Phil Parkinson’s home debut ended in a five-nil victory over Tranmere Rovers producing our biggest home win in 21 years, when Sunderland beat Oxford United 7-0.
Two goals in the space of two minutes from Duncan Watmore and Chris Maguire put distance between the two teams with less than 30 minutes on the clock.
It was three-nil before half time with Lynden Gooch rounding off brilliant build-up play by Maguire and Watmore.
As the clock ticked down, Sunderland were looking more and more likely that the score-line would be increased and it was in the 83rd minute, when Will Grigg scored his first league goal of the season, before Luke O’Nien rounded off the display when the clock struck 90.
Phil Parkinson made four changes to the side that lost 1-0 against Wycombe Wanderers at the weekend. Luke O’Nien was pushed back into his full-back role for this match, with Conor McLaughlin dropping to the bench. The centre of midfield was freshened up with George Dobson coming in for the captain, Grant Leadbitter. Duncan Watmore was fit enough to start two consecutive matches and Will Grigg lead the line in the place of the injured Charlie Wyke, who will be on the sidelines for four weeks at least.
First Half Action
Sunderland came out of the traps rapidly and within the first few minutes, the crossbar was struck after Will Grigg’s innovative effort was flicked towards goal. Maguire’s cross from the left was met by the Northern Ireland international, whose back-heel rebounded off the woodwork to save Tranmere’s blushes.
Momentum was building and the Black Cats finally got their reward when Duncan Watmore scored his first league goal of the season and his second in his last three matches in all competitions. Grigg carved open the Tranmere defence with a neat through pass to the nippy forward, who beat the offside trap and slipped the ball under Scott Davies.
Another goal for Sunderland was just around the corner as only two minutes later, Chris Maguire netted his fifth of the season. From a free-kick inside the D just outside the penalty area, the former Sheffield Wednesday attacker whipped the ball around the wall and ferociously past the Tranmere goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
Just as Tranmere were beginning to come out of their shell, Sunderland killed them off with a sucker punch, six minutes before half time. Maguire dinked the ball over the Rovers backline to Watmore, who squared it to Gooch, who tapped it into the back of an empty net.
Second Half Action
Not long after the half time restart Phil Parkinson was forced into making his first substitution when Lynden Gooch picked up an injury, so Marc McNulty replaced him and Sunderland changed their shape to a 4-4-2. Parkinson revealed after the match that Gooch had twisted his ankle - though it’s not expected to be too serious.
Minutes after McNulty’s introduction, Tranmere almost pulled a goal back when a corner from the left was met by the head of Stefan Payne, whose header flew and cannoned off the inside of the right post and Maguire was there to stab the ball away.
It was almost four-nil to the hosts just after the hour mark when McNulty produced a brilliant 40-yard run into the penalty area and past a couple of Tranmere men. Unfortunately, his finish couldn’t match the build-up play as his shot curled narrowly over the top of the bar.
With 72 minutes on the clock, Parkinson made his second switch of the game, bringing on Conor McLaughlin, with Duncan Watmore’s match coming to an end. Luke O’Nien then was given a chance to show his attacking qualities as he was pushed further up into an attacking role, with Conor McLaughlin going full-back.
Then, just over ten minutes later, Will Grigg scored his third goal of the season in all competitions, but his first in the league, and it couldn’t have been more simple. Just outside the penalty area, O’Nien took the ball from McNulty, who got the by-line and played it back to the Scottish striker. He squared the ball for the easiest tap-in that Will Grigg will ever get, which was greeted with the biggest cheer of the night from the Sunderland fans.
Minutes after this the Sunderland gaffer decided to give Benji Kimpioka a run-out as he was brought on in the place of Will Grigg.
As the clock struck 90, the Black Cats’ performance was capped with a fifth goal of the evening. Maguire’s free-kick from the right found O’Nien, who was positioned in acres of space inside of the penalty area. OLuke’s diving header was directed past Scott Davies and into the back of the Tranmere net.
After five minutes of added time the referee blew the full time whistle to give Phil Parkinson his first taste of three points as Sunderland’s manager - a perfect start at home.
In my last article after the defeat to Wycombe Wanderers I stated that this match was a must-win - the team performed superbly and not only won but did so in style.
I thought Will Grigg had one of the best games that I have seen him have in a red and white shirt - perhaps even his best. He put himself about over the pitch as a target man up top, doing a fine job in the absence of Charlie Wyke. With Grigg, I think that the confidence is now back for him and hopefully this can be continued in the next few matches. Also, although his goal was quite straight forward, the reaction from him to meet McNulty’s pass was great and to score in the league, will give him a ton of belief.
Another thing that I’d like to note is the work ethic of George Dobson. He and Max Power in the centre of midfield had a great game, as they were getting forward and going back to defend the all important clean sheet, which was well-deserved.
Now, we go onto another game on Saturday, when we travel to Shrewsbury Town who are currently 14th in the league. I don’t see why Phil Parkinson would need to change the team too much unless Duncan Watmore isn’t fit enough to play three games in the space of eight days. After Tuesday night’s 5-0 thrashing, let’s hope that we can claim a second successive three points to help us climb the table.