Blackpool kicked off the first game of 2019 - a year Sunderland fans hope will become synonymous with success.
Jack Ross’ men started on the front foot playing in front of almost 8,000 travelling Lads fans while Blackpool struggled to hold onto possession, but did look dangerous on the counter.
Sunderland’s first goal came from none other than Josh Maja - the striker’s fifteenth of the season. Aiden McGeady jinked past his man before delivering a brilliant cross that Maja was able to touch into the far right corner. That goal shocked Blackpool into life, however, as soon after they hit the post following solid work on Sunderland’s right.
The game devolved into a scrappy affair for the remainder of the half, Sunderland firmly in the ascendancy, but unable to find that last piece of quality to find another goal.
Half-time: Blackpool 0-1 Sunderland
This is just one of the stands. Stunning! pic.twitter.com/HIMKn8f7TW— Roker Report (@RokerReport) January 1, 2019
Sunderland survived an early scare after Gnanduillet bustled past Tom Flanagan shot between McLaughlin’s legs only to see his attempt kicked against the post by Jack Baldwin - the ball falling comfortably into McLaughlin’s grateful grasp.
Aiden McGeady almost found a goal to add to his assist, his shot fumbled unconvincingly around the post by Blackpool’s keeper.
Maja was next on the almost list; he shimmied into space before unleashing a great shot that was tipped around the post - Tom Flanagan’s header cleared off the line from the resulting corner.
Aiden McGeady fired over after a period of scruffy play before Lynden Gooch’s stinging effort was parried away by the Blackpool stopper.
Dylan McGeouch replaced Charlie Wyke as Jack Ross looked to shore the contest up after a period of Blackpool pressure. Chris Maguire then replaced Josh Maja to add even more energy to the side for the final ten minutes.
As the match ticked towards its conclusion, Sunderland’s immense away support roared the Lads on to a vital win. Ha’way!
Full-time: Blackpool 0-1 Sunderland
Jon McLaughlin, 7/10: Safe hands under the high ball all day; one lovely kick that set Gooch away down the right, too.
Luke O’Nien, 6/10: Struggled at times against Blackpool’s tricky winger, which held him from roaming forward.
Tom Flanagan, 6/10: Couple of iffy moments at the back, but largely decent. Struggled with Gnanduillet’s physicality at times and that invited pressure.
Jack Baldwin, 7/10: Much like Flanagan, Baldwin struggled at times against Gnanduillet. His clearance to stop Blackpool drawing was impressive, though.
Reece James, 6/10: Not as effective as Oviedo going forward, but dependable in defence.
Lee Cattermole, 6/10: Silly yellow card in the first half seemed to hold Catts back a bit. A little slow with the ball at times today, too.
Max Power, 6/10: Kept the ball moving around quite nicely, but he and Cattermole were unable to control the middle.
Aiden McGeady, 8/10: Everything we do seems to stem from McGeady, he gave the ball away on a couple of occasions, but another assist today after a moment of magic.
Lynden Gooch, 7/10: Much better showing today from Gooch, some good deliveries into the area, and also gave it the big’un to the Blackpool defender after Wyke’s legs were just about blown off. Class.
Josh Maja, 8/10: “All he does is score goals.” Aye? Nice one, mate.
Charlie Wyke, 7/10: Gave us a different option up top and caused Blackpool all kinds of bother.
(SUB) Dylan McGeouch, 6/10: Came on and defended well.
(SUB) Chris Maguire, 6/10: Didn’t have time to do much, but mad a real nuisance of himself.
MOTM: Aiden McGeady