Sunderland AFC 2-1 Accrington Stanley
Sunderland returned to action with a victory on Saturday, as second-placed Accrington Stanley were defeated at the Stadium of Light.
Academy graduate Dan Neil continued his impressive start to the season early on, dispatching a stunning 25-yard strike to net his first goal in red and white.
The Lads could have added to their lead, but they were pegged back by the visitors with half-an-hour played and a reaction save from debutant Thorben Hoffmann ensured it remained level at the break.
Carl Winchester’s second goal of the campaign restored the Black Cats’ advantage following the restart, but the search for a third was thwarted by 18-year-old goalkeeper James Trafford.
A point-blank clearance from Dennis Cirkin prevented Accrington from levelling, as the Lads ensured they picked up where they left off in Sky Bet League One.
Following deadline-day and a two-week international break, Lee Johnson made a change between the posts as August recruit Hoffmann featured in the starting XI.
Fellow Bundesliga arrival Leon Dajaku wasn’t included in the squad, but Corry Evans returned to the bench following a hamstring injury.
Sunderland made a composed start to proceedings and with 10 minutes on the clock, a golden opportunity arrived at the back post.
Patient build-up ended when Neil burst into life and clipped an inviting ball over Trafford, but the stranded stopper exhaled when Lynden Gooch headed over from close range.
Four minutes later, Neil took matters into his own hands, taking one touch to bring the ball down and create the space before arrowing a 25-yard strike into the top corner with laser precision.
Winchester almost added a second from range before the half-hour mark, but the visitors levelled less than two minutes after the midfielder’s effort whistled wide.
A deflected effort led to a corner and John Coleman’s side took full advantage, as Nottingham headed in at the near post.
The first three opportunities of the second period fell to the Lads in quick succession, but Trafford made two successive saves from a corner after turning McGeady’s initial strike behind.
Eventually, the Lads’ persistence paid off.
Embleton and Neil combined before McGeady took centre stage, slicing the Accrington backline open with a sumptuous through ball that was slotted home by Winchester.
A fantastic one-on-one save by 18-year-old Trafford denied Stewart shortly after, with McGeady bending an effort wide as the Black Cats continued to search for a third.
Defensive heroics dominated the latter stages, as Cirkin spotted the danger and excellent headed off the line before a sliding challenge by Dion Charles denied Embleton.
Sunderland: Hoffmann, Winchester, Flanagan, Doyle, Cirkin, O’Nien, Neil, Gooch (Pritchard 69), Embleton (Wright 84), McGeady, Stewart.
Subs not used: Burge, Huggins, Evans, Alves, Broadhead.
Accrington Stanley: Trafford, Sherring, Sykes, Butcher, Pell, Bishop, McConville, Nottingham, Charles, Clark, Morgan.
Subs: Savin, Hamilton, Mumbongo, Leigh, Nolan, Amankwah, Malcolm.