MICHAEL Beale says the decision to rest Jobe Bellingham against Plymouth was done with the coming week in mind, and says Pierre Ekwah's second substitution was also pre-planned.

The visit of Plymouth on Saturday was the first of three games this week, with a trip to Huddersfield on Wednesday followed by an away game against Tony Mowbray's Birmingham.

Beale and his coaching team assessed the week as a whole before picking the team for Argyle, with the head coach keen to ensure he can keep as many players as possible fresh to feature in all three games. Bellingham came off the bench in the second half and scored within two minutes of being introduced, while Ekwah, the scorer of Sunderland's first, was replaced at the midway point of the second period.

He said: "We spoke about it on Thursday. We spoke about this week, three really big games.

"We've got a lot of travelling to do, down to Huddersfield and back, then down to Birmingham. Pierre was pre-planned [substitution]. You can't plan it 100 per cent but it was pre-planned that the midfield would rotate a little bit this week.

"We'd play with one more up the pitch, certainly at home. Abdoullah (Ba) deserved to stay in the team and I think Paddy (Roberts) has shown what we've missed in moments. That dribbling ability. There's so many positives at the moment. Young Rigg coming on as well."


Sunderland moved into the Championship's top six courtesy of their 3-1 win over Plymouth and Beale admitted climbing into the play-off places is a boost, even with three months of the campaign still to run.

"Certainly confidence wise it means something," he said.

"We're going to go to a team that's fighting for its life on Wednesday so the points are going to be really important for them.

"We don't start 1-0 up or 1-0 down. We reset and must play every single game, every minute of the game with the right mentality and quality. We have to be positive.

"That's what we spoke about at half-time. Too many backwards passes, too slow, one too many touches. That's not how we want to play football and it's important that we reset and we play well, better than today, away at Huddersfield.

"We can only do our job. If we hadn't done our job today and seen the results in the league, we would have really regretted it."