Charlie Wyke was the main man yet again, as he scored the only goal of the game, with Sunderland continuing their unbeaten away run as they beat Ipswich Town 1-0 at Portman Road in Sky Bet League One.
After Kayden Jackson’s straight red card in the tenth minute, Sunderland were given the opportunity to take three points from Portman Road, and they stepped up their promotion race thanks to Wyke’s 15th goal of the season.
Lee Johnson made only one change to the side that claimed three points against Shrewsbury Town on Saturday afternoon. That change came in midfield, with Carl Winchester replacing Jack Diamond. Max Power continued to fill in at right-back, and Bailey Wright and Jordan Willis kept their places in the heart of defence. Meanwhile, Lynden Gooch returned to the bench after testing positive for COVID-19 and completing his period of self-isolation.
First Half Action
Over recent weeks, frustration has grown at Portman Road as Ipswich have only claimed one win out of their last six home matches. The task of reverting that form on Tuesday night was made a lot tougher when Kayden Jackson saw red. His horrific studs-up challenge was over the top on Bailey Wright and was deemed as a dismissal challenge from the referee.
The incentive was there for the Black Cats, with their first attempt coming through Charlie Wyke. Power’s cross from the right found Wyke, who slipped in front of Luke Woolfenden and poked the ball wide of the right post.
Sunderland enjoyed lots of possession after the red card, but they created little in attacking areas with O’Brien’s slotted ball through to Carl Winchester being smothered by the Ipswich Town goalkeeper.
Charlie Wyke was at the centre of Sunderland’s chances, with the striker having the Black Cats’ first shot on target. Leadbitter’s free-kick eventually dropped to the Sunderland forward, whose shot was palmed away by the glove of Tomas Holy.
Ipswich’s only chance of the first half appeared when Gwion Edwards’s right-footed shot from just outside of the penalty area being drilled against the side-netting.
Despite finding their feet into the game, Ipswich fell behind, with Charlie Wyke finding the back of the net again. Power’s first time cross allowed Wyke to sprint onto the ball, as the Sunderland striker’s left-footed stretching finish arrowing it into the bottom right corner.
Wyke’s strike was one of the final moments of the first half, with that late goal changing the managers’ team-talks, as Sunderland were holding the one-goal advantage.
Half Time - Ipswich Town FC 0-1 Sunderland AFC
Second Half Action
The half time interval brought a change for the Black Cats, as Elliot Embleton replaced Carl Winchester, who was on a yellow card, in midfield.
Early in the second half, a chance arose for the Black Cats, as Leadbitter’s cross from the left dropped for Willis, whose shot was unexpected and was grasped by the Ipswich goalkeeper.
Ipswich sensed the opportunity to take something from the match, and Luke Thomas’ left-footed shot from inside of the penalty area was beaten away by Lee Burge.
Attacking chances were few and far between for Sunderland, however O’Brien’s shot was blocked close to the goal line by the defender, Mark McGuinness.
Two substitutions for Lee Johnson’s side were made within just over ten minutes of each other, as Bailey Wright was forced off with an injury, which called for the ambulance buggy to be driven onto the Portman Road turf. He was replaced by Dion Sanderson. Then, Lynden Gooch returned back to action after his positive COVID-19 test, as Aiden McGeady was removed from play.
Gooch was immediately involved in the action, as his weaving run positioned him for an attempt, with the American’s right-footed shot being aimed into the gloves of Tomas Holy.
Lee Johnson made use of his fourth change, with Luke O’Nien being introduced for his second appearance since returning from his shoulder injury, as O’Brien was replaced.
Sunderland managed to hold onto their one-goal advantage, with Wyke’s strike just before the half time interval being the only goal of the game, with the Black Cats heading back north with three points.
Full Time - Ipswich Town FC 0-1 Sunderland AFC
At the beginning of the season, Sunderland were desperately scurrying around the transfer market looking for a prolific striker.
Will Grigg was provided with a brief opportunity in pre-season, but his flair lacked and he was slowly dropped from the squad. Johnson gave him an opportunity, but it never worked with Johnson’s style of play.
The addition of Danny Graham to the squad added some passion back into the team; a former player who knew what the club meant to the fans.
For Graham, it simply hasn’t clicked. He has rarely featured in the first team squad and is currently suffering a spell on the sidelines, due to no fault of his own.
The departure of Josh Maja in the transfer window of January 2019 left Sunderland in a predicament that led to their failure in the play-off final of that season.
Sunderland weren’t able to compensate for the removal of Maja, with Ross and Parkinson both lacking a proven goal scorer.
Little did those managers know that they did actually have a goal scorer that can score week-in, week-out if the opportunities are provided at his feet.
That man is Charlie Wyke and his confidence levels have ramped up, resulting in 15 goals so far this season.
Five goals in the last four matches has been key for Sunderland, and built a patch of form that has provided some momentum heading into a busy February and March.
Tuesday night may have been the best opportunity that the Black Cats will ever get at pinching three points away from Portman Road.
With confidence low and the local press wanting Paul Lambert sacked, an early red card to Kayden Jackson left Ipswich in an even worse position.
With their most influential goal scorer off the pitch, they were forced to be pinned into their own half for much of the first 45, and it looked like their worries would continue.
The lack of attacking threat from the Black Cats reiterated the type of player that the Black Cats are craving for in the final week of the transfer window.
A player that is able to carve out more openings for the strikers, will involve in more goals for Charlie Wyke.
He is a player that if you send the ball to his feet inside of the penalty area, he will simply provide the finish.
His beginning to his time at Sunderland was marked by injury, but it now seems like he is building tonnes of confidence that is rubbing off on his teammates.
It was Wyke’s goal that meant that the Black Cats would head north with three points. There is no doubt that the red card made sure that the game swayed in the way of the visitors, but it was a professional performance to ensure the victory.
Saturday’s match against Gillingham may be a tougher test than Tuesday’s win against Ipswich in the sense of building on a win against a promotion rival.
After the 4-0 win against Lincoln, the COVID-19 outbreak hindered plans to carry on the momentum, and this is the first time that the Black Cats will have the proper opportunity to build on an away win against a promotion contender.
A new signing may be made between now and Saturday, but regardless a limited number of changes are likely to be made. If Charlie Wyke continues to score goals and the Black Cats consistently keep clean sheets, there will be no doubt that Sunderland will continue to climb the table.