Charlie Wyke starred as Sunderland coasted to a 2-0 win at the Stadium of Light against Doncaster Rovers, that keeps automatic promotion out of League One, in their own hands.
Wyke’s goal and assist for Lewis Morgan’s opener helped the Black Cats to a comfortable 2-0 win against toothless playoff hopefuls.
Doncaster had plenty of the ball, but created little against a Sunderland side that looked rejuvenated with Lee Cattermole and Aiden McGeady back in the side.
Jack Ross’ squad sit third, two points behind Barnsley, crucially with a game in hand, Portsmouth who Sunderland still play, are in fourth on the same points total.
Sunderland got off to the perfect start courtesy of Morgan’s outstanding opener. Wyke cushioned a looping McGeady cross into the Celtic loanee’s path and Morgan lashed home, catching the ball perfectly on the half-volley. Marko Marosi was helpless in the Rovers goal as the ball flew into the bottom corner.
Through half an hour the Black Cats had barely been troubled. Doncaster were unfortunate not to win a free-kick when Alim Ozturk hauled down John Marquis and Jon McLaughlin was brave to parry away a dangerous Ben Whiteman cross before getting clattered by Marquis. But in terms of quality efforts on goal the visitors had created nothing with a third of the game played.
Moments later the Mackems doubled their lead through Wyke. The in-form frontman tapped into an empty net after latching onto Jimmy Dunne’s flick-on. Dunne beat Marosi to an outstanding deep cross from Max Power and with the keeper in no man’s land, Wyke was free to tap into an empty net.
On the brink of half-time Danny Andrew hit the post with a long-range free-kick. Andrew caught McLaughlin sleeping, but his effort curled the wrong side of the post. The free-kick was Doncaster’s only display of class in an otherwise comfortable 45 minutes for Ross’ men.
Bryan Oviedo clipped the outside of the post within five minutes of the re-start, racing forward unopposed before clipping the outside of the bar from a tight angle.
McLaughlin bailed out his central-defenders after they failed to deal with a simple ball over the top. The 31-year-old stood up well to block substitute Alfie May’s effort at full-stretch after Dunne naively ducked out of clearing a speculative punt.
Marosi provided the save of the match denying Wyke early in the second-half. Marosi parried away the 26 year-old’s guided effort that was heading for the bottom corner.
Sunderland sat back and contained Doncaster’s late efforts to salvage something from the game in their most impressive performance defensively, against a top-six team.
Jon McLaughlin, 7/10: Had very little to do, dealt with rare Rovers attempts well.
Luke O’Nien, 6/10: Defended well in the second-half, after a sloppy first-half showing.
Alim Ozturk, 5/10: Was caught out a couple of times and was fortunate to get away with a clumsy challenge on Marquis at 0-0 and a penalty shout for grabbing Andy Butler in the second-half.
Jimmy Dunne, 6/10: Provided an assist, but got away with a strong handball shout at 1-0 and some indecisive defending.
Bryan Oviedo, 7/10: Surprisingly got the better of Mallik Wilks in their head to head.
Lee Cattermole, 7/10: Read the game well, and had one of his best games all season, in terms of distribution.
Max Power, 7/10: Got forward well early on and provided a couple dazzling long-range passes.
George Honeyman, 7/10: Linked play between the attack and midfield intelligently and our captain battled excellently throughout.
Lewis Morgan , 7/10: Starting to play with the swagger and confidence you’d expect from such a talented player.
Aiden McGeady, 8/10: Oozed class in everything he did, from his crossing, turns in tight spaces and all-round link-up play, a huge reminder of what we’ve missed in recent games.
Charlie Wyke, 8/10: His brilliant run continues, another goal and assist, superb.
(SUB) Lynden Gooch, 6/10: Worked hard to maintain Sunderland’s lead after being brought on late in proceedings.
(SUB) Will Grigg, 6/10: Pressed well defending from the front to help his team get over the line.
(SUB) Grant Leadbitter, n/a: Came on in the dying minutes to see out the game.
Man of the Match: Aiden McGeady