Sunderland pulled off a shock result this evening at Pride Park, running out comfortable winners to lift themselves off the bottom of the table and move within three points of fourth-bottom Barnsley, putting us right back in the race to avoid relegation to League One.
Goals from George Honeyman, Ashley Fletcher, Aiden McGeady and John O’Shea settled the score, with Derby proving to be incredibly generous hosts to a side who, prior to the game, hadn’t won in any of their previous ten games.
Derby: Scott Carson, Craig Forsyth, Richard Keogh (c), Tom Lawrence, Chris Baird, Bradley Johnson, Andreas Weimann, Matej Vydra, Cameron Jerome, Curtis Davies, George Thorne
Subs: Kelle Roos, Kasey Palmer, Andre Wisdom, Alex Pearce, David Nugent, Joe Ledley, Luke Thomas
Sunderland: Lee Camp, Bryan Oviedo, Lamine Kone, John O’Shea (c), Donald Love, Lynden Gooch, Paddy McNair, Lee Cattermole, George Honeyman, Aiden McGeady, Ashley Fletcher
Subs: Jason Steele, Kazenga LuaLua, Callum McManaman, Josh Maja, Adam Matthews, Ethan Robson, Marc Wilson
Chris Coleman made no less than five changes to the side that went down with a whimper against Preston: Adam Matthews, Josh Maja, Joel Asoro, Jake Clarke-Salter and Ovie Ejaria were replaced respectively by Donald Love, Ashley Fletcher, Lynden Gooch, Paddy McNair and Aiden McGeady.
These changes entailed the more offensively oriented 4-3-3 formation. McNair flanked Cattermole with Honeyman on the other side, whilst McGeady and Gooch would offer support to would-be spearhead Fletcher.
Unlike their visitors, Derby’s current form betrays their league position. Just like Sunderland, the Rams have failed to emerge victorious in any of their last six fixtures - picking up only two more points than our lot.
Sunderland had a decent opportunity to take the lead with just over a minute played - Aiden McGeady sent Ashley Fletcher through on goal, but - once again - the on-loan Boro man took a heavy touch in a good position and Scott Carson was able to ward off the danger.
Down at the other end, the home side had a good opportunity to deliver a sucker punch when Bryan Oviedo dawdled in possession and gave the ball away, but the subsequent cross to Cameron Jerome was blocked brilliantly by Donald Love.
Derby were well on top in these opening exchanges. The Rams asking plenty of questions of a rather uncertain looking Sunderland back-line and ‘keeper.
On ten minutes however, the Lads took the lead against the run of play.
The ball bounced - seemingly - away from danger following a corner, but George Honeyman latched onto the ball from outside the box and let loose a shot which took a deflection and landed in the back of the net.
Derby almost brought us rapidly back down to earth minutes later. Richard Keogh glanced a header from Bradley Johnson’s free-kick across the face of goal, which thankfully drifted narrowly wide of the far post.
The home side kept the pressure on, but on thirty-six minutes their deficit would be doubled!
Richard Keogh completely switched off and played a pass straight to Ashley Fletcher, who charged forward, shrugged off the three white shirts hurriedly marking him and fired into the bottom left corner - a great individual goal from him.
Sunderland then came agonizingly close to getting a third. Fletcher once again marauded forward and fended off his trackers before hitting a delivery across the face of goal which Gooch missed by inches.
Derby did get a response, though. Oviedo couldn’t make a proper clearance and Matej Vydra intercepted the ball on the edge of the box and volleyed it past Camp.
The Black Cats really should’ve had their third right on the verge of half time. Aiden McGeady floated a lovely cross into the path of Fletcher, but he scuffed the effort wide despite having the entire goal to aim at.
Sunderland would have to settle for a one goal lead as this action packed first half came to an end.
HT: Derby County 1-2 Sunderland (Honeyman 10’, Fletcher 36’, Vydra 42’)
Sunderland were awarded a penalty with just five minutes of the second half played.
Gooch made a bursting run forward and was hacked down by Richard Keogh. McGeady stepped up to the mark, ignored Scott Carson’s feint, and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner to earn his seventh goal of this campaign - as well as Sunderland’s third of this game.
Vydra tested the referee’s generosity when he went down in the box minutes later, but all penalty appeals were waived away.
Lamine Kone picked up Sunderland’s first booking of the afternoon when he toppled into the back of Cameron Jerome. The latter was brought down by the former once again only moments later in the penalty box - but once again there were no consequences for the visitors.
Once again, Fletcher should’ve added to his tally - but this time he was desperately unlucky. The big man sauntered through the box before curling a great effort seemingly bound for the top right corner - but the ball bounced off the inside of the post and back out.
Paddy McNair would become the second Sunderland player to test the woodwork not too long after, as his header from a corner ricocheted off the bar.
But we would find the back of the net again. That’s right - Sunderland got a fourth goal!
John O’Shea, of all people, got his sides next goal on his 250th appearance for the club. The 36 year old Republic of Ireland captain emerged with the ball amid a goalmouth scramble and toepegged it into the back of the net - all but sealing our inexplicable victory.
And seal it we did. Derby’s winless run goes on - but ours has just ended.
FT: Derby County 1-4 Sunderland (Honeyman 10’, Fletcher 36’, Vydra 42’, McGeady 50’ [P], O’Shea 76’)
Lee Camp, 6/10: Didn’t have much to do. Looked a tad nervy in the opening exchanges.
Bryan Oviedo, 6/10: Looked competent, but not a standout performer in this particular side.
Lamine Kone, 7/10: Had to pick on someone his own size when he was given the task of man-marking Cameron Jerome - and I dare say he came off the better of the two.
John O’Shea, 8/10: Marshaled the back line all evening and got his name on the scoresheet. Undoubtedly his best showing all season.
Donald Love, 7/10: A good showing from him today, offered some forward momentum which we’d never really seen from him before.
George Honeyman, 7/10: Industrious all evening. Saw an opportunity with his opener and took it.
Paddy McNair, 8/10: Very solid indeed. Especially amid the doubts of his fitness.
Lee Cattermole, 7/10: Steadied the ship throughout.
Lynden Gooch, 8/10: Much like Honeyman, he was involved constantly.
Aiden McGeady, 9/10: Tremendous. Always looked capable of creating something whenever he was on the ball and converted the penalty which dropped the Derby heads.
Ashley Fletcher, 7/10: Missed two decent chances, scored a great one and was very unlucky with another. A mixed bag, but definitely an improvement on any of his previous performances.
(SUB) Adam Matthews, 6/10: Will have been disappointed to lose his place.
(SUB) Marc Wilson, 6/10: Wasn’t really on for that long but good to see him back.
(SUB) Josh Maja, 5/10: Didn’t have enough time to do much of anything.
Roker Report’s Man of the Match: Aiden McGeady.