Sunderland ended an eventful 2019 with a well-needed three points against Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Goals from Lynden Gooch and Chris Maguire were sandwiched in between a Doncaster equaliser from Jon Taylor as the Black Cats climbed two places to 13th, while Doncaster dropped to 16th.
It was the first time since September 14th 2019 when we beat Accrington Stanley 3-1 that we scored two or more goals away from home in League One and the first time since mid-September that we have won a League One game away from the Stadium of Light.
After Sunderland’s 0-0 draw with Bolton on Boxing Day, Phil Parkinson made three changes for this trip to Doncaster. Tom Flanagan was a doubt before the game after limping off on Thursday, and wasn’t involved on Sunday, with Joel Lynch replacing him in the centre of defence. George Dobson was suspended for the Boxing Day clash with Parkinson’s former side, but came back in to the starting eleven at the Keepmoat.
In the other change, Chris Maguire replaced Duncan Watmore in attack.
First Half Action
Sunderland had the upper hand against their opponents from the off and received an early reward within six minutes. Maguire played a short free-kick to Gooch, who turned and dribbled the ball forward. When he got into a shooting position, he beautifully curled the ball into the top left corner.
Doncaster responded well and weren’t far away from levelling just under five minutes later when Jon Taylor’s right-footed shot rolled narrowly wide of the right post.
In the opening stages, Sunderland looked like a team possessed as they almost doubled their lead with 11 minutes on the clock. The ball broke for Charlie Wyke, who made his way into the penalty area and his shot had the home goalkeeper out-stretched, but it was just wide of his grip and curled around the right post.
After a very eventful opening 15 minutes, the game began to calm itself down until the 40th minute when Doncaster netted from a devastating counter attack. Jon McLaughlin made some fantastic stops in the goalless draw against Bolton on Boxing Day, but Jon Taylor managed to feed the ball under him from a few yards out. James Coppinger carried the ball up the field and laid it for Kieran Sadlier, whose ball across the penalty area ripped the Sunderland defence open. It picked out Taylor at the back post, who rolled the ball underneath our keeper and into the bottom right corner.
Moments later, Sunderland were almost back in front when Maguire’s free-kick from around 25 yards out beat the Doncaster goalkeeper, but smashed off the crossbar and bounced away from danger for the hosts.
Second Half Action
Just after the half time interval, Charlie Wyke almost put Sunderland back into a one-goal advantage. Maguire’s cross from the right found Wyke, who poked the ball over the top of the Doncaster crossbar.
A minute after the hour mark, Sunderland retook their lead through the right boot of Chris Maguire. His second goal in his last two appearances against the Dons came about when Gooch held the ball up well inside the penalty area and then fed Denver Hume on the overlap. His instincts told him where Chris Maguire was, so he cut the ball back to Maguire, who was steaming in to fire it into the bottom left corner.
Just like in the first half, Doncaster pushed for an equaliser from the restart and almost got an automatic response when Kieran Sadlier’s header from a few yards out fell into the gloves of Jon McLaughlin.
With 79 minutes on the clock, Phil Parkinson made his first change of the match with Lynden Gooch being replaced by Duncan Watmore in attack. After four minutes of added time, the referee blew his full time whistle with the match ended Doncaster Rovers 1-2 Sunderland - the Black Cats claiming a much-needed three points.
Does this win against Doncaster Rovers wipe away our problems for now, or do the three points just paper over the issues at the club?
Before the match, there were rumours that there was going to be a toxic atmosphere from the 4,000 Sunderland fans that were travelling down to South Yorkshire, after the last few performances and the issues with the ownership at the club. So, an early goal against Darren Moore’s side was always going to help raise the support from the travelling fans, and it did. A brilliant curling strike from Gooch sent the away support into raptures, with the team showing a lot more character and urgency than they did on Boxing Day against Bolton Wanderers.
Then, after the goal, Doncaster stepped up a gear as they were behind, and then, they caught us out with a rapid counter-attack; getting the ball from one end to the pitch to the other in a matter of moments.
In the second half, we took the match by the scruff of the neck and controlled it magnificently. We deserved the winner from Chris Maguire, after superb build-up from both Lynden Gooch to keep hold of the ball in an important area and Denver Hume to find Maguire in a group of both Doncaster and Sunderland players. After this, we did well to keep hold of the ball and limit the amount of chances that Doncaster could have.
At the full time whistle, we saw how much the victory meant for both the players and the travelling fans, and after nearly two months without a win, it’s nice to have the winning feeling back.
In midfield, I think that George Dobson did well after coming back from his one-match suspension, as he brings a different dimension and energy than Grant Leadbitter. Although Grant brings experience to the table, at the moment, we need more energy injected into the team.
Due to the fact we are in the festive period, League One games are coming quicker than ever and our next game is on New Year’s Day when we face Fleetwood Town at Highbury. I wouldn’t make any changes to the team that beat Doncaster 2-1, unless there are any injuries or players are feeling fatigue.
Hopefully now, one win can bring confidence for a second victory on Wednesday.