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Finlay’s Report: Few heart-in-mouth moments for Sunderland fans at Blackpool - it was tough!

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Sunderland won a vital game yesterday in front of 8000 away fans, but the points didn’t come easy - even despite the clean sheet, there’s work to do on our defending!

Blackpool v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Sunderland started 2019 with a 1-0 victory over Blackpool at Bloomfield Road on New Year’s Day.

They rewarded the travelling 7,804 Sunderland fans by providing another three points and a positive start to 2019.

Josh Maja scored the only goal of the game with 23 minutes gone - proving to absolutely everyone just how much we need him to sign a new contract and follow in the footsteps of Lynden Gooch.

The gaffer made two changes to the side that drew 1-1 against Shrewsbury Town on Saturday at the Stadium of Light. Charlie Wyke started his first game since his long-term injury, replacing Chris Maguire. Also, it was a straight swap at left-back with Reece James replacing Bryan Oviedo, who was left out after picking up a niggle in the match against the Shrews. There was no place in the squad for Duncan Watmore, who was left out due to the fact that he has just came back from another injury and we have a very tight festive schedule.

Blackpool v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

At Bloomfield Road, the attendance was 10,994 with 7,804 of those Sunderland fans - it would be a perfect scene for the second series of Sunderland Til’ I Die. It was comfortably the biggest away following of the day in England.

Blackpool opened up a stand that isn’t usually occupied - that shows how brilliant our away support is.

In the match itself, you could clearly see the formation - 4-4-2 with Maja and Wyke starring up the top of the field. It was something that I’ve been appealing for all season, but I would like to see it at home in front of all of our fans. As the game progressed, it was important that we didn’t keep predictably lobbing the ball up for Wyke to head down and Maja to feed from that - a tactic Blackpool would have found out very quickly with their big, bustling defenders.

The goal came with 23 minutes gone at Bloomfield Road and it was Josh Maja the likely source - his 14th league goal of the season and 15th in all competitions. Aiden McGeady produced the cross into the area and the striker jotted his way from the back post to the front and reached the ball before the defenders to flick it into the back of the net. From here, it was important that we were to score the next goal, just for a bit of a cushion and a breather for the fans.

Blackpool v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport via Getty Images

The Sunderland fans had their hearts in their mouths when Armand Gnanduillet knocked the ball past Jon McLaughlin, but there was hardly a millimetre between the ball and the line when Jack Baldwin hit it away from danger.

Then it was the turn of the Blackpool fans to have their hearts in their mouths when Tom Flanagan’s header was cleared off the line to keep the score at one-nil. The hosts couldn’t manage a fight back, and the match ended Blackpool 0-1 Sunderland.

Next up, we face one of the trickiest away days of the season at 5th place Charlton Athletic, where they have an exceptional home record, so it will be tough if we are to claim all three points or even a draw.