After Sunderland’s 1-1 draw with Oxford United I questioned our real target for the end of the season. At the time, the gap between Sunderland and second place was huge, but a turn of form in the last few games has put Sunderland in a brilliant position for automatic promotion.
Back-to-back victories in the league for the first time since early November meant that Sunderland moved within two points of Barnsley, who drew to promotion chasing Portsmouth at Fratton Park. This time, Bristol Rovers were the latest team to suffer a loss against Jack Ross and his side.
Luke O’Nien’s fifth goal of the season gave the visitors the lead after 25 minutes and then a moment of brilliance from Aiden McGeady sealed the three points for Sunderland, who in ten days go back to the Memorial Stadium for a Checkatrade Trophy semi-final against the Pirates.
Jack Ross was forced into making one change from the side that started in the 4-2 victory over Gillingham on Tuesday night. Sunderland were dealt with a blow in midweek as Chris Maguire limped off with a broken fibula and will miss the next six-eight weeks of football, so he could miss the Checkatrade Trophy final if Sunderland progress. In his place came Duncan Watmore, who missed the two games previous having been rested.
The Black Cats were given some early warnings as Alex Rodman dragged his shot from outside of the penalty area wide of the left post, but McLaughlin looked like he had it covered if it had been on target.
After an unnecessary corner given away by Tony Craig, Sunderland had the chance to capitalise on their error and they did exactly that. A set-piece delivery by Grant Leadbitter was passed short to Aiden McGeady, who whipped a wicked cross into the area. Will Grigg squared it back across goal where Luke O’Nien was in front of his marker to bundle the ball over the line.
In the second half, a moment of magic from Aiden McGeady ensured Sunderland’s two goal cushion as he struck a free kick from just outside the penalty area. He beautifully curled the ball over the wall and into the top left corner to put the game, further reaffirming just why many supporters believe that he is the best player in League One.
Sunderland could have had the three points sealed completely when Charlie Wyke missed a number of relatively straightforward opportunities, all from deliveries from substitute Lewis Morgan, but Wyke - who is lacking in confidence at the moment - couldn’t hit the target.
Although Bristol Rovers had chances, they couldn’t find any way through the Sunderland back line so the match ended Bristol Rovers 0-2 Sunderland AFC.
After Luton’s 1-1 draw on Sunday against Coventry City and Barnsley and Portsmouth’s goalless draw on Saturday, Sunderland are three points ahead of Portsmouth, within two of Barnsley and seven of table topping Luton.
Next up, we face a tough test against Plymouth Argyle at the Stadium of Light looking to increase our winning run to three, but Plymouth won’t be an easy opposition to face as they come into the game after a 5-1 thrashing of Rochdale at Home Park.