Sunderland got back to winning ways with a comprehensive 4 – 1 demolition of Rochdale at the SOL on Saturday. A brace a piece from Josh Maja and Lynden Gooch saw Sunderland cruise to victory and move back up the league to third after a much-improved performance in front of another great crowd in chilly conditions.
Sunderland looked to bounce back after their first league defeat of the season at Burton Albion against Rochdale who headed to Wearside for what would be the first competitive meeting between the two sides. The loss last weekend at Burton was disappointing and further salt was rubbed to the wounds with the news of Charlie Wykes lengthy spell on the side-lines with posterior cruciate ligament damage.
Meanwhile Max Power remained suspended although there was some good news on the injury front with Aiden McGeady making his first appearance of the season last weekend and Dylan McGeouch returning to training through the week. Jack Ross confirmed Josh Maja was expected to be fit despite missing a couple of days training with a knock after the youngster was recognised for his impressive start to the season picking up the EFL young player of the month for August.
On paper Rochdale looked a stern test for Sunderland having won 3 – 0 last time out against Gillingham whilst avoiding defeat against the lads would see them go unbeaten in five and move within a point of us in the league. Ross made four changes to his side whose unbeaten run ended last weekend with Flanagan, Hume, McGeouch and Maguire returning at the expense of Oviedo, Matthews, Sinclair and Wyke.
We had the first effort on goal after Cattermole won a free kick on the edge of the box but Maguire blazed it over. We had another effort after five minutes after Flanagan switched the play from the right flank picking out Hume but he volleyed wide across the goal.
The visitors responded after thirteen minutes when Loovens gave away a free kick on the edge of the box with a lazy challenge. We cleared that for a corner and then cleared the subsequent corner but Rochdale were starting to get a foot hold in the game.
Rochdale created the best chance of the game after twenty minutes when they carved open our defence and fed their number 18 who opened up the goal by cutting inside but he wasted the chance curling the shot high and wide. Loovens was then booked for a rash challenge on the half way line before the visitors had another chance when their number 24 clipped a good ball into the box but it missed everyone and went for a goal kick.
Sunderland tried to get back into the game and Hume won a free kick on the left hand side but Maguire wasted it by lashing it out for a goal kick. Hume was behind another attack when his left wing surge saw Sunderland force a couple of corners but other than a half hearted appeal for a foul in the box we never threatened from them.
On thirty five minutes Gooch forced a corner with a good run and cross but from the subsequent set piece Baldwin was penalised for holding when in fact it looked like he was being fouled. Sunderland did take the lead soon after from the man in form Josh Maja who nabbed another goal with a great header. He was teed up by a great cross from the left wing by Maguire and the unmarked young striker made no mistake glancing the ball into the bottom right hand corner to nab his sixth of the season.
We doubled our lead soon after from the penalty spot after Lynden Gooch both won and converted the penalty. First the American won the spot kick with a good run into the box where he was felled with a low tackle. Gooch then got up and found the back of the net with a confident penalty into the bottom right hand corner. To be fair to the visitors they responded well and McLaughlin was forced into a decent save after a powerful free kick was drove goalwards from twenty five yards.
Sunderland made it three on the stroke of half time and yet again it was the magic man Josh Maja who found the net after a great ball in from Hume. Maja done well turning in the box and firing into the back of the net albeit by a small deflection.
Neither side made any changes at the break and it was Rochdale who had the first effort of the second half but it was headed over. The visitors went close soon after from another corner, first a shot was cleared off the line before McLaughlin made a superb save to tip a header over the bar. From the resulting corner Rochdale thought they should have had a penalty when Gooch challenged their player but the ref awarded Sunderland a free kick and cautioned the player for diving.
We had our first decent effort of the second half with half an hour remaining after a good move saw Cattermole find Maja on the edge of the box who in turn found Hume but the young defender blazed wide. A minute later Sunderland had another great chance to add to their lead when the ball fell invitingly to Lee Cattermole on the edge of the box but he skied his effort so far over the bar it ended up in the Colliery Tavern car park.
Lynden Gooch got his fourth of the game twenty minutes from time with another good goal from the right hand side. The American picked up the ball on the wing and cut inside and curled a great shot into the bottom left hand corner. Josh Maja's chance of getting a hat trick disappeared when the fourth went in as Ross decided to replace him with Sinclair, a sensible decision with the game won.
The visitors did nab a consolation when Done stabbed home from inside the six yard box to ruin Sunderland's hope of a clean sheet. Ross responded by introducing Aiden McGeady for Chris Maguire to give the Irish winger some more match fitness. McGeady had an immediate chance to make an impact when he found space on the edge of the box but after a couple of step overs his tame effort was held by the keeper.
With five minutes remaining Lynden Gooch was subbed in place of Bryan Oviedo meaning he would also not be getting a hat trick. We had another chance when Oviedo had a shot from the edge of the box which was tipped over. Sunderland saw out the six minutes of injury time comfortably the only disappointing thing was the amount of people leaving the ground early despite the win.
Final Score: Sunderland 4 Rochdale 1
ALS Man of the Match: Josh Maja