Sunderland struggled to break down a hard working Barnsley side this afternoon at the Stadium of Light, losing 1-0 thanks to a goal early in the second half from Ethan Pinnock.
The defeat, coupled with wins elsewhere for Bolton and Burton, leave Sunderland in a precarious position down at the bottom of the Championship as we head into the New Year.
Sunderland: Ruiter, Oviedo, Love, Matthews, O’Shea, Browning, Honeyman, Gibson, McGeady, McManaman, Vaughan.
Subs: Steele, Maja, Asoro, Beadling, Jones, McNair, Embleton.
Barnsley: Davies, Cavare, Pinnock, Lindsay, Fryers, Gardner, Williams, Potts, Isgrove, Thiam, Hammill.
Subs: Townsend, McCarthy, McGeehan, Bradshaw, Moncur, Mallan, Ugbo.
The opening forty-five minutes were largely in the favour of the away side, who attacked with intent from the off.
Mamadou Thiam was the first to go close for the visitors, as his strike from range rattled the post, with Sunderland escaping unscathed.
Barnsley continued to press forward with pace and had Sunderland on the ropes, but Chris Coleman’s men remained resolute and managed to hold their opponents off.
An unfortunate injury to Darron Gibson brought about the first change of the game, with Paddy McNair making his return from an injury lay-off in his place.
Sunderland rarely threatened the Barnsley goal but for a few half chances from James Vaughan and Callum McManaman, and half petered out in a fairly laborious fashion before the referee eventually blew for half time.
HT: Sunderland 0-0 Barnsley
Sunderland started the half with Josh Maja on in place of Bryan Oviedo, but it did nothing to immediately improve their fortunes as they went a goal down almost immediately after the restart.
Ethan Pinnock, who scored in Barnsley’s previous game too right at the death, rose highest to meet a corner from the right hand side to give Paul Heckingbottom’s side the lead.
This gave the Tykes an opportunity to sit back and allow the Black Cats time on the ball - as a result, Josh Maja found himself with a half chance in the box but he wasn’t able to get a shot away, and the ball was cleared.
Sunderland’s best chance of the game fell to Paddy McNair in the 65th minute - a Donald Love long throw into the box wasn’t properly cleared and the Northern Ireland international struck the ball on the volley, but his effort flew wide of the post.
Another good move brought about due to the tenacity and drive of George Honeyman down the right hand side wasn’t converted, with the opportunity this time falling to substitute Joel Asoro.
As the game wore on Coleman’s side just weren’t able to dismantle Barnsley, who did an efficient job of winning the key battles earlier in the game.
Defeat leaves the Mackems back in the bottom three, four points behind today’s victors who picked up their first win in twelve games.
FT: Sunderland 0-1 Barnsley
Robbin Ruiter, 6/10: Not sure he could have done much about Pinnock’s header or Thiam’s early effort which struck the post.
Bryan Oviedo, 4/10: Too easily beaten down the left hand side and was targetted throughout the first half.
John O’Shea, 6/10: Calm and composed for the most part.
Tyias Browning, 6/10: Did okay for the most part, though felt he struggled to cope with Thiam physically.
Adam Matthews, 6/10: Always does himself justice when playing out of position. Did a lot of covering for Oviedo in the first half.
Donald Love, 5/10: Got forward well and worked hard up the line but some of his passing is poor.
George Honeyman, 6/10: Gave another spirited performance but felt he and many of the others struggled without Gibson’s presence on the pitch.
Darron Gibson, 6/10: Ran the show for the ten minutes which preceeded his injury.
Callum McManaman, 5/10: Ineffective once again bar a nice little move in the first half. Not sure what he brings to the table.
Aiden McGeady, 4/10: Wasteful and offered us next to nothing on set pieces.
James Vaughan, 4/10: He’s just not cut out for this level. If Wigan do want him I’d let him go.
(SUB) Paddy McNair, 5/10: Wasn’t able to adequetly replace Gibson’s characteristics. Wasted a fantastic chance when he volleyed off target.
(SUB) Josh Maja, 5/10: Didn’t have the impact that was perhaps expected of him, though in fairness had very little service.
(SUB) Joel Asoro, 5/10: Was brought on to offer us pace in order to stretch Barnsley and did fairly well when put into situations where he could be dangerous.
Man of the Match: Pffft... Adam Matthews?!