Sunderland are back to winning ways in Sky Bet League One after a disciplined and dominant performance secured a 2-0 victory at Swindon Town.
Charlie Wyke’s fourth of the season along with Chris Maguire’s second-half penalty wrapped up all three points, as the Lads won the first of five league matches in the space of two weeks in October.
Phil Parkinson had to navigate selection problems for the contest at the County Ground, with numerous absentees affecting his options. Conor McLaughlin, Wyke and skipper Max Power were all brought into the side.
The match began without too many clear-cut opportunities as both sides got a feel for the game – a ricochet for a corner from Josh Scowen’s cross-shot the only dangerous break in the first 15 minutes.
The first notable incident of the game came around this time, as Jordan Willis suffered a knock to his foot in a challenge with Diallang Jaiyesimi which kept him down on the turf for a three-minute spell. Despite his best efforts to continue, the centre-half had to leave the field to be replaced by Jack Diamond.
Shortly before Willis’ departure, the opening chance would present itself to the Lads in unorthodox fashion, as Grant Leadbitter caught Swindon ‘keeper Matej Kovar off his line at a free-kick over 50 yards from goal – Kovar being forced to backtrack to tip the dipping shot behind.
As the first half progressed, the Black Cats became more dominant in possession – Leadbitter at the heart of things as the midfield lynchpin – and for all Swindon’s organised defending to deny Parkinson’s men too many shouts at goal, the opener arrived seven minutes before the break.
The Lads built an encouraging move using the flanks expertly well, with Lynden Gooch recovering to chase a loose touch down the left-hand side and delivering an inch-perfect cross. On the end of it in acres of space was Wyke, who beat the offside trap to send a neat side-footed volley into the bottom corner.
Sunderland maintained the territorial advantage and forced Swindon into more defensive work following the goal, as Luke O’Nien rose highest to head into the arms of Kovar, and Max Power came inches away from meeting Scowen’s inviting cross.
Chris Maguire would also try his luck from an angled free kick won by Scowen, which arrowed into the side netting in the last action of the half.
Swindon boss Richie Wellens made a statement at the break, with Jordan Stevens and Jonny Smith both entering the fray. And the hosts began to improve early in the second period, with several crosses testing the Lads’ backline, as well as a Matt Smith strike from 20 yards which dragged wide.
But it was to be a counter-attacking masterpiece from the visitors which brought the second goal, as a crucial defensive touch from Jack Diamond enabled Sunderland to break forward. Power sent an inviting through-ball into the path of Maguire, who beat his man before being scythed down inside the Swindon area – the referee having no choice than to immediately point to the spot.
The Scotsman dusted himself down, and stroked a confident penalty home to double the lead.
Swindon were far from finished – Wellens played his third and final trump card in response with Hallam Hope introduced, but it was from the back where they created their best chance of the game so far on the hour. Jack Payne’s threatening long punt into the box found the head of defender Jonathan Grounds, his flicked header travelling inches past Lee Burge’s far post.
The Black Cats continued to work the ball well – Gooch remaining positive down the left-hand side – and a move involving the American resulted in Scowen forcing Kovar into a diving stop, unleashing a powerful drive from 20 yards after receiving Power’s pass.
Whilst not for the want of trying, the Wiltshire outfit carried on with their pursuit on the Lads, but another organised display cemented the clean sheet and three points which elevate us back into the top six.
Sunderland: Burge; Willis (Diamond 19’), Wright, O’Nien; McLaughlin, Power, Leadbitter, Scowen, Gooch; Maguire (O’Brien 89’), Wyke.
Subs not used: Matthews, Dobson, Graham, Grigg, Younger.
Swindon Town: Kovar; Hunt (Stevens 46'), Baudry, Odimayo, Grounds, Donohue; Jaiyesimi (J. Smith 46'), A. Grant, M. Smith, Payne; T. Smith (Hope 58').
Subs not used: Fryer, Caddis, Curran, J. Grant.