Sean Dyche’s Burnley are next up for Sunderland in the second round of the Carabao Cup as they progressed after a 3-1 victory over Accrington Stanley at the Wham Stadium on Tuesday night.
Marc McNulty opened the scoring with 17 minutes on the clock, with a tidy finish past Evtimov in the Stanley goal.
In the second half, the Black Cats were pegged back when Colby Bishop levelled from the penalty spot after Jordan Clark was brought down in the penalty area.
But, a magnificent strike from Aiden McGeady and a neat flick from Charlie Wyke secured the Black Cats’ path to the second round of the competition.
Jack Ross made six changes to the side that drew 1-1 against Ipswich Town at Portman Road on Saturday. Will Grigg came back into the starting 11 after he was benched at the weekend.
Captain Grant Leadbitter was given his first start of the season, with Max Power coming back from his injury that kept him out of the first two matches. Also, Jon McLaughlin was given a rest, with Lee Burge starting for the Black Cats.
First Half: SAFC Find Their Reward
Sunderland started the match bright, and with 17 minutes on the clock the Black Cats broke the deadlock with Marc McNulty opening his Sunderland account. Power drilled the ball into the centre of the penalty area to Maguire, which was dummied by McNulty. Maguire then flicked the ball into the path of the Reading loanee, who fired the ball into the bottom left corner.
Shortly after the Black Cats took the lead, Accrington should have levelled when Baker-Richardson was in the penalty area. He cut the ball back to find Colby Bishop, who somehow couldn’t score from close range, and Sunderland managed to clear and were let off the hook.
Stanley had another chance not long after when Sean McConville’s free-kick from just outside the penalty area flew just over the bar of Lee Burge’s Sunderland goal.
Sunderland could have doubled their lead when Maguire’s cross found Will Grigg, who was unlucky not to have scored his first goal of the season as his header was deflected wide for a corner.
Second Half: McGeady’s Arrival Kills Off Stanley
The second half began slightly quieter than the first, with only two yellow cards for both Joe Maguire and Chris Maguire the only key points.
Then, it sprang into life with a penalty for Stanley. Conor McLaughlin brought down Jordan Clark inside the penalty area and the referee Darren Drysdale pointed to the spot, much to the delight of the home crowd.
Colby Bishop stepped up for the hosts and hammered it straight down the middle, with Lee Burge diving to his right and the ball cannoning into the back of the Sunderland net.
Undeterred, Jack Ross brought on Aiden McGeady for Will Grigg in the 69th minute in a bid to inject some life into his side - and, it worked.
With less than 15 minutes left, Marc McNulty hit the crossbar when McGeady fed him from outside of the penalty area, whilst on the left side of the 18-yard box. His shot bounced off the top of Evtimov’s woodwork and then no one could follow up from the rebound.
The introduction of Aiden McGeady may have done the trick as he put Sunderland in front for a second time. The ball fell to him from around 25 yards out and he managed to dance his way elegantly into the penalty area, and he superbly found the bottom left corner.
Charlie Wyke made sure that Sunderland would be in the hat for the second round as he scored his first goal of the season on his first appearance. McNulty maneuvered his way into the penalty area on the right and squared it to the former Boro forward, who magnificently flicked the ball past Evtimov for a third - game over, and Sunderland were into the hat for the second round draw.
The all-round performance last night was much better than the two against Oxford United and Ipswich Town - and it would seem that the change in our system was the main catalyst for Sunderland’s success.
Marc McNulty has found his scoring boots and even added an assist, further strengthening his claim to a regular starting berth in Jack Ross’s side.
Some credit has to go to the manager for changing the formation from playing three at the back to a 4-4-2 formation, after two 1-1 draws in the opening two games of the League One season. I was happy to see the players who hadn’t featured so far in the league given a first start, ensuring they have some minutes under their belts ahead of Saturday’s important clash with our old foes Portsmouth.
On Saturday, Ross has to stick with the 4-4-2 formation that worked against Accrington, with maybe a tweak to the personnel that starts - McGeady will come back in, as should George Dobson as well, because I have been impressed overall with his two performances in League One so far.