Sunderland made it three wins from three, nabbed a second consecutive clean sheet, and extended their unbeaten run to six all in one evening here at the Keepmoat Stadium.
An action-packed first half concluded with a brilliant couple of one-on-one saves from Jon McLaughlin and the second half began with a finish from Chris Maguire to put the Lads ahead with the game’s solitary goal.
The Black Cats still weren’t able to break into the top two, given that Peterborough beat Fleetwood and Portsmouth have a significant point chasm to soften the setback of a home draw to Burton, but we’re most certainly keeping the pressure firmly on.
Doncaster: Marko Marosi, Niall Mason, Andy Butler, Joe Wright, Danny Andrew, Ben Whiteman, Herbie Kane, Matty Blair, Mallik Wilks, John Marquis, James Coppinger
Subs: Ian Lawlor, Ali Crawford, Tom Anderson, Paul Taylor, Alfie May, Jermaine Anderson, Danny Amos
Sunderland: Jon McLaughlin, Adam Matthews, Tom Flanagan, Jack Baldwin, Reece James, Lee Cattermole, Dylan McGeouch, Lynden Gooch, George Honeyman, Chris Maguire, Jerome Sinclair
Subs: Robbin Ruiter, Alim Ozturk, Luke O’Nien, Donald Love, Bali Mumba, Aiden McGeady, Benji Kimpioka
Sunderland had the first chance of the game as Lynden Gooch meandered into the box before letting off a shot that dragged just wide of the left post; shortly after, Doncaster were almost afforded a golden opportunity when a misjudged backpass from Tom Flanagan almost got the Lads into bother - thankfully, the defender was able to reclaim his dreary delivery and successfully cleared his lines.
It wouldn’t be long before Gooch was at it again - this time opting to float a cross over the Doncaster heads after marauding into the mixer. An unmarked Chris Maguire was quickest to the reception, but his headed effort went well over the bar.
The first half began as a lively, end-to-end affair and it would stay that way for its duration. Despite both sides continuously testing the mettle of the other, however, neither was able to land that crucial first strike.
Maguire floated any number of dangerous crosses into the path of Gooch, but the young American was seemingly inches or moments from reaching each one. Doncaster were then deadly on the break - or at least they would’ve been, were it not for the excellent reflexes of Jon McLaughlin and trademark tenacity of Lee Cattermole.
George Honeyman was very lucky not to be sent off as the half wore on; the Lads’ captain went to intercept a ball via a reckless, side-on tackle which could’ve easily been interpreted as a tackle from behind. Instead, he got away with a yellow.
The dramatics of the opening interval peaked on the cusp of its closure. Not once, but twice Doncaster found themselves through on goal and one-on-one with McLaughlin, and on both occasions our stopper saw off the opposition with some excellent goalkeeping, racing formidably off his line to halt both advances.
Ultimately, with the home side denied two clear-cut chances, the half ended goalless. Both sides looked promising, but Doncaster had definitely knocked loudest on the door.
HT: Doncaster 0-0 Sunderland
Sunderland took the lead a mere two minutes into the second half. Gooch lashed a low shot through the box, which evaded the amassing shirts of friend and foe. Unfortunately, his effort could only ricochet violently off the post, so it’s a good job the ball bounced back into the path of Maguire, who launched the rebound into the roof of the net.
The pace of the game dropped off after our opener, due in no small part to the injuries sustained by the opposition, but once it threatened to pick back up, Sunderland did what they could to bring it back down. The Lads did an excellent job of containing and gradually frustrating Doncaster who seldom saw a decent opportunity on goal.
The sheer number of booking dished out in tonight’s encounter (a whopping total of ten yellow cards) was the biggest threat to Sunderland’s lead - it would only take one more repeat offence for the Black Cats to endure their third sending off in four league games. But fret not, Cattermole was substituted and no such compromise transpired.
His substitute - Luke O’Nien - had the ball in the net for the second time in two games after following up on Flanagan’s venomous volley, but the former Wycombe man was acres offisde when he struck, and so our lead was not doubled.
The Lads comfortably saw the game out, and so we record our third consecutive win and extend our unbeaten run to six. Ha’wayawayawayyy!
FT: Doncaster 0-1 Sunderland (Maguire 47’)
Jon McLaughlin, 9/10: Kept us in the game with two brilliant saves on the stroke of half time was quick and vigilant to cut out anything else Doncaster managed to throw at us.
Adam Matthews, 7/10: Linked up well with Lynden Gooch in the first half; the two caused plenty of problems down their flank thanks to this cohesion.
Tom Flanagan, 6/10: A decent showing from him, save for a nervy moment in the first half.
Jack Baldwin, 6/10: Another decent showing, without any nervy moments.
Reece James, 6/10: Not quite as prominent as Matthews in his role, but still supplied Maguire with a good amount of ammunition.
Lee Cattermole, 7/10: Consistently solid and clinical in the tackle. In a game already rife with yellow cards, he simply had to come off in the second half, sadly.
Dylan McGeouch, 6/10: His usual tidy self.
Lynden Gooch, 7/10: Looked like creating something every time he raced into the box - on another day he would’ve been on the scoresheet.
George Honeyman, 6/10: Chased down and snapped at the heels of the opposition all evening, though he threatened to do more harm than good.
Chris Maguire, 8/10: Took his goal well, floated in plenty of dangerous crosses and just generally looked like a nuisance. He’s some boy.
Jerome Sinclair, 7/10: Struggled to play Maja’s role but still managed to make the entire Doncaster back line work.
(SUB) Luke O’Nien, 6/10: Offered plenty of energy, which is all we really needed for what we were doing.
(SUB) Aiden McGeady, 6/10: Only had a couple of opportunities to get forward. Swung in a great delivery for Sinclair during one of them.
Man of the Match: Jon McLaughlin
Attendance: 11,881 (3,973 Sunderland fans)