Sunderland picked up three points and a clean sheet away from home with a win at Shrewsbury today, moving Jack Ross’ side up to third in the table on a day where many of the teams around us slipped up.
Two assists from super-sub Lynden Gooch - one which led to an own goal and another which was finished well by Luke O’Nien - won the game for the Black Cats in the second half of a game which for the most part was evenly-contested.
Sunderland started the brighter of the two teams and had a number of corners in the opening minutes of the game - though the Shrews did come close with a chance of their own when Anthony Grant blazed a free header over the bar.
But then the home side grew into the game, and the Lads had to weather a decent spell of pressure which saw us make a number of errors when placed under the cosh.
The rest of the half was fairly competitive and Sunderland had a great chance when Lee Cattermole connected on the volley with a cross from the right - but he smashed his shot well over.
Minutes later came another - standing unmarked, six yards out, Josh Maja just couldn’t get his shot away, and Shrewsbury cleared.
John Askey’s side came again though and more than matched Sunderland throughout the half, but the teams went into the break goalless - and could both feel dissapointed that they weren’t able to take the lead.
The second period began as the first one ended, with neither side really able to take a foothold in the game. As such, Jack Ross made an early change and brought on Lynden Gooch in place of top scorer Josh Maja, who had an off day. Another player who was ineffective, Aiden McGeady, was replaced by George Honeyman.
Gooch’s impact was felt almost immediately as his cross into the box glanced off Shrewsbury defender Omar Beckles to give Sunderland the lead just before the hour mark.
And with their confidence growing, Sunderland persisted in trying for another - Chris Maguire’s lethal strike from range stung the hands of the Shrewsbury goalkeeper, who eventually managed to get the ball clear.
Sunderland had to be more clever with their play as the game wore on and, with Honeyman and Cattermole closing down in midfield, Jack Ross’ side worked hard to try and conserve their lead.
Another fantastic substitution from Jack Ross bore fruit late in the game - moments after his introduction, Luke O’Nien got onto the end of a superb Lynden Gooch pass to put the game to bed.
Sunderland move up to third in the League One table, six points behind leaders Portsmouth with a game in hand.
Jon McLaughlin, 7/10: Calming figure in the first half when we came under pressure.
Reece James, 6/10: Often wasteful in possession but worked hard up and down the line.
Jack Baldwin, 6/10: Some fantastic last ditch tackling, but also some heart-in-mouth moments when he lost the ball. Still love him though!
Tom Flanagan, 6/10: Assured, unspectacular showing from the Northern Ireland international.
Adam Matthews, 6/10: Doesn’t seem to get forward as much these days but can’t say he did a lot wrong.
Lee Cattermole, 7/10: Strolled around and looked every bit a player operating a level below one befitting of his class. Glad he’s got his sparkle back.
Dylan McGeouch, 6/10: Not particularly great in the first half but was useful in front of the defence when we needed someone to recycle play.
Jerome Sinclair, 7/10: Typical Sinclair display where he worked his nuts off for the team. Won’t score many goals but he offers us a lot up front.
Aiden McGeady, 5/10: Other than a few nice tricks he was ineffective. His corners and free kicks were particularly bad.
Chris Maguire, 6/10: Quiet in the first half but improved in the second. Very steady, experienced performance.
Josh Maja, 5/10: Poor. Looked out of sorts until he got hooked, and wasn’t able to convert the simple chance he had in the first half.
(SUB) Lynden Gooch, 8/10: Was only on a few minutes but put the ball in which got us the opener. His pace and workrate made the difference to the way we finished the game - and his assist for goal was fantastic.
(SUB) George Honeyman, 7/10: Came on to offer us energy in midfield and did just that - when we needed to press more, Honeyman was everywhere.
(SUB) Luke O’Nien, 7/10: Superb finish for his goal. So pleased for him as we all want to see him succeed here.
Man of the Match: Lynden Gooch.