MICHAEL BEALE has defended his decision to start with Abdoullah Ba up front in yesterday’s defeat to Coventry City, but admitted getting the best out of Sunderland’s forwards will be one of his biggest challenges at the Stadium of Light.

For his first game in charge of the Black Cats, Beale opted to keep three natural centre-forwards – Eliezer Mayenda, Mason Burstow and Nazariy Rusyn – on the substitutes’ bench.

Instead, he selected Ba, more naturally an attacking midfielder, in the number nine position, but the French youngster suffered a frustrating afternoon.

Ba spurned Sunderland’s best chance of the game when the score was goalless, ballooning a shot over the bar from ten yards out with the goal seemingly at his mercy, and was eventually withdrawn in the 71st minute when Mayenda and Adil Aouchiche came on.

Beale said: “The other strikers all played on Monday in the B team game. It was a chance to watch them, but then they didn’t return to training with the group in a light session until Wednesday.

“Pritch (Alex Pritchard) was going to play, but unfortunately he had the sickness bug and wasn’t available, so we went with bringing Jobe (Bellingham) back in and tried to keep quite a settled team (from the Bristol City game).


“I didn’t think it worked in the first half, I thought it looked a bit powderpuff in the final third, if I’m honest. I thought our approach play wasn’t bad, but we looked powderpuff. I thought Abdoullah actually started the second half quite well.”

Sunderland signed four strikers in the summer, but all four are still waiting for their first senior goal in a Black Cats shirt.

Tony Mowbray admitted the situation was a major cause of concern, and Beale also concedes that he has to come up with a formula to make his side more successful in front of goal. While Sunderland’s xG figures suggest they should have scored 35.6 goals from open play in their 23 league games this season, they have actually only found the net on 26 occasions.

Beale said: “It’s a conundrum prior to me coming in. It was a conundrum for the two coaches who have led the team so far.

“It’s an area, coming in, that I know I’m going to have to try to maximise with the players in the building, in the short term.”