Grant McCann believes his Doncaster Rovers side are just as good as big spending Sunderland after their thoroughly competitive and entertaining clash at the Keepmoat.
Sunderland triumphed 1-0 courtesy of Chris Maguire’s close range finish early in the second half.
But Rovers matched them for much of the game and McCann says his players can take plenty of pride from their performance.
“My message to the boys after the game was that it would be easy for me to say that’s the difference between a top team and a team trying to be a top team,” he said.
“But what I will say is I feel as though we are as good as them.
“I think the game showed that.
“The difference was that they took a chance and we didn’t.
“That is the difference sometimes in a tight game, between two teams that are trying to do the same thing which is to get out of this league,
“We make a mistake and we’re slow to react when they hit the post.
“That was disappointing.
“My honest assessment of the game is that I thought Sunderland were better than us for the first 15 minutes, we were better than them for the rest of the half, they got a goal at the right time in the second half and then we matched each other.
“I am proud of the boys tonight.
“We matched the biggest club in this league for the whole game.”
Rovers wasted two glorious chances late in the first half with both Mallik Wilks and Matty Blair missing after being sent through on goal.
And, with Sunderland punishing the mistakes soon after the restart, McCann says Rovers must quickly learn their lessons.
“We should have gone in two up really with Mallik and Matty,” he said.
“We need to realise that when we get into those situations that we can’t shoot at the keeper and expect it to go in.
“We’ve got to have a trick in our locker, do something different, and especially with a keeper of Jon McLaughlin’s experience.
“They’ll be thinking two good save from him but we’re thinking it’s two bad misses from us.”
Both Niall Mason and Andy Butler will miss Saturday’s trip to Coventry City after picking up their fifth league bookings of the season against Sunderland.