Preston North End 0-3 Sunderland AFC
Sunderland are in the Sky Bet Championship Play-Offs.
A superb second half with goals from Amad, Alex Pritchard and Jack Clarke secured a stunning win against Preston North End at Deepdale and booked a place in the Play-Off semi-finals which begin next week, bidding for a place in the Premier League.
Tony Mowbray elected for an unchanged side to that which played out a dramatic 2-2 draw with Watford last weekend on Wearside, in a 4-2-3-1 starting shape.
It was however Preston who started fast, a deflected strike flashing past Anthony Patterson’s post before Patrick Bauer’s header across the six-yard box was eventually dealt with.
Sunderland responded with a threat quickly, though, as Clarke flashed a shot across Freddie Woodman’s goal from the left-hand side, before Amad won a free-kick 25 yards from goal which Patrick Roberts saw deflect over the crossbar off the defensive wall.
The visitors began to increase their foothold in the game as the first half wore on, Roberts whipping a tremendous effort which was somehow tipped away by Woodman.
Preston’s efforts to counter-attack were then thwarted excellently by Dan Neil, who dispossessed Troy Parrott to put an end to a dangerous three-on-two break.
Whilst the Lads looked confident on the ball, a huge chance then went North End’s way, as Liam Delap broke through the middle clean through, but slotted inches wide of the post.
But Sunderland replicated that, as Pierre Ekwah played a cute ball through into Joe Gelhardt, who was denied with a similar chance by Woodman, before he then collected Clarke’s side-footed effort as the teams went in goalless at the break.
The second half began with a change, appearing to be enforced as Dennis Cirkin was withdrawn following a knock sustained in the first half. Pritchard was on to replace him as Mowbray shuffled his pack.
And in what would turn out to be truly memorable half of football, the chances did not take long. Another nice piece of work in the centre of the pitch by Ekwah set Amad away, and a neat Pritchard dummy from the Ivorian’s pass opened up space for Neil – his shot, however, whistled wide from 22 yards.
The flurry continued, Ekwah the next to go mighty close, Woodman standing firm to keep out his shot inside the area – the chances being created firing up all 5,726 Sunderland supporters behind the goal to a rapturous roar.
And nine minutes into a dominant half, the opening goal finally came, and in some style.
Amad was granted just an inch of space on the edge of the area, and reminiscent of what he has done in a Sunderland shirt for his entire loan spell, whipped an incredible strike into the top corner to send the away fans into pandemonium, the most crucial of leads.
The game continued to remain open and chaotic, as Patterson did wonderfully to react to Bauer’s close-range header, before a slip at the death denied Pritchard the opportunity to score an unbelievable second following great trickery into the box.
But the Lads were clinical, and Pritchard showed that with an immense display of composure, taking his time and sending an excellent shot into the corner to wrong-foot Woodman and make it 2-0.
And it got even better, before the half was even 20 minutes old. Encouraged by the relentless passion of the near-6,000 Mackems, Clarke produced a piece of brilliance yet again to send a superb strike nestling into the bottom corner, putting the Lads out of sight at Deepdale.
The Lads played out the rest of the match in a professional, dominant manner and with results elsewhere going in our favour, we snatch a place in the top six and keep going ‘Til The End.
SUNDERLAND AFC: Patterson; Gooch © (Anderson 66’), Hume, O’Nien, Cirkin (Pritchard 46’); Ekwah (Lihadji 86’), Neil; Roberts, Amad (Ba 86’), Clarke; Gelhardt (Michut 71’).
Subs not used: Bass, Taylor.
Preston North End: Woodman, Fernandez, Lindsay, Delap (Woodburn 69’), McCann, Storey, Parrott (Onomah 55’), Bauer, Ledson ©, Cannon, Potts.
Subs not used: Cornell, Slater, Leigh, Mawene, Kamara.