JACK ROSS is delighted to see his Sunderland side picking up the habit of winning tight matches rather than suffering the succession of draws that scuppered their promotion bid last season.

Four days after earning a hard-fought home win over Portsmouth, the Black Cats secured back-to-back victories for the first time since April as they claimed another 2-1 success at Rochdale.

Aiden McGeady’s first-half strike was cancelled out by Callum Camps, but Charlie Wyke swept home a close-range winner shortly before the hour mark to lift Sunderland to sixth position in the table, just two points adrift of top spot in League One.

Ross’ players were not at their best at Spotland, and there were large periods of the game when Rochdale’s slick passing caused problems, but Sunderland dug deep and successfully repelled a late home rally to secure a significant win.

“One thing we learned last year was the importance in tight games of turning one point into three, one way or another,” said the Black Cats boss. “It was something that ultimately probably cost us in terms of achieving what we wanted to do.

“I’ve stressed that to the players, you’d love to come here, play really well, win two or three nil and have everybody tell you how you good you are, but the truth is in this league it’s not like that all that often.

“We know how important it is to win games like this because we weren’t that far away last season in terms of the points we needed, and we know we probably drew too many games. You’re going to get tight games in this league, and it’s important you come out on top of as many as you can. If you look at Luton and Barnsley from last season, I’m pretty sure you’ll see that they both came through quite a few games like this.”

Ross was especially pleased to see his faith in Wyke justified, with the striker impressing on his first start of the campaign.

Wyke’s first-half header helped spark the move that ended with McGeady sweeping home, and having opened his account for the season at Accrington Stanley last week, Wyke made it two goals in three games as he drove home the winner from close range.

“He’s a proven goalscorer at this level,” said Ross. “It comes with sharpness, and how you feel mentally, and how proactive you are with putting yourself in good areas. The physical difference in him this year, allied to how he is feeling mentally, allowed him to finish like that tonight. He just looks confident, which is a good sign for us.

“He scored here last year, but I think he’s in a very different place now and he’ll be a real asset for us. His overall play was good, and his finish was just reflective of how he feels at the moment.”

Ross was also delighted with Will Grigg’s impact after he was introduced from the substitutes’ bench at the start of the second half.

Grigg sparked a previously lacklustre attacking line into life, with his header releasing Luke O’Nien for the cross that led to Wyke’s winner.

“I was delighted with him (Grigg) tonight, and I hope he gets credit for it,” said Ross. “He has gone through a frustrating period, I’ve spoken about it quite openly and I speak to Will a lot. He does care, and he wants to do well here.

“He’s accepted being left out of the team at times because he knows his levels aren’t quite where he wants them to be, but his attitude has continued to be good, and I think he showed where he’s at when he came on the pitch tonight.

“I thought he had a really good impact on it because he kick-started us a bit in that second half, and it was during that period when we scored and looked like we might get another. He played a big part in that, and I hope that people recognise that he’s not just there to score goals, he is a good player and he is a good striker and I think he showed that with the way he played tonight.”

With the league wins over Portsmouth and Rochdale having followed hot on the heels of a Carabao Cup win at Accrington, Sunderland will head into Saturday’s home game with AFC Wimbledon in an upbeat mood.

“We spoke about the need for momentum before the game, and we’ve got a bit of it now,” said Ross. “When you get it, it can be powerful, you’ve just got to be pushing it along because once it stops, it can be difficult to get it started again.

“We’ve got it at the minute, starting the season unbeaten and having these three wins. I think confidence is growing amongst the players, and I’ve told them to enjoy it. They’ve got high standards, and just because you’ve only won 2-1 away from home and it’s been a tough game, doesn’t make it any less significant than if you win 3-0 and play brilliantly.”