Oxford United 0-1 Sunderland AFC
Phil Parkinson’s Sunderland produced a battling display at Oxford United on Saturday to clinch a third successive League One win.
The Black Cats were handed the perfect start at a stormy Kassam Stadium, as Jordan Willis met Chris Maguire’s corner and guided a header into the net after four minutes.
Oxford responded but they were unable to find a way past League One’s best defence, as Willis and Bailey Wright, who limped off in the second period, oozed class at the back.
Jon McLaughlin also impressed, making several important saves despite the conditions doing little to assist the Scotland international.
The home side pushed forward until the final seconds, but the Lads refused to be denied their seventh clean sheet in eight league games.
Parkinson named an unchanged side at the Kassam Stadium, as the Lads went in search of a third win on the spin.
The blustery conditions dominated the pre-match chat, but the swirling weather did little to dampen Sunderland’s mood on or off the pitch.
Backed by a noisy away end, the Black Cats purred out of the blocks and Denver Hume tested Simon Eastwood within the opening two minutes.
The Oxford stopper was equal to it, but he was powerless to prevent the opener from the resulting corner, as Willis flicked a header into the net.
Replays indicated the final touch came off John Mousinho, but the Sunderland defender refused to leave centre stage and produced a vital interception to deny Mark Sykes after play resumed.
Not to be outdone, Wright produced a superb sliding challenge to thwart Daniel Agyei inside the box soon atfer, while McLaughlin did well to spring off his line to deny Matty Taylor.
The Scotland international was forced into action once more following the restart, doing well to keep his eye on Josh Ruffels’ dipping volley to push it behind.
Oxford continued to grow in confidence – and the wind continued to pick up – with McLaughlin then forced to backpeddle and clear a goalbound cross to safety.
Hume and Maguire both saw dangerous crosses clear behind in the stages that followed, while Josh Scowen was called upon to add a little extra in the middle of the park.
The sides continued to trade blows, with Ruffels and Wyke both heading wide before deafening penalty appeals for handball were turned down by the officials after Tom Flanagan cleared.
Parkinson’s side were dealt a blow on 84 minutes when Wright limped off, but Alim Ozturk produced a strong showing to help the Lads over the line.
After a third win on the spin, the Black Cats will return to Wearside for a home double-header against Bristol Rovers and Fleetwood Town.
Oxford United: Eastwood, Ruffels, Dickie, Moore, Brannagan, Taylor, Forde, Mousinho, Henry (Mackie 89), Sykes (Holland 77), Agyei (Browne 61).
Substitutes: Stevens, Long, Hanson, Thorne.
Sunderland AFC: J McLaughlin, Willis, Power, Maguire (Lafferty 86), Wyke, Gooch (Scowen 59), Flanagan, O’Nien, Dobson, Wright (Ozturk 84), Hume.
Substitutes: Burge, C McLaughlin, Watmore, Semenyo.