3 huge points!
Sunderland managed yet another comeback win to secure three vital points on a weekend where they significantly reduced the gap on Barnsley and Luton at the top of League One with a 2-1 victory over struggling Walsall.
The Saddlers are one of the only teams to have beaten Sunderland on home turf this season - and looked as if they were going to recreate that result when Josh Gordon flicked the visitors into a fourth minute lead at the Stadium of Light.
Jack Ross’ side had a goal ruled out before they eventually equalised, when the ball was bundled into the back of the net by Lee Cattermole - a shot from a tight angle which hit off a combination of the left post and the Walsall goalkeeper, Liam Roberts.
Then, in the second half, the Lads got their reward for the pressure that they applied to the Walsall backline. Substitute Charlie Wyke held the ball up brilliantly for his strike partner Will Grigg - facing his former side - who then took the ball from the number nine and arrowed a shot from range into the bottom right corner to send the Sunderland supporters into delirium.
In the dying moments of the match Sunderland rode their luck when Gordon’s shot was blocked on the line by the heroic head of Luke O’Nien, an epic clearance that made sure that the Black Cats produced a nineteenth win of the season.
Jack Ross made two changes to the side that drew 0-0 against Barnsley at Oakwell on Tuesday night. Northern Ireland international defender Tom Flanagan came back into the side following the concussion he sustained late in the match down at Wycombe Wanderers, and he replaced Burnley loanee Jimmy Dunne, who has looked shaky of late. Ross also left out United Stated international Lynden Gooch, who after a frustrating performance at Barnsley lost his place to Celtic loanee Lewis Morgan on the right hand side.
With four minutes on the clock the away side took an unlikely lead when an unnecessary free kick was given away by Tom Flanagan after a clumsy challenge on Josh Gordon. The set piece was taken by George Dobson, and with the Sunderland defence caught ball-watching, Gordon was allowed a free run in front of his marker before volleying the ball into the bottom right corner of Jon McLaughlin’s net.
After a chance from Morgan was pushed over the bar by Liam Roberts, and then Sunderland had a goal ruled out for a dubious challenge on Jon Guthrie, the Lads finally found a breakthrough and a leveller, when Leadbitter’s cross to the back post was nodded back across goal by Max Power.
At a very tight angle, Lee Cattermole’s shot bobbled over the line after it had hit both the post and Liam Roberts. Sunderland finally got the rub of the green after trying their hardest to find a way back into the game.
Then, in the second half, Grant Leadbitter’s effort drifted just over the bar, before Charlie Wyke was introduced into the game, replacing Lewis Morgan after around 71 minutes.
His first touch proved to be vital as he held the ball up well for Will Grigg to take and fire a shot into the bottom right corner of the Walsall net. Sunderland now had something to hang onto!
Walsall almost left the Stadium of Light with a point when Gordon’s shot was hit with pace, but it was blocked on the line by full-back Luke O’Nien. After a nervy end to the game, the match ended Sunderland 2-1 Walsall.
The victory moved Jack Ross’ side two points adrift of Barnsley with a game in hand after they contested a goalless draw with local rivals Doncaster Rovers on Friday night. The Black Cats are seven points behind leaders Luton, who drew 2-2 with Gillingham, and Sunderland are still two points clear of Portsmouth, who won at Fratton Park against Scunthorpe.
Next up, it’s the big one! Sunderland take on Pompey at Wembley Stadium in the Checkatrade Trophy final on Sunday 31st March. It is sure to be a huge weekend for the Sunderland fans and, hopefully, the team can top the weekend off with a victory on the grandest stage of them all.