Bristol Rovers 2-0 Sunderland AFC
Sunderland fell to a 2-0 defeat at the Memorial Ground on Tuesday evening.
A thumping finish from Johnson Clarke-Harris shattered the deadlock on 39 minutes, as Bristol Rovers edged in front before the break.
Charlie Wyke and Lynden Gooch were called upon in the second period, but the home side were awarded a penalty moments after the USA international’s introduction.
Jon McLaughlin went the right way, but Clarke-Harris’ spot kick snuck into the net to seal the deal for Ben Garner’s side.
Phil Parkinson made two changes ahead of the game, as January recruits Antoine Semenyo and Josh Scowen lined up at the Memorial Stadium.
Kyle Lafferty retained his place after netting a brace against Gillingham, as George Dobson and Gooch both dropped to the bench alongside fit-again Wyke.
Sunderland mustered the first attack with less than three minutes on the clock, but Lafferty was flagged offside after testing Jamal Blackman from eight yards.
Rovers responded with an opportunity of their own on 13 minutes, as Jordan Willis slipped and Jayden Mitchell-Lawson sped to the byline, but Scowen showed good awareness to spot the danger and prevent a simple finish.
Both sides cancelled each other out in the stages that followed, but the deadlock was eventually broken on 39 minutes.
Alex Rodman and Ollie Clarke combined down the right and the latter fizzed a low cross into Clarke-Harris, who turned superbly before slamming a thumping finish into the top corner.
Rovers saw penalty appeals waved away in first-half stoppage time, as the referee ruled in the Lads’ favour after Cameron Hargreaves beat Jon McLaughlin to the ball and took flight.
Parkinson didn’t delay in switching things up, with Lafferty, who picked up a yellow card in the first 45, coming off in place of Wyke at the break.
The home side continued to frustrate the Black Cats, though and they were awarded a penalty on 73 minutes when Luke Leahy’s cross struck an arm.
Clarke-Harris made no mistake.
The striker could have completed his hat-trick late on, volleying off target five minutes from time before being denied by McLauglin moments later.
But it was immaterial in the end, as Rovers claimed three points and sent the Lads back to Wearside empty-handed.
Bristol Rovers: Blackman, Craig, Sercombe, Clarke, Clarke-Harris (Kelly 90), Leahy, Kilgour, Harries, Mitchell-Lawson (Daly 80), Rodman, Hargreaves (Hare 83).
Subs not used: Stappershoef, Bennett, Menayese, Matthews.
Sunderland AFC: J McLaughlin, Willis, Ozturk (Gooch 70), Power, Maguire, Lafferty (Wyke 45), Flanagan, O’Nien, Scowen (Grigg 87), Hume, Semenyo.
Substitutes: Burge, Dobson, C McLaughlin, Lynch.