he felt would bring competition for places in a key position.
“I am delighted to be able to bring Conor to the club,” Ross said, via quotes by the Chronicle. “He brings quality and experience to a position that was of high priority for us to have options in. I look forward to working with him over the course of the season.”
Ross’ capture once again proved his worth to Sunderland against Doncaster as McLaughlin pulled the strings from centre-back with a game-high 92 touches and 64 accurate passes, per WhoScored.
No player for either side could match or better McLaughlin’s seven per cent share of the possession, while only Doncaster ace Benjamin Whiteman could match the 29-year-old’s 73 attempted passes.
McLaughlin further completed his only attempted dribble of the game, was only dribbled past once, won four of five aerial duels, completed one of two tackles and made three clearances.
He would only commit one foul before the full-time whistle rang around The Keepmoat Stadium, too, while winning three of his five ground duels, being fouled once and connecting with one of four attempted crosses, per SofaScore.
McLaughlin’s performance more than deserved a fifth League One clean sheet of the season to match, but would be left without another shut out on his record thanks to Fejiri Okenabirhie’s 93rd-minute equaliser to leave Sunderland eighth in the table.