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Finlay’s Report: “Has the passion and bond between the Sunderland players and fans returned?”

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RR’s junior reporter Finlay Anderson is back with his run-down of Sunderland’s emphatic win against Wycombe, and asks “has the passion and the bond between the players and the fans returned?”

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

Sunderland have produced a superb 4-0 victory over previous league-leaders, Wycombe Wanderers, at the Stadium of Light.

Charlie Wyke gave the Black Cats the lead with six minutes on the clock, before Denver Hume netted his first goal for the hosts. Chris Maguire made it three-nil from the spot, before he scored a spectacular free-kick in the second half.

With this win, Sunderland have moved into the play-off places after Peterborough’s 0-0 draw against Gillingham. Wycombe have been shifted off the top spot in League One, after Rotherham’s 3-1 victory away at Oxford United. The Black Cats are now six points off first place in the table, with a game in hand.


The Team...

Phil Parkinson stuck with the same team that beat Lincoln City 3-1 last Saturday at the Stadium of Light. Luke O’Nien was a doubt before kick-off with an illness, but was able to start at right wing-back. New addition Kyle Lafferty was unavailable to feature in this match, so Charlie Wyke led the line alongside Chris Maguire and Lynden Gooch.

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

First Half Action

Sunderland began the match energetically and took the lead early on when Hume played the ball to Lynden Gooch, who was inside the penalty area on the left wing. He cut the ball across goal and Wyke was in position to flick it into the back of the net.

On the 13th minute, applause rang around the Stadium of Light as both the Sunderland and Wycombe fans showed solidarity as they paid tribute to 13 year old Wycombe fan, Oliver Darlington, who died of sepsis earlier this month.

After this, Charlie Wyke almost doubled his and Sunderland’s tally when O’Nien’s looping cross to the back post found Wyke, whose header was clattered off the outside of the left post.

It didn’t take the Black Cats long after this to make it two-nil when quick build-up play between Chris Maguire and Charlie Wyke dug Sunderland out of a hole on the halfway line, and found Jordan Willis, who somehow had sprinted to the by-line on the right wing. He played a low cross back across goal, but it rolled all the way to an on-rushing Denver Hume, who spectacularly arrowed the ball into the bottom right corner.

Last weekend the Black Cats created themselves two goals from forcing the opposition into tricky situations, and they did exactly the same on Saturday, when they pressed the Chairboys and won themselves a penalty with 20 minutes on the clock. Darius Charles slipped the ball back to the Wycombe goalkeeper, Ryan Allsop, but Chris Maguire chased it down and almost got it until he was tripped by Anthony Stewart inside the penalty area. The referee, Andy Davies, decided that it was a penalty for the hosts.

Chris Maguire stepped up from the spot for the hosts and fired the ball into the bottom right corner, giving Sunderland assurance with a three-goal cushion.

After this, Gareth Ainsworth made a tactical substitution by bringing on the ‘Beast’ - Adebayo Akinfenwa - and taking off Giles Phillips. Akinfenwa almost made an instant impact to the match when his header from Paul Smyth’s cross was saved by Jon McLaughlin.

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

Second Half Action

At half time, Phil Parkinson was forced into a substitution when Tom Flanagan went off with a shoulder injury, with Joel Lynch replacing him in defence.

Sunderland limited the amount of chances that Wycombe were able to have, but when they came, they didn’t really trouble Jon McLaughlin’s goal. Paul Smyth’s shot was aimed wide of the bottom left corner from just inside of the penalty area.

In the second half, Sunderland were always looking to extend their advantage and increase their goal difference and lower the one of their opponents. They finally did make it four-nil and the fourth was the pick of the bunch. After Charlie Wyke was fouled from around 25 yards out, Maguire took the resulting free-kick and it struck the underside of the crossbar and bounced over the line.

From here, there was no doubt where the points were heading, but Wycombe didn’t want to go out without a fight, and Jacobson lifted the ball into the area, but Charles’ header was saved by Jon McLaughlin.

With 85 minutes on the clock, Parkinson made his second change when he brought on Marc McNulty, for Lynden Gooch, who was given a standing ovation from the Sunderland fans.

In the three minutes of added time, Wycombe produced their best chance of the match when the ball fell for Alex Samuel, whose shot was saved at Jon McLaughlin’s right.

After the additional time was up, the referee blew the full time whistle and the gap between Sunderland and the top closed to six points - the match ended Sunderland AFC 4-0 Wycombe Wanderers.

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

Finlay’s Verdict....

Has the passion and bond between the players and the fans returned after our 4-0 win over Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday?

Within 21 minutes, the match at the Stadium of Light was over and done with. For the second time in the last two home matches, the Black Cats had scored three goals in the first half, and killed the game off before the visitors could get themselves going.

Possibly, it could be a mastermind from Phil Parkinson.

Just like last week, our hard work has paid off once again, and momentum is building. A four game unbeaten run has turned into a five game unbeaten run.

By just looking at the score line, anyone may have thought that the Black Cats were facing a side at the bottom of the table. 4-0 is a bad score any day for the team on the wrong side of the defeat, but it wasn’t just any team the Black Cats were facing. It was the league leaders.

The way Phil Parkinson has motivated the side through the recent matches has to be credited for. After the Boxing Day draw, there were calls for Parkinson to lose his job. It then resulted in Stewart Donald announcing that he would sell the club.

He was able to pull the team through a tough period and we are now in this situation - six points off the top with a game in hand. Starting from the Doncaster victory, the passion from the players have stepped up and the performances have been improving game by game, with Saturday’s 4-0 win being the pinnacle of all the recent games.

From start to finish, it all clicked. Unlike last week, there was no drop in tempo levels in the second half, as he pushed for extra goals, and that was apparent when Maguire netted a stunning free-kick.

Next up we face a trip to MK Dons, who have only lost once in their last seven matches since Russell Martin was announced as their new manager. They were able to draw 1-1 against Coventry City at St Andrews on Saturday and face Burton Albion on Tuesday night.

MK Dons will provide a tough opposition for the Black Cats, but if we keep the tempo levels the same then I can see no reason why we wouldn’t be able to pick up a third successive three points.