Sunderland lost 2-1 away at Burton Albion this afternoon, giving perhaps their worst all-round performance of the season as they finally succumbed to defeat after weeks of threatening to do so.
Chris Maguire’s second-half stunner wasn’t enough as Nigel Clough’s men became the first League One side to defeat the Mackems this season, decimating us during a first-half display which was blighted further by a terrible injury to Charlie Wyke which saw him leave the field on a stretcher following a nasty collision with their goalkeeper.
The loss leaves Sunderland in fourth place in League One, five points behind leaders Portsmouth who managed to convincingly beat fellow promotion rivals Peterborough United this afternoon.
Burton: Dimitar Evtimov, Jamie Allen, Kyle McFadzean, Ben Tuner, Scott Fraser, Lucas Akins (c), David Templeton, Damien McCrory, Marvin Sordell, Stephen Quinn, Liam Boyce
Subs: Harry Campbell, Jake Hesketh, Joe Sbarra, Ben Fox, Marcus Harness, Reece Hutchinson, Devante Cole
Sunderland: Jon McLaughlin, Adam Matthews, Bryan Oviedo, Glenn Loovens, Jack Baldwin, Lee Cattermole, Lynden Gooch, George Honeyman (c), Jerome Sinclair, Josh Maja, Charlie Wyke
Subs: Robbin Ruiter, Alim Ozturk, Denver Hume, Tom Flanagan, Luke O’Nien, Aiden McGeady, Chris Maguire
Sunderland had a fair share of possession in the opening exchanges but Burton were the first of the two sides to come close. A goalmouth scramble from a corner almost resulted in another early goal conceded but thankfully the travelling Lads were able to get bodies in the way to clear the danger.
The home side were seeing an unsettling amount of the ball in their final third - due in no small part to some dodgy passes from Glenn Loovens.
Josh Maja was gifted a golden opportunity - unmarked in the box - after Bryan Oviedo did well to fend off his tracker and swing in a cross, but his first-time effort was well wide of the mark and went out for a goal kick.
Once again, the game’s opening goal was not Sunderland’s. A low cross from Marvin Sordell was drilled in to the box and a failed attempt to clear it meant the ball inadvertently fell into the path of Jamie Allen, who tapped it in to make it 1-0 Burton.
Sunderland once again looked more threatening after they went behind but the home side weren’t relenting any pressure. Stephen Quinn had a powerful shot from outside the box which Jon McLaughlin was able to gather comfortably, and a half-volley from Kyle McFazdean would’ve been goalbound were it not for Jack Baldwin’s nads deflecting the effort.
Burton got a second as we neared half-time. Sunderland were once again undone from a simple set-piece as Kyle McFadzean rose highest to meet the delivery from a free-kick and nodded the ball into the far right corner.
The afternoon then went from bad to worse to abysmal as Charlie Wyke came off worse from a one-on-one with ‘keeper Dimitar Evtimov and sustained an injury which forced his game into an early end. He was replaced by Chris Maguire.
The first half ended with the Lads two goals in the red and in need of a serious half time team talk.
HT: Burton 2-0 Sunderland (Allen 19’, McFadzean 36’)
Sunderland returned to the field with an unchanged side despite Tom Flanagan and Aiden McGeady each doing extensive warm-ups.
The Black Cats fortunes began to turn as the second half ticked on; Chris Maguire wasted no time justifying his reintroduction into the side, taking aim from outside the box and rifling home an effort well beyond the reaches of Evtimov - halving the Lads’ deficit.
Maguire’s goal seemed to be the tonic Sunderland to revitalise their chances of taking something from this game, as they suddenly seemed to look a lot more threatening going forward.
The Lads had a great chance to level the scoreline when Maguire’s corner caused chaos in the mixer as Evtimov failed to clear the danger and shirts of both colours bobbed frantically to get some form of contact on the ball. Eventually it fell to subsitiute Aiden McGeady on the edge of the box, but his effort dragged agonisingly wide of the far post.
As the game neared it’s end, Sunderland’s momentum began to slow. The closest they came since the aforementioned chance was when Maja burst forward and rounded the ‘keeper only to find that he was offside.
Liam Boyce had one of the few Burton chances of the second half when he got forward and fired from a tight angle on the left, but McLaughlin reacted well to parry it behind.
The match concluded with Sunderland failing to find their second goal, and so they leave the Pirelli Stadium having endured their first defeat of the season.
FT: Burton 2-1 Sunderland (Allen 19’, McFadzean 36’, Maguire 54’)
Jon McLaughlin, 6/10: Made a few decent saves; not much he could’ve done about either of Burton’s goals.
Adam Matthews, 5/10: Better than last week, but then that isn’t saying much.
Bryan Oviedo, 5/10: Would’ve hoped for more from him.
Glenn Loovens, 7/10: Started the game with a few shaky passes sideways and back but became more like his usual solid self as the game ticked on.
Jack Baldwin, 7/10: It seems we can always rely on Jack for an assured defensive performance at the very least.
Lee Cattermole, 5/10: Had a couple of those ‘off the pace’ moments but was alright otherwise.
Lynden Gooch, 4/10: Offered plenty of energy as always but just didn’t seem to do much with it.
George Honeyman, 6/10: Grafted throughout in a midfield that looked like it was lacking one or two key attributes.
Jerome Sinclair, 4/10: Ineffectual.
Josh Maja, 4/10: Missed an absolute sitter early on and wasn’t particularly integral to our attacking movements.
Charlie Wyke, 5/10: Struggled to make an impact on the game before going off.
(SUB) Chris Maguire, 7/10: Got us back into the game, hopefully this signals a return to his early season form.
(SUB) Aiden McGeady, 5/10: Quite quiet, but there’s only so much you can expect from a bloke only just returning from a lengthy injury.
(SUB) Luke O’Nien, 5/10: Needs to channel his energy in more productive ways.
Man of the Match: Chris Maguire.
Attendance: 4,566 (approximately 1,700 Sunderland fans).