Tony Mowbray praised “super talent” Jack Clarke after his double helped Sunderland to a 3-1 victory at Blackburn.
The Black Cats rode their luck early on and needed two brilliant heroic blocks from Dan Ballard to save certain goals.
It gave Sunderland and Clarke the platform to flourish. He won and converted the opener – a calm finish from the penalty spot – and although Harry Leonard’s header pegged them back, Dan Neil restored the lead before half-time.
Dilan Markanday hit the woodwork in the second half, but a composed Sunderland looked increasingly dangerous. It was typified by the imperious Clarke, who rounded off the scoring by nonchalantly rolling in from close range.
After their third successive win, Mowbray challenged “amazing” Clarke to keep working hard. He said: “I was extremely unhappy with him for half an hour. He was right in front of me and he wasn’t listening!
“He was amazing tonight. Scored two great goals, earned the penalty, he stuck it away, which shows the confidence level he’s got to stand up and take the penalty, and the composure for his second goal.
“But not just the goal. The more the game went on, the more this team knows to give it to Clarke who can run it 40 yards up the pitch, he can cut inside, pass it to people in the box, he can shoot.
“He’s a super talent, he’s a great kid and I don’t apologise for shouting at him and telling him he has to work hard because all the best players work harder than anybody else and their talent shines through.
“That’s what he has to do, to learn to work really hard out of possession for the team.”
Jon Dahl Tomasson felt Blackburn should have been “out of sight” in the first half.
He said: “We are very disappointed with the result. If you look at those chances we created, we should at least have scored three or four goals in the first half.
“Also, the way we created it and the amount of big chances, we should have been out of sight in that way. We saw some excellent football.
“I think we gave three unnecessary goals away. Of course, sometimes when you chase the game in the second half, it was a little bit more open. But we conceded a penalty and I think that’s the first time they were in our box. Then a corner just before half-time.
“Second half, I think we started well. Dominant again, created chances again. When you look at those amount of moments, it is crazy that we didn’t get a result.
“The team have done a lot of things right. Of course, we need to be more clinical.”