safc.com’s Oscar Chamberlain analyses the action from McDiarmid Park as Sunderland ended their pre-season tour of Scotland with a 3-0 defeat at St Johnstone.
New signing James Vaughan started for Simon Grayson’s side against the UEFA Europa League qualifiers, but it was a tough afternoon for the Black Cats as three goals in six first-half minutes sent the home side en route to victory.
- As it happened: St Johnstone 3-0 Sunderland
- Gallery: Action shots from McDiarmid Park
- Grayson disappointed by manner of defeat
ALL EYES ON VAUGHAN
As team news filtered through at 1pm all the talk on Perth, and back on Wearside, surrounded new signing Vaughan as the striker was selected for his debut. A physical presence up top, Vaughan was lethal for Bury last season scoring 24 League One goals as the Shakers avoided the drop – and the red and white army gave their new recruit a warm welcome as applause echoed around McDiarmid Park after the forward won a towering header early. There was no place for Aiden McGeady, though, with the former Everton winger set to meet up with his new team-mates ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Hartlepool United.
St Johnstone made a positive start to the game and they moved the ball well, but they failed to test Vito Mannone in the opening exchanges and with 11 minutes played they were caught cold. A stunning ball from Lee Cattermole was expertly chested down by Jeremain Lens who bamboozled the defender and forced him into a costly intervention. The Dutchman was hauled to the ground and the referee pointed to the spot before Vaughan took command and stepped up… SAVED! A missed penalty probably wasn’t in Vaughan’s pre-match script but the striker didn’t seem too fazed, and within moments he dusted himself down and forced Zander Clark into another save.
SAINTS GO MARCHING IN
What followed wasn’t in the script either. Within the space of six minutes the home side scored three to assume full control of the contest as Sunderland struggled to regroup. A bizarre sequence of events saw Mannone fail to control a backpass which squirmed across the line to spark celebrations amongst the home fans – but, crucially, he handled it before it crossed the line resulting in an indirect free-kick. However, the outcome was the same as Steven MacLean rattled the ball through a crowded six-yard box and into the net. And after the Black Cats failed to switch on following the restart they were punished, as two fine finishes from David Wotherspoon sent Tommy Wright’s side into a 3-0 lead.
STEADYING THE SHIP
After a disastrous six-minute spell the Black Cats calmed proceedings and got back on the ball. The Saints were stunted for the remainder of the half but hard running from their strike force continued to stretch the Black Cats and make them work. As the interval approached Grayson’s men pushed for a route back into the game and a moment of magic from Jeremain Lens crafted the ideal opening, but Vaughan glanced his effort wide of the mark. Jack Rodwell found the net late on as he nudged the ball past Clark following a textbook through ball from Wahbi Khazri, but the offside flag was raised and then St Johnstone stopper was forced off due to a collision with the midfielder.
DUO INJECT FRESH ENERGY
Sunderland made three changes at the break as Donald Love, Josh Maja and Joel Asoro entered the fray. Love replaced Brendan Galloway as Adam Matthews switched to left-back, but it was Maja and Asoro who once again caught the eye. The electric duo have pace to burn and their fearless approach led to early pressure as Maja’s trickery forced St Johnstone into a number of fouls. Asoro also added a new dimension to the Lads’ play as he picked up the mantle vacated by Lens and set about testing the visitors by sticking to the touchline and breaking forward at every opportunity.
A second and third wave of substitutions followed as the Lads banked valuable minutes in their quest for peak fitness, with Ty Browning coming off the bench to make his Sunderland debut after signing on loan from Everton. But, in truth, St Johnstone were scarcely troubled and the Black Cats failed to force replacement stopper Mark Hurst into any real action. Elliot Embleton also showed some nice touches as Love’s impact was short-lived due to a knock, on what was ultimately a day to forget for Grayson’s men.
St Johnstone: Clark (Hurst 46), Tander, Shaughnessy, Millar, Davidson, MacLean, Wotherspoon, Foster (Watson 76), Scougall (O’Reilly 76), Gilchrist, Cummins (Trialist 76).
Subs not used: McClean, Gordon, Hurst.
Sunderland: Mannone (Stryjek 68), Matthews, Galloway (Love 46, Beadling 68), Kone (Djilobodji 61), O’Shea (Browning), Cattermole (Gibson 61), Ndong (E Robson 76), Rodwell (Asoro 46), Khazri (Honeyman 61), Lens (Maja), Vaughan (Embleton 68).
Subs not used: Ledger.
Referee: Nick Walsh