More Aiden McGeady magic, a clinical Will Grigg strike and a late Kazaiah Sterling clincher has brought Sunderland within three points of Barnsley and that second automatic promotion spot in League One.
The Black Cats survived Accrington Stanley’s brilliant start to the second-half at the Crown Ground to reclaim third-place and keep automatic promotion in their own hands following a 3-0 victory.
Sterling’s first goal in men’s football ended the contest late-on, in what was dominant showing outside of 20 nervy minutes after the break.
The Mackems are Just three points off the Tykes, having played two games less, keeping promotion back to the Championship in Sunderland’s hands.
Sunderland couldn’t have asked for a better start to help them get over their Wembley heartache, scoring with their first strike on goal through McGeady.
The Checkatrade Trophy man of the match was at it again with an emphatic strike which flew straight into the top corner from 20 yards.
Grigg should have doubled the Black Cats’ lead as they dominated early proceedings, he was slow to react to a loose ball in the six-yard box and saw his looped effort cleared off the line.
Still inside the first 15 minutes Max Power failed to complete a great passing move, as he shot too close to Dimitar Evtimov in the Accrington goal. Power was played through on goal by an excellent Grigg flick, as Sunderland carved the hosts open.
Despite Stanley starting to grow into the game it was Jack Ross’ men creating the better chances. McGeady went close again this time firing a snapshot just wide from the edge of the area, after a smart Denver Hume cutback.
Lynden Gooch hit the post just before the break. The American international was first to Dylan McGeouch’s lob over the Accrington backline, but saw his chip squirm away from goal off the woodwork.
In first-half stoppage-time Sunderland did double their lead. Grigg was straight through on goal after racing onto a massive Jon McLaughlin clearance and kept his composure to hit a powerful strike through Evtimov’s legs.
The hosts looked like a different team after the break nearly scoring twice within five minutes of the re-start. They were denied by a super-human Jack Baldwin block from close-range.
Before Sunderland could re-organise, Paul Smyth was released one-on-one, his drilled effort deflected wide off McLaughlin, who did well narrow Smyth’s angle.
Wyke missed a glorious chance to kill off any chance of a comeback. A missed defensive header gifted Wyke a free route to goal, but he spooned his shot harmlessly over.
Erico Silva missed Accrngton’s best chance yet. An error from Hume put him through on goal, Silva’s toe-poke past McLaughlin ended-up arrowing just wide of the near post.
Wyke missed another brilliant chance curling miles away from goal, with others waiting for close-range tap ins.
The game-sealing third goal did come just minutes later. Lewis Morgan raced past the Accrington backline, before unselfishly squaring to Kazaiah Sterling for the simplest of finishes into an open goal.
Ross will be frustrated with how many chances his side gave up after the break. But given the devastating nature of the Checkatrade Trophy final loss and concerns about fatigue, this was a super showing from the Black Cats.
Jon McLaughlin, 7/10: Didn’t have to make many saves, but did bag an unlikely assist.
Luke O’Nien, 7/10: Linked well with Gooch whilst producing his best defensive display in weeks.
Tom Flanagan, 7/10: Effective in quieting the Accrington frontline.
Jack Baldwin, 7/10: Solid on an evening where Sunderland’s forwards dominated.
Denver Hume, 6/10: Energetic and effective getting forward, but exposed defensively in the second-half.
Dylan McGeouch, 8/10: First to every loose ball and seemed to pick the correct pass every time, playing with a greater sense urgency than usual.
Max Power, 7/10: Linked play between the midfield and our two strikers effectively throughout.
Lynden Gooch, 6/10: Mixed bag, guilty of surrendering possession too often.
Aiden McGeady, 7/10: Scored arguably his best goal yet.
Will Grigg, 7/10: Took his goal brilliantly and combined smartly with Charlie Wyke up front.
Charlie Wyke, 6/10: Held the ball up well, but his finishing was absolutely awful.
(SUB) Lewis Morgan, 7/10: Used the ball well and torched Accrington’s defence on the counter.
(SUB) Kazaiah Sterling, 7/10: His hard-running was rewarded with his first goal in men’s football, a brilliant moment.
Man of the Match: Dylan McGeouch