Sunderland 1-0 Peterborough United
Grant Leadbitter was the man on the spot to deliver three points for Phil Parkinson’s men and extend Sunderland’s unbeaten start to the season.
Leadbitter, who has earned his way back into the side in the last couple of games, was the calmest man inside the Stadium of Light to strike the winning penalty with nine minutes remaining against Peterborough United.
With power and precision, it was the 34-year-old’s first goal in a red and white shirt since returning to the club where it all started as a fan and academy graduate in January last year.
Leadbitter’s penalty proved enough to separate the two sides and it means Sunderland have claimed seven points from nine to start the season well.
Sunderland boss Parkinson had wanted his side to carry on from last week’s win at Oxford and they did so, having mixed things up with three changes.
Josh Scowen’s introduction for his first League One start of the season was enforced because captain Max Power was not deemed to have recovered from his tight hamstring.
But the other two changes in attack were by choice.
Aiden O’Brien and Danny Graham were asked to drop to the bench, with Lynden Gooch and Charlie Wyke replacing them.
Gooch, rewarded for his second half goal at the Kassam Stadium, partnered Wyke in attack and the pair got through plenty of running without testing goalkeeper Christy Pym in the opening period.
In fact, Sunderland’s goalkeeper Lee Burge was the busier, particularly in the first ten minutes when he was called into action a few times and on one occasion he was fortunate not to concede.
Syriki Dembele’s trickery and liveliness made him a problem throughout for the home defence and Burge was unable to gather comfortably the forward’s shot from distance inside four minutes.
From the loose ball Jonson Clarke-Harris, signed from Bristol Rovers in the summer, side-footed wide when he ought to have at least hit the target and arguably even scored.
After Chris Maguire had seen an effort blocked and cleared close to the line with Wyke lurking at the other end, Burge had to dive strongly to his right to prevent Clarke-Harris’ 25-yard free-kick from flying in after Dembele had earned the foul.
Peterborough looked dangerous when they attacked but Sunderland did settle and Luke O’Nien threatened with a wayward header after Denver Hume had done well to beat his man and deliver into the area from the left.
Parkinson was forced into a change of approach with seven minutes remaining in the first half when Maguire hobbled out of the game. O’Brien was introduced to the attack and that meant Gooch could move back into the midfield three.
And there was a positive start to the second half when, after a decent bit of possession in the final third, O’Nien’s cross from the right rolled to the back post where Hume’s side-footed effort shaved the side netting.
There were then strong calls for a penalty waved away when referee Scott Oldham allowed play to go on for Wyke to shoot over. Mr Oldham was close by as O’Brien hit the area seconds after O’Nien was denied by goalkeeper Christy Pym.
But there was a reminder for Sunderland that Peterborough could still cause problems when Jack Taylor’s drive was prevented from hitting the top right corner by Burge’s flying frame.
Louis Reed also shook the crossbar with a 25-yard free-kick after Dembele had been fouled, with the visitors sensing Sunderland’s best period of the game had gone.
Sunderland then gained a greater control of possession again, without testing Pym enough in the visiting goal. Graham’s introduction for the final 19 minutes didn’t have the desired effect either.
When Hume was brought down by Reed in the area with 19 minutes remaining, Leadbitter took control while Peterborough players complained before drilling low inside Pym’s bottom right.
Peterborough pushed on in the closing stages in a bid to avoid defeat and went close when Reed drilled an effort inches wide. Sunderland, thanks to Leadbitter’s winner, had done enough.
SUNDERLAND (3-5-2): Burge; Willis, Wright, Flanagan; O’Nien, Leadbitter, Scowen, Maguire (O’Brien 39), Hume; Gooch (McLaughlin 90), Wyke (Graham 71).
Subs: Matthews (gk), Xhemajli, Diamond, Grigg.
PETERBOROUGH UNITED (3-4-1-2): Pym; Thompson, Beevers, Kent; Broom (Ward 71), Reed, Taylor, Butler; Szmodics (Jade-Jones 86); Dembele, Clarke-Harris.
Subs: Eisa, Gyollai, Brown, Hamilton, Mason.
Referee: Scott Oldham