Patience was key as the Black Cats couldn’t find the combination to unlock the Rovers backline, but were helped when Abu Ogogo was shown a red card for violent conduct. Goals from Gooch, Wyke and O’Nien then made sure that Sunderland rose to fourth in the League One table.
Phil Parkinson was forced into making one change to the side that beat Oxford United 1-0 at the Kassam Stadium last weekend. Bailey Wright sustained an ankle injury in that match, and it was revealed that he is likely to miss the rest of the season, so Alim Ozturk replaced him in the centre of defence.
Sunderland brought in free agent, Tommy Smith, due to Wright’s absence, but Smith only had a place on the bench.
First Half Action
Both sides began the match in a sluggish way, with Bristol Rovers having the first opportunity to take the lead. Alfie Kilgour’s cross from the right picked out Jonson Clarke-Harris, but his header was cushioned into the gloves of Jon McLaughlin.
From there, Sunderland began to knock on the door and almost took a one-goal advantage when Maguire’s cross to the front post found Wyke, who flicked the ball over the bar.
Denver Hume then almost gave the hosts the lead. When Maguire’s low cross missed Lynden Gooch, the ball eventually dropped for Hume - his arrowing shot flew past Jamal Blackman, but was cleared off the line.
Then the Lads thought that they were robbed of a clear penalty when Maguire played the ball through to O’Nien on the overlap and he made his way into the penalty area on the right wing. The Sunderland wing-back was brought down by Jayden Mitchell-Lawson, but the referee, Ben Toner, said that it wasn’t a penalty.
Second Half Action
The Black Cats’ job of claiming three points was made relatively easier when the Pirates were reduced to ten men. After being out-muscled to a loose ball by Chris Maguire, Agu Ogogo kicked out at the Sunderland attacker, leading to the referee giving Ogogo a straight red card.
That lead eventually came with 71 minutes on the clock when the Black Cats carved open the Bristol Rovers defence. Wyke slipped the ball through to Maguire, who rolled the ball across goal, where Lynden Gooch was waiting to tuck it into the back of the net.
Sunderland added distance between themselves and their opponents when a defensive mishap allowed Charlie Wyke to double the Black Cats’ advantage. Hume lobbed the ball up field, two Rovers defenders collided, leaving Wyke a one-on-one opportunity. He took the ball past Jamal Blackman and slotted it into the back of an empty net.
It became three-nil shortly after when Maguire flicked the ball past Luke Leahy and took it into the penalty area before cutting it back to O’Nien. O’Nien’s shot was deflected off a Bristol Rovers player and bounced into the bottom right corner.
With the game put past Bristol Rovers, Parkinson gave some minutes to Kyle Lafferty and Duncan Watmore, with Charlie Wyke and Chris Maguire making way.
Last week, it was announced that Bailey Wright would miss eight to 12 weeks with an ankle injury, meaning that his season is almost up for the Black Cats, but what impact will this injury have on Phil Parkinson’s side?
In football, it is important not to get frustrated when things aren’t going your way, and Sunderland epitomised the definition of patience during their 3-0 win against Bristol Rovers on Saturday.
With Coventry leading 1-0, Rotherham being held at Accrington, and both Portsmouth and Ipswich losing, Phil Parkinson’s half-time team talk must have urged his side to remain patient. But I don’t think that he would have envisaged such an easier opening than the one presented by Bristol Rovers. A moment of absolute stupidity from Abu Ogogo reduced the Pirates to ten men, and from this moment onwards, it was a stroll in the park for the Black Cats.
In the first half, the visitors set up in a solid unit, and provided a stern test for Sunderland. It could be argued that the hosts should have had a penalty when Mitchell-Lawson brought down O’Nien in the penalty area, but the referee, who had a shocking first half performance, declined that request. In truth, Bristol Rovers didn’t have a lot of attacking threat and didn’t really trouble the Sunderland backline, which kept yet another clean sheet - something which Parkinson must be proud of.
On Tuesday, Joey Barton’s Fleetwood come to the Stadium of Light in an eye-catching encounter. Three points behind Sunderland with a game in hand, the Cod Army will fancy themselves with a five-game winning run, which included wins over Wycombe Wanderers, Peterborough United and, on Saturday, Portsmouth.
With both Coventry and Rotherham facing off at St Andrews, a win will be pivotal in the promotion race as either the Sky Blues or the Millers will drop points. It is important that we put in an impressive performance from the off, so confidence will still be intact and running high when we take on Coventry City the following Sunday.