JACK ROSS bemoaned his Sunderland side’s inability to keep clean sheets after they threw away yet another winning position in a 1-1 draw with Rotherham United.

Last season’s tally of draws proved crucial in ensuring the Black Cats failed to secure automatic promotion, and there was more frustration again as Marc McNulty’s first-minute strike was cancelled out by Jake Hastie.

Sunderland wasted some good opportunities to add to their lead – most notably when Aiden McGeady failed to convert a first-half penalty – but rather than criticise his side’s attacking failings, Ross was keen to turn the spotlight on his creaking defence.

The Black Cats have conceded in all ten of their league and cup matches this season, a failing that has already cost them dear.

“We’re disappointed not to get the win,” said Ross. “We had a period of superiority, scored, and had other opportunities to go further ahead. But I’m loath to be too critical of the front players because they’ve delivered this season and done well for a while now.

“The harsh reality for us is that we need to keep clean sheets. We’re ten games into the season now in league and cup, and we haven’t kept a clean sheet. That buck and responsibility always stops with me. It’s my fault today – we need to continue to work hard at it to make sure we begin to do it (keep clean sheets) because if we do that, we turn what has been a decent ten games into a really good ten games following on from now.

“It was a difficult game against a good side, but on reflection, we’re disappointed with the chances we had and then the failure to keep a clean sheet because that’s turned three points into one.”

Having dominated the opening half-hour, Sunderland ceded their control of the game from the moment McGeady failed to score from the spot.

After stuttering in his run-up, the Irishman directed a tame side-footed effort much too close to Rotherham goalkeeper Daniel Iversen, who was able to make a routine save.

Had the Black Cats been able to double their lead, they might have been able to hold Rotherham at arm’s length in the second half. As it was, the Millers were bolstered by Iversen’s penalty spot and grew in confidence either side of the break.

“It was obviously a really, really good opportunity to go further ahead in the game,” said Ross. “But as I’ve mentioned already, the key aspect for me is not keeping a clean sheet, rather than focusing on the penalty miss.

“The penalty miss is the same as Charlie’s (Wyke) miss or the fact that their keeper has made a couple of good saves. Yeah, that happens in games. But the bottom line is that if we don’t concede in the second half then we win, because we’re in a winning position. That’s the biggest thing I’ll take from the game.”

Despite his side having claimed a 3-1 win at Accrington Stanley last weekend, Ross chose to change both his personnel and formation with Grant Leadbitter and Chris Maguire dropping to the bench.

Conor McLaughlin came into the side, with his promotion resulting in Luke O’Nien switching position to the ‘number ten’ role, and Ross was quick to defend his decisions despite his side’s failure to claim all three points.

“Chris missed the Peterborough game with an ankle injury, and was very much touch and go for Accrington,” he said. “I thought long and hard about him playing (at the weekend) because he still had some issues in training, that was primarily behind that.

“Grant was just to freshen it up in that area of the pitch, but also we wanted to play a little bit differently tonight. The first goal was an example of that, and in other aspects of the first half, we were a bit more direct. I don’t think Rotherham would have expected it because of how we usually play at home, and Luke playing in that position helped us with that as well. It’s good that we have that flexibility to do that at times.”