Life after the Jack Ross era for Sunderland began with a 3-2 victory over Grimsby Town in the EFL Trophy yesterday evening at the Stadium of Light.
After a first half with not many clear-cut chances, Grimsby Town took the lead through Matt Green with 59 minutes on the clock, before goals from Duncan Watmore and Marc McNulty put Sunderland into a 2-1 advantage.
The hosts were pegged back when Moses Ogbu hammered the ball home, but Will Grigg scored the winner to give Sunderland three points in their opening group stage match in the Leasing.com Trophy.
James Fowler - the caretaker manager for this game - made nine changes to the side that lost 2-0 against Lincoln City on Saturday.
Joel Lynch and Luke O’Nien were the only players to keep their places from that match, with youngsters Bali Mumba and Brandon Taylor both starting their first games of the season. Marc McNulty and Will Grigg were given more minutes up front, with Duncan Watmore returning from injury to record his first competitive minutes of the season.
First Half Action
Despite the news of Jack Ross’ sacking heavily on the Sunderland players’ minds, they started the group stage match positively and forced Grimsby Town goalkeeper, James McKeown, into some saves to deny them from taking an early lead.
Captain Grant Leadbitter almost gave Sunderland that advantage when his shot was tipped over the bar by McKeown in the Grimsby goal.
Grimsby had an effort to take a surprise lead at the Stadium of Light when Denver Hume failed to clear the ball for the Black Cats and it dropped for Matt Green, inside of the penalty area, but his shot was saved by Lee Burge.
Duncan Watmore had a chance to open his tally for the season in his first start of the campaign when his driven shot from outside of the penalty area was parried away by the gloves of James McKeown.
Second Half Action
Sunderland began the second half just like they did at the beginning of the first, and O’Nien was close to giving the hosts the lead in this Leasing.com Trophy match. Grigg played the ball to O’Nien, whose shot bent around the far post, despite McKeown diving to stop the shot from spinning into the back of his net.
Three minutes after Jake Hessenthaler was introduced into the match for Grimsby Town, he played a part in the opening goal of the game, when he crossed the ball into the penalty area, seeking out Matt Green - who scored in Grimsby’s 7-1 thrashing defeat against Chelsea in the third round of the Carabao Cup. Green hit the ball first time and volleyed it past Lee Burge to give the Mariners the lead.
The Black Cats were level just under ten minutes later when Dobson’s original shot was spilled by James McKeown, and Duncan Watmore - acting like a goal-poacher - hammered home the follow-up to equalise for the home side.
11 minutes later, Sunderland took a two-one lead when O’Nien found his way into the penalty area on the right, and played the ball to McNulty, whose shot found its way over the line through a deflection off Hewitt.
Only two minutes later, it was two-all when Grimsby levelled the match to make the prospect of a penalty shootout more likely. The ball was cut back from the byline inside of the penalty area, towards the direction where Ogbu and Whitehouse were positioned and Ogbu fired it into the roof of the net.
Will Grigg scored his second goal of the season to seal three points for the Black Cats in their opening game of the group stage of the Leasing.com Trophy. A cross from Denver Hume on the left produced pin-point precision accuracy to find Grigg and he nodded the ball past McKeown.