EIGHTEEN goals in all competitions, nine different goalscorers. If the first nine games of Sunderland’s season prove anything, it is that Jack Ross’ side know how to share their goals around.

Chris Maguire’s hat-trick against AFC Wimbledon means he tops the goalscoring charts, but Aiden McGeady and Lynden Gooch have also scored three goals apiece after finding the net at Accrington Stanley last weekend. While all three players are forwards, none would describe themselves as out-and-out strikers.

Marc McNulty, Charlie Wyke and Will Grigg fit that bill, and while issues of injury and form mean the trio have been in and out of the side in the last six weeks, they all have at least one goal to their name this season.

While some of Sunderland’s promotion rivals are heavily reliant on their leading centre-forward, the Black Cats boast a much broader attacking threat. At some stage, Ross might well need one of his strikers to assume a greater degree of responsibility for finding the net, but as he looks ahead to this evening’s game with a Rotherham United side that served notice of their own attacking threat when they put six goals past Bolton Wanderers at the weekend, the Sunderland boss is happy to have so many potential goalscorers at his disposal.

“If you look at other clubs around the league that did well last season, they all had options in attack,” said Ross. “Charlton obviously had (Lyle) Taylor, but they also had (Karlan) Grant, before he went to Huddersfield. Luton had two very good strikers. Even this year, if you look at Peterborough, who have scored a few goals, they’ve got (Ivan) Toney and (Mo) Eisa.

“We’ve maybe not had that in terms of a set partnership, but I think what we’ve got is a lot of different players who have the ability to score goals. It’s not just the natural strikers that carry a goal threat for us, we’ve got wide players or players who play just off the striker who can contribute, and at the moment, they’re all doing that.

“They’re contributing in different ways, but they’re all on the scoresheet for the season and they’ve all provided assists as well. That’s encouraging for us, it’s just about making sure we have enough of the ball in that area of the pitch.

“I still think we’re a little bit reluctant to get the ball forward as much as we should do sometimes, especially because of what we’ve got in the forward areas, but we’re working hard at that and we’ve scored 18 goals in nine games, which is a healthy return at this stage of the season.”

Scoring goals was not too much of a problem last season – Sunderland’s total of 80 League One goals in the conventional season meant they averaged just under two goals a game – but they struggled to keep clean sheets and recorded far too many draws as a consequence.

The opening two games of the current campaign finished 1-1, but since drawing with Ipswich at Portman Road, Sunderland have claimed four victories as well as suffering a heavy defeat at Peterborough.

The game at London Road was a case of suffering a bad day at the office – the Black Cats finished with nine men after Luke O’Nien and Charlie Wyke were both dismissed – and Ross has seen signs to suggest there is a greater mental strength in the current squad than was perhaps the case last season.

“The new players have learned to deal with the pressure and expectations on their shoulders,” he said. “You have to have broad shoulders to deal with that, and I’m pleased with how a lot of them have adjusted quickly. We try to help, but if you look at Jordan Willis or George Dobson, they’re players that are new to the club, but they already look like they can cope.”