Sunderland came from behind to defeat ten-man QPR at Loftus Road.
Tony Mowbray believes QPR midfielder Jack Colback’s red card was merited, despite the fact that the Sunderland manager has yet to watch a replay of the incident. Sunderland came from behind to win 3-1 at Loftus Road, but the red card shown to former Black Cats midfielder Colback midway through the first half, when QPR led 1-0, proved decisive.
Colback’s lunging challenge on Jobe Bellingham left the Sunderland man writhing in pain and referee Dean Whitestone decided it merited a straight red. “I haven’t seen it back yet,” said Mowbray.
“What I would say is that I thought the referee had a difficult day, to be honest, particularly in the first half. I’m not sure I agreed with many of his decisions in the first half.
“What I gauge it by was the reaction of the players, which was quite abrupt – everybody went racing over as if it was a really bad tackle. It wasn’t one of those where they weren’t sure … everybody went over because they were protective of their teammate and that tells me it was a bad challenge, but I haven’t seen it back.”
QPR had taken the lead inside the opening quarter-hour through Kenneth Paal, but a deflected strike from Jack Clarke in first-half injury time levelled things up. And then Dan Ballard put Sunderland in front just before the hour, with Abdoullah Ba adding the third with ten minutes remaining.
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Mowbray said: “I thought we started really well in the game, dominated, and then they scored. It wasn’t as if they were peppering our goal and giving us problems, but it was a good goal, right in the bottom corner, a good strike.
“I felt it was a matter of time before we scored and it was great that we scored before half-time. But I sat and watched for 20-25 minutes and we needed some more creativity on the pitch so at half-time Niall [Huggins] was off and Patrick [Roberts] was on and there was a bit of a change of shape and we got control but they [QPR] were trying to be protective of what they have.
“We’ve got some good footballers and we got the job done, but I think we deserved it. I’ve watched a lot of their games and they spend a lot of time out of possession – I think their average possession is about 33 percent – so we knew we would have a lot of the ball, it was about how you break down their defensive block and we found a way today.”
Sunderland were dealt a blow in the first half when Pierre Ekwah walked out, but Mowbray indicated it was not a major injury and that the midfielder could be available for the midweek trip to Blackburn Rovers. “Pierre hasn’t trained much this week because he’s been dealing with a dead leg,” Mowbray explained.
“He trained on Friday, so we thought he’d be fine for the game because it wasn’t a strain or a tear, just a bang on the thigh.” The trouble was that he got a bang in the same spot a few minutes later; he tried to run it off but couldn’t, so we just took him off.
“We’ll put some heat on it, massage it, and hopefully it’ll be fine for Wednesday.”
Mowbray was also forced to make two changes to his starting lineup against QPR, missing out on Bradley Dack and Dennis Cirkin. Midfielder Dack had a minor strain and may be able to play against his former team on Wednesday night at Ewood Park, while left-back Cirkin has a hamstring injury and will be out for at least a couple of weeks.
“Bradley just has a slight strain, and he’s very hopeful of being ready for Wednesday,” Mowbray said. We could have brought him, but we didn’t think it was worth the risk today, so he’s a strong bet for the Blackburn game
“Dennis is a different kettle of fish; he’s got a hamstring strain and will be out for at least a couple of weeks, if not longer.” Of course, this is a setback for us, but Niall [Huggins] came in today and performed admirably for us.
“We just felt like with the way the game was going, the heat, and the fact that they only had ten men, we could get Roberts on for that bit of creativity.”