A fourth successive clean sheet and a sixth successive win for the Lads finished our league campaign for two weeks as we beat Plymouth Argyle 2-0 at Home Park.
It was our longest away trip of the season - an 806 mile round journey to the south west coast following last week’s 3-0 home victory over Southend United. Taking the distance and complexity of merely travelling to the game into consideration, it was brilliant to have sold out our ticket allocation for yet another stadium.
Jack Ross made two changes to that team that demolished Southend at the Stadium of Light - with Lee Cattermole missing out after picking up an injury in midweek, Aiden McGeady came into the side in his place. Jerome Sinclair was demoted to the bench, with Josh Maja replacing him in the starting eleven. The boss revealed in his pre-match press conference that multiple players could be out and that could have been the case for Bryan Oviedo, who is back from suspension but has not featured since.
It was a fairly uneventful first half, with Maguire having one of the best efforts, a strike from range which didn’t really trouble the Plymouth Argyle goalkeeper. This was a standard that wasn’t improved over the course of the first half, so the opening 45 ended as Plymouth Argyle 0-0 Sunderland.
Despite our failures to carve the hosts open, credit must be given to Plymouth for managing to keep our attackers quiet, something that not many teams have been able to do in our last few matches.
We skipped out of the starting blocks too quickly for Plymouth’s liking as they fell down to a stunning strike from Aiden McGeady. He cautiously dribbled the ball diagonally and halted at the edge of the penalty area, curling it into the bottom right corner to give the Lads the lead.
Derek Adams knew that his side needed an urgent response and they did come back at us, but due to some top class goalkeeping from Jon McLaughlin, they couldn’t force any of their efforts home. We managed to ride that storm and from there, we weren’t really troubled and put the game out of Plymouth’s reach when Luke O’Nien was brought down in the area by Moore and the referee pointed immediately to the spot.
Originally, Lynden Gooch was going to step up, but McGeady decided to nick the penalty-taking duties from him and was rewarded when he calmly tucked the ball into the back of an empty right-hand side of the net.
With Peterborough United losing 1-0 against Wycombe Wanderers and the Lads winning, we moved up to second, three points within touching distance of Portsmouth with a game in hand to play against Blackpool.
Next up, we face a FA Cup Round One tie against Port Vale next Sunday afternoon in front of the BT cameras, where I expect the gaffer to field a weakened side whilst wanting to provide a rewarding performance so we can progress to the second round of the famous competition.
What’s certain is that Jack Ross will be pleased that his side were able to dispatch of Plymouth so professionally. You don’t expect to dominate games away from home, even as a good side, so if you can come away with three points and a clean sheet on your travels you can’t help but admire the result.
Going into Port Vale the manager can relax, and perhaps even use it as an opportunity to rotate his squad, rest some of his regulars and give opportunities to players who have done very little wrong to be sitting out of the side at present.