Sunderland managed to claim a victory and progress through to the second round of the FA Cup this afternoon with a win away at in-form League Two side Port Vale.
An excellent goal from George Honeyman inside the first minute and a well-taken Lynden Gooch strike put Jack Ross’ side well ahead early in the game, but a Tom Pope goal ensured Vale were always in the tie - which meant that the action was often frantic and exciting.
Sunderland have now won their last seven games in all competitions, and having named a strong side it’ll be pleasing for Jack Ross that his side were able to get the victory against a side who were strong and competitive from start to finish.
Port Vale: Scott Brown, Luke Joyce, Leon Legge, Tom Pope (c), Luke Hannant, Connell Rawlinson, Nathan Smith, Theo Vassell, Tom Conlon, Mitchell Clark, Ben Whitfield
Subs: Christian Montano, Anthony Kay, Manny Oyeleke, Ricky Miller, Sam Hornby
Sunderland: Jon McLaughlin, Adam Matthews, Tom Flanagan, Jack Baldwin, Reece James, George Honeyman (c), Dylan McGeouch, Chris Maguire, Lynden Gooch, Aiden McGeady, Jerome Sinclair
Subs: Robbin Ruiter, Alim Ozturk, Max Power, Bryan Oviedo, Glenn Loovens, Josh Maja, Luke O’Nien
Sunderland had the perfect start to their FA Cup campaign when George Honeyman opened the scoring with just forty-five seconds elapsed.
Chris Maguire picked up the ball from Jerome Sinclair before squaring to Honeyman waiting on the outskirts of the box - the captain finessing the effort with his first touch to place the ball satisfyingly in the bottom right corner.
Aiden McGeady might’ve added to his string of pearlers only minutes later when he danced through the Port Vale defenders before taking aim; unfortunately, his foot skimmed the outside of the ball rather than making a true connection, and so the shot went wide of the mark.
Maguire got in on the action too with another long and low effort from outside the penalty box’s confines, but he effort didn’t prove too difficult for Vale ‘keeper Scott Brown to gather.
The Lads’ continued pressure was rewarded on the twenty minute mark when Lynden Gooch doubled his side’s advantage. Industrious pair McGeady and Sinclair linked up well in our new favourite place - the edge of the box - before finding Gooch, who tucked the ball away into the bottom left corner.
Port Vale weren’t about to take our brace lying down, though. The home side got themselves back into the fray when Tom Pope scored an admittedly tidy finish after a quick stream of passes, effectively ending our run of clean sheets.
The likes of Gooch, Sinclair and Maguire did all they could to make and take chances for their side, but we wouldn’t see any more goals in this opening interval. The first half ended with Sunderland clinching the advantage.
HT: Port Vale 1-2 Sunderland (Honeyman 1, Gooch 19’, Pope 35’)
Port Vale tried their best to replicate our start to the first half when the second began.
Leon Legge’s gargantuan throw-in travelled a good thirty yards and landed in the box, causing a goalmouth scramble to ensue. Thankfully the Lads managed to get bodies in the way to ward off the danger.
Sunderland came close to a third when Honeyman swung a cross into the path of an advancing Sinclair, but his marker kept up with him all the way to ensure he couldn’t flick the delivery behind him and goalward.
Vale’s Ben Whitfield then had a golden opportunity when he beat both Jack Baldwin and Dylan McGeouch far too easily, but he could only hit the side-netting despite being virtually unmarked at that point.
The Lads then got out of jail when Baldwin clipped his man in the aftermath of a sliding tackle, bringing him down inside the box. Mercifully - and surprisingly - a penalty was not awarded to the home side.
As the match wore on, McGeady created what was arguably Sunderland’s best missed opportunity when he marauded down his flank before arching a low but pacey cross with enough velocity to elude the Valiants’ back line and fall into the path of Honeyman - but the captain’s subsequent half-volley was parried away by Brown.
Another messy, pinball-esque affair occurred once again in the Black Cats’ box not too long after, but Reece James made all the difference with a crucial block-turned-tackle to halt the ball from travelling any further than the goal line.
The home side really came to life this second half, but ultimately they couldn’t make it count, and so it will be Sunderland who advance to the second round of the FA Cup.
FT: Port Vale 1-2 Sunderland
Jon McLaughlin, 6/10: A decent showing, was never required to perform any heroics and there wasn’t much he could’ve done about Tom Pope’s goal.
Adam Matthews, 6/10: Unspectacular but uncontroversial.
Tom Flanagan, 6/10: A solid enough showing from him.
Jack Baldwin, 5/10: Not at his most impressive away. Should’ve conceded a penalty and was beaten far too easily by Ben Whitfield for what should’ve been the equaliser. Might’ve cost his team dearly on another day.
Reece James, 6/10: Was the wrong side of his man for Vale’s opener but always looked competent going forward.
George Honeyman, 8/10: A great performance from the captain. Scored a cracker with only forty-five seconds played and caused Port Vale plenty of problems all afternoon with some more great chances and incisive deliveries.
Dylan McGeouch, 6/10: Facilitated play in the middle of the park but didn’t do anything that particularly stood out.
Chris Maguire, 7/10: Set up Honeyman for the opener with a tidy bit of play and looked composed yet threatening for most of his game.
Lynden Gooch, 7/10: A performance very similar to Honeyman’s, though perhaps the captain was a shade better.
Aiden McGeady, 7/10: Looked like an absolute nightmare whenever he raced at the Vale back line. Unlucky to only be registering one assist.
Jerome Sinclair, 6/10: Pacey, industrious and unlucky not to score.
(SUB) Josh Maja, 5/10: Never really got going. Had a rather implausible penalty appeal waved away.
(SUB) Max Power, 6/10: Offered plenty of energy from the get-go.
(SUB) Luke O’Nien 6/10: Same as above.
Man of the Match: George Honeyman.