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Finlay’s Report: “If Sunderland can keep winning their performances will naturally improve!”

Sunderland are starting to build momentum, and whilst performances may not be pretty they will improve with time - particularly if we can keep on winning games.

Rochdale v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Charlie Wyke scored the winner as Sunderland ground out a 2-1 victory over Rochdale at the Crown Oil Arena to claim a second successive three points in League action.

Aiden McGeady had given Sunderland the lead with 28 minutes on the clock, but only five minutes later, the Black Cats were pegged back through a Callum Camps strike.

Then, in the 56th minute, Wyke scored his first league goal of the season to replicate last season’s 2-1 victory over Rochdale.


The Team...

Jack Ross made only one change to the side that won their first league match on Saturday lunchtime at home to Portsmouth - and it was an expected one.

In the second half against Pompey, Marc McNulty picked up a hamstring injury and in his pre-match press conference Ross revealed that the on-loan Reading striker will be out for a “couple of weeks”.

So, after impressing once coming on, on Saturday, Charlie Wyke made his first start of the season up top, leading the line whilst flanked by Aiden McGeady and Chris Maguire.

Sunderland v Portsmouth - Sky Bet League One Photo by Iam Burn/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

First Half: SAFC Sloppily Give Away Equaliser!

Both teams started the match in a positive manner and both teams had minor chances to trouble the opposition. Chris Maguire wasn’t far away from scoring a long range effort when he found space from around 30 yards out, and struck the ball just over the bar.

The hosts had a chance to take the lead when Callum Camps made his way into the penalty area and fired a shot into the side-netting of Jon McLaughlin’s goal.

With their first shot on target, Aiden McGeady produced a mesmerising piece of magic - Gooch played the ball to O’Nien inside the penalty area, and then he found McGeady, who was in miles of space on the left of the penalty area. He fired the ball into the bottom left corner of the Rochdale net and past Robert Sanchez.

Only five minutes later, Sunderland gave their lead away in the cheapest way possible. Stephen Dooley slotted the ball to Callum Camps, who was in the space just outside of the penalty area - receiving the ball before placing it into the bottom left corner of the net; an attempt that left Jon McLaughlin stranded.

Rochdale v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Second Half: Wyke Becomes Sunderland’s Saviour!

The second half began in a similar vein to the way the first 45 ended at the Crown Oil Arena, with Rochdale playing more energetically than the Black Cats but not using their possession to create clear-cut chances.

With 55 minutes gone, Jack Ross made his first change of the match bringing on Will Grigg in the place of Lynden Gooch, with the Sunderland boss changing to a 4-4-2 formation with Maguire going on the right and Grigg going up top.

Just moments after Grigg’s arrival, Sunderland retook the lead through Charlie Wyke on his first league start of the season. Brilliant work by Luke O’Nien on the right wing allowed Aiden McGeady to nod the ball down at the back post to Wyke. For a few moments, Wyke couldn’t get the ball out of his feet, but when he did he fired it spectacularly past four Rochdale players, including the goalkeeper, and into the back of the net.

Then, Sunderland nearly made it 3-1 when Grigg’s shot from a narrow angle was palmed away by Robert Sanchez, and then, the follow-up by Charlie Wyke was saved well by the Rochdale goalkeeper.

With around five minutes of the match remaining Rochdale almost equalised through Stephen Dooley. He was positioned just outside of the penalty area and arrowed a low shot towards goal, but it was kept out by the fingertips of Jon McLaughlin. Then, Jack Ross’s side started to ride their luck when Luke Matheson’s cross from the right was met by the head of Calvin Andrew, but it was a simple save by the Sunderland goalie.

After four minutes of nervy added time, the referee - John Busby - blew the full time whistle and the match ended Rochdale FC 1-2 Sunderland AFC.

Rochdale v Sunderland - Sky Bet League One Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Finlay’s Verdict...

Confidence and momentum is running through the Sunderland team now after three successive wins in the Carabao Cup and League One. Another three points has helped push the team up the table at this early stage of the season - positive momentum, and something we’d most certainly like to see the Lads maintain as the season progresses.

Whilst we made hard work of claiming the three points, achieving the victory is ultimately our priority, and if we can continue in this vein the performances will become better as time progresses. And despite Marc McNulty not featuring, I think that Charlie Wyke filled his boots brilliantly.

On Saturday we face AFC Wimbledon in a game where we should be looking to claim the three points, but we just don’t know what could happen. The Dons put in a spirited performance on Tuesday night and were unlucky not to take a point from their match against Ipswich.

I don’t foresee Jack Ross making many - if any - changes, as making bonds between the players in matches is crucial, and I think at the moment what the manager wants is consistency. Another three points will lead us in nicely to a cup tie against Burnley next Wednesday and a League One match against Peterborough the following Saturday, so hopefully the team can gain a third league win of the campaign.