Sunderland picked up their first win in their last eight matches in all competitions, as they sealed their progression to the third round of the Papa John’s Trophy with a 2-1 win over Oldham Athletic.
Bobby Grant had given the Latics the lead within the opening 13 minutes, but goals from Chris Maguire and Josh Scowen meant that Sunderland would be in Thursday’s third round draw.
Lee Johnson made three changes to the side that lost 1-0 against Wigan Athletic at the Stadium of Light on Saturday afternoon in League One. Will Grigg continued to lead the line, with Jack Diamond replacing Aiden McGeady in attack. Anthony Patterson was handed a start in between the sticks, ahead of Lee Burge and Remi Matthews. Also, Denver Hume was ruled out with a hamstring injury, with Callum McFadzean taking his place in defence.
First Half Action
Oldham Athletic began to trouble the Sunderland goalkeeper from the first couple of minutes when Danny Rowe’s right-footed effort from distance was beaten away by Anthony Patterson.
Sunderland were handed a task to overcome if they were going to progress into the next round, as the Latics took the lead. Dylan Bahamboula touched the ball to Bobby Grant, who was given far too much space, and was somehow able to arrow it into the bottom right corner and beat Anthony Patterson.
Lee Johnson had to motivate his side in order to claim the leveller sooner rather than later, with Flanagan’s header from a corner from the right being aimed directly into the gloves of the Oldham Athletic goalkeeper.
Chris Maguire came even closer when Maguire’s right-footed volley from the left-hand side of the penalty area was fizzed goal bound, but Ian Lawlor tipped the ball away from the far corner.
The Black Cats did find the equaliser when Jack Diamond whipped a teasing cross into the penalty area, and it wasn’t cleared well enough by Diarra - allowing it to loop up and be flicked into the back of the net by Chris Maguire.
After one additional minute of added time, Chris Maguire’s strike in the 30th minute meant that both teams went into the interval with the score being level.
Half Time - Oldham Athletic 1-1 Sunderland AFC
Second Half Action
With Sunderland lacking a creative touch at the beginning of the second half, Lee Johnson made a double substitution, by introducing Aiden McGeady and Charlie Wyke, who both replaced Chris Maguire and Will Grigg.
Only a few moments into their presence into the game, the Black Cats took the lead when Grant Leadbitter curved a cross into the penalty area from the left wing and Scowen collided with the ball at the front post, and was able to direct it into the bottom left corner and past Ian Lawlor.
Oldham tried to level the match again when McAleny fired the ball towards goal from just outside of the penalty area, but it flew high over the bar.
The new Sunderland head coach made another change with less than twenty minutes of the match remaining, with George Dobson replacing Grant Leadbitter in the centre of midfield.
The home side pushed for an equaliser as the clock began to tick down when Davis Keillor-Dunn’s shot from just inside of the penalty area was deflected and was looking as if it was going to loop over the goalkeeper, but Patterson was able to claw the ball away from danger.
Sunderland looked for a late goal to seal the victory, when Diamond’s curling effort from inside of the penalty area was aimed directly into the gloves of the Oldham Athletic goalkeeper.
When the four minutes of additional time were ended, the referee called a halt to the match, with Lee Johnson claiming his first victory as the new Sunderland head coach, thanks to Josh Scowen’s 64th minute header.
Full Time - Oldham Athletic 1-2 Sunderland AFC
It is a competition that Lee Johnson knows all too well.
The Papa John’s Trophy, formally known as the EFL Trophy, has provided the new Sunderland head coach with his first win and it will have helped Johnson know more about his side.
From the harsh conditions to the delayed kick-off time, the new head coach was given a tough start to the pre-match build-up, and the players were able to cope to advance onto the next round of the competition.
The Black Cats opened the game within the same way that they conducted themselves against Wigan at the weekend, and allowed Grant with far too much space to fire and beat Patterson, who probably could have done better.
Then, the away side upped the tempo and Jack Diamond enjoyed a lot of space and ease on the right wing - creating some unpredictable crosses, which were contrasted with some of the deliveries that the Black Cats were providing in previous weeks.
Diamond provided the assist to Maguire’s goal, which really set Johnson’s side on their way, with Oldham being silenced in their creative nature of their attempts - compressing their threat.
Throughout proceedings, Will Grigg conducted himself well, and won the free-kick, which ultimately lead to Josh Scowen’s goal, but his lack of goals is appearing to be a constant issue, so how long does Johnson carry on with persevering with Grigg?
After Scowen’s goal, Oldham tried to push for an equaliser in order to send the match to penalties, but some resolute defending from the away side and some brilliant goalkeeping from Patterson meant that Sunderland will be in Thursday’s last-16 draw.
Despite Lee Johnson claiming his first win as Sunderland head coach, the first real test will appear on Saturday afternoon, as he takes the Black Cats to Sincil Bank to take on Lincoln City.
The Imps have only conceded three defeats in League One all season, and lie in second in the league table, so will provide a stern test for Lee Johnson and his Sunderland side.
I would expect Johnson to try and make as minimal changes as possible, to try and keep consistency, with Jack Diamond pushing for a start, after an impressive performance on Tuesday night.
Michael Appleton made six changes for their EFL Trophy tie against Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday night, with their eyes solely focused on Saturday’s big encounter, where only three points for the Black Cats will do, otherwise they will fall even further behind the promotion pack.