MIKE DODDS was delighted with his Sunderland side’s defensive display at Elland Road – but insisted he was not about to start celebrating a draw, even if it did come against one of the Championship’s title hopefuls.

Having beaten Leeds United at the Stadium of Light in December, the Black Cats inflicted more potential damage on Daniel Farke’s side’s promotion hopes as they claimed a goalless draw in West Yorkshire.

While Leeds dominated possession on their home turf, they created precious few goalscoring opportunities in the face of some superb defensive work from Sunderland.

Dan Ballard, Luke O’Nien and Trai Hume all performed impressively as they formed as three-man central-defensive unit, while Timothee Pembele and Callum Styles successfully shackled Leeds’ wide players in their respective wing-back berths.

The result was Sunderland’s second clean sheet in the space of four days, but while Dodds was happy with his side’s organisation and commitment, he does not want that to be the limit of their ambition.

“I’m happy for them,” said the interim head coach. “I don’t want to go over the top because we have drawn the game, we haven’t won it. We’ve got to take the positives from the game, and I think there were a lot of positives, but we have drawn the game and I don’t want to be sat here celebrating draws, if I’m completely honest.

“I thought our out-of-possession stuff was excellent, and I didn’t feel at any point that Leeds were going to score or break us down or carve us open. I felt all their chances came from our sloppy play.


“I’ve said to the group that my biggest disappointment was our quality with the ball. I think the evening would have been a lot more comfortable for us had we had better quality with the ball. I felt we turned the ball over far too much, but I’m happy in terms of the execution of the plan to stop their threats.

“I think they’re the best team in the league, so to play them twice and not concede any goal over two games says everything about the group and the preparation for the two games.”

Dodds switched to a five-man defence for Sunderland’s home victory over Leeds in his previous spell as temporary boss, and successfully reprised the formula this evening.

With five men strung across their backline, the Black Cats were solid and well-organised throughout, with Dodds having identified the need to prevent Leeds from enjoying time and space out wide.

“I was really conscious around the last game, I didn’t want to just copy and paste what we did earlier in the season,” he said. “But I watch a huge amount of football, as many games as far back as possible, and I just think they bump their full-backs up so high that you might as well go to a back five because they just walk onto your shape anyway.

“That’s the conclusion we came to, so we went very similar in terms of what we did at the Stadium of Light. We went a bit more aggressive through the middle of the pitch, and I was really comfortable with the out-of-possession stuff.

“I never felt as though they were going to score and I think that’s a huge achievement. But there is a tinge of disappointment because I thought our in-possession stuff was really sloppy.”