Sunderland bounced back from their 3-0 defeat against Peterborough before the international break by claiming three points against Accrington Stanley at the Wham Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Stanley had taken the lead after five minutes when Jordan Clark tapped the ball into the back of an empty Sunderland net, but only two minutes later Lynden Gooch scored an outstanding acrobatic volley to equalise.
The Black Cats stepped up the tempo and took the lead through Aiden McGeady, who made sure that he continued scoring in every game Sunderland has played against Accrington. Then, ten minutes after, Marc McNulty scored his first league goal of the campaign - his second this season against Accrington.
Jack Ross made three changes to the team that lost 3-0 against Peterborough United before the international break. Charlie Wyke was suspended after picking up two yellows against the Posh, while Luke O’Nien - who was also shown a red two weeks ago - had his three match ban lifted so was available for this game and kept his place.
Chris Maguire and Denver Hume, who were both injured for the match against Peterborough - retained their places, and George Dobson provided the Black Cats with fresh legs in midfield as he replaced Max Power.
New signings Joel Lynch and Laurens de Bock weren’t involved, but will play for the under-23’s on Monday.
First Half: SAFC Take Commanding Lead After Conceding Early!
Sunderland didn’t take the match by the scruff of the neck and fell behind after just five minutes. Lynden Gooch lost the ball in the centre of the field, and Joe Pritchard carved open the Sunderland defence with a lofted through ball, seeking out Jordan Clark. Clark’s right touch manoeuvred it around Jon McLaughlin, who was stranded in the centre of the penalty area, leaving him with a simple tap-in.
It didn’t take the Black Cats long to make it all-square, when only two minutes later Lynden Gooch scored a beautiful volley. Hume dug out a brilliant cross from the left to Gooch, who was in acres of space inside the 18-yard box. For his third league goal of the season, Gooch acrobatically fired the ball into the top left corner and it beat Dimitar Evtimov.
After 23 minutes, Sunderland should have made it two-one after Maguire slipped the ball delicately through to McNulty, who was one on one with Evtimov. His side-footed effort travelled wide of the right post and rolled away from goal.
Only three minutes later the Black Cats did take the lead through Aiden McGeady’s fourth goal in his last four appearances against Accrington. Gooch and Sherif contested a loose ball and it eventually was poked into the penalty area and fell perfectly for McGeady, who placed it into the top left corner expertly.
Sunderland were put under pressure and Accrington should have probably equalised when Colby Bishop’s shot deflected off a diving Sunderland player and crashed off the underside of the crossbar, before being cleared for a corner.
Just moments after it probably should have been 2-2, it was 3-1 to the Black Cats, through a quick Sunderland counter-attack. The visitors won the ball back in the centre of the park, and Dobson fired a low through ball to Maguire on the right, who carried it forward into the penalty area. Evtimov came off his line and Maguire simply squared the ball for McNulty, who had an easy touch to give Jack Ross’s side a two-goal advantage.
Sunderland could have extended their advantage to three when O’Nien’s diving header took a touch that wrong-footed everyone, but it looped and bounced off the post and away for the home side.
Second Half: SAFC Manage to See Out 3-1 Win!
Chances came at a premium at the start of the second half and Maguire had one of the best opportunities when his left-footed effort from just outside of the penalty area curled wide of the left post.
As the clock began to tick down, Sunderland made their first change when Dylan McGeouch replaced the captain, Grant Leadbitter, who had been shown a yellow card earlier in the game.
Jack Ross decided to try and add to the Black Cats’ goal tally for the game as Will Grigg replaced Chris Maguire in the 76th minute.
Accrington could have halved the deficit when Jerome Opoku’s header from a free kick on the right was weak, but found Colby Bishop, who was only a matter of yards away. His back-heel was kept out of the net by Jon McLaughlin.
The Sunderland gaffer then played his last substitution of the match when Elliot Embleton came on for the last ten minutes, replacing goal scorer Marc NcNulty.
Sunderland had a chance to make it 4-1 when Embleton played the ball forward to McGeady, who squared the ball to Grigg inside the penalty area, but his shot was saved by the leg of Dimitar Evtimov.
After five minutes of additional stoppage time, the match ended Accrington Stanley 1-3 Sunderland AFC.
The phrase “a game of two halves” was well mirrored in this particular fixture - the first half was very lively and full of end-to-end football, but the second half was sloppy, and neither side took the initiative.
The two week break after the 3-0 defeat against Peterborough will have helped, with Stanley playing last weekend against Bristol Rovers. Charlie Wyke was unavailable for this match due to his suspension, and I thought that we missed his height up top.
In the second half we took our foot off the gas, where we should have probably scored more than we actually did in order to increase our goal difference - the joint worst of all the teams in the top eight. Peterborough managed to score six at home to Rochdale on Saturday and only had 36% possession, while our next opponents, Rotherham, scored six as well at home to Bolton. In this match, it was a perfect opportunity to score more - and in the second half I think that we should have went at them and twisted the knife.
We are back to a two games a week schedule, with the Lads in League One action on Tuesday night when we play Rotherham at the Stadium of Light. This is our first home match in three and a half weeks, and we know this will be a tough game against a team that dropped down from the Championship last season. I think that Charlie Wyke will come straight back into the side after missing out on Accrington, and I don’t think there will be many changes otherwise. On Saturday, I think that our defence was a shaky at points and it will need to tighten up when we face a free-scoring Rotherham, but hopefully we can produce another victory.