Sunderland finally secured a second clean sheet of the season, as the lads moved up to third in the League One table with a 2-0 victory, courtesy of an Omar Beckles own goal and a Luke O’Nien late strike.
Sunderland substitutes Lynden Gooch and O’Nien made the difference for The Black Cats going into a big away fixture against Doncaster in midweek.
Sunderland travelled to Shropshire looking to jump back into the top three as Jack Ross’ men were aiming to gain back to back away victories.
The two sides last met in the league back in 1989 where Sunderland came out 2-1 winners at Roker Park.
Shrewsbury who finished third last season had been struggling this campaign, they sat in 17th place and only two points away from the relegation zone coming into the game.
Jack Ross made only one change to the line-up with Dylan McGeouch replacing the suspended Max Power. Good news for Sunderland was that Lynden Gooch was back in the squad, the American winger started on the bench after being out with a hamstring injury.
With Max Power suspended and George Honeyman on the bench, the captain’s armband returned to Lee Cattermole.
Sunderland started the game on the front foot and had three corners and a free kick all within the first three minutes of the game.
Following a positive start from the away side, Shrewsbury had begun to grow into the game. The hosts were targeting the wings and were often putting balls into the box to test the Sunderland back line.
20 minutes into the game and neither side had tested either keeper with both teams struggling to find that bit of quality.
Sunderland’s first shot of the game came half an hour in which just about summed up how the game was going. Jerome Sinclair burst down the right-hand side but, on the angle, his shot was tame and was easy for Joel Coleman in Shrewsbury goal.
Sunderland’s second shot was only minutes later, and it could have been a fourth goal of the season for Cattermole. Sinclair again did well down the right-hand side, but this time crossed it in. Cattermole ran into the box late as he hit it on the volley from 12 yards out, however, couldn’t he control his shot which flew over the bar.
Late in the half Shrewsbury came so close to going one up, a Shaun Whalley in swinging free-kick evaded everyone. It hit the crossbar and Jon McLaughlin was well beaten in his attempts to save.
As the half ended, Sunderland didn’t look at the races. There seemed to be a lack of quality and energy in the team. No doubt Ross will have been tempted to look to his bench early in the second half to get his team firing.
Not long into the second half, Jack Ross had seen enough. Surprisingly though it was Josh Maja who came off for Gooch who made his first appearance since the draw to Coventry.
Minutes after coming on Gooch made the impact his manager had been looking for. Following a short corner Gooch whipped it in and Flanagan was the closest to the ball, however it clearly went off Omar Beckles who knew nothing about it. If ever a goal had summed up a game it was that one, scrappy as they come but they all count the same.
The goal had sparked Sunderland into life, Chris Maguire almost made it two with a fine long-range effort, but it was well stopped by Coleman.
Shrewsbury came close to an equalizer from a great delivery from a corner. It was met by Beckles trying to make amends for his own goal. However, he couldn’t get the accuracy to power it in the far corner.
The impact of Honeyman and Gooch had made a huge influence on the game. Not only for the goal, but that extra bit of energy and intensity was massive. While trying to defend a lead, it was exactly what the lads were missing in the first half.
Sunderland could have killed the game off with just over ten minutes to play. Adam Matthews put in a delicious ball to the back post which skimmed the head of Sinclair and was just too quick for Maguire who arrived late at the back stick.
Jack Baldwin who had been solid all game, almost had a nightmare. He gave the ball straight to Aaron Amadi Holloway but fortunately, he flashed his shot wide of the near post. If he had showed a big more composure, he could have played it to Lee Angol who was open in the box.
Jack Ross may well be a tactical genius, two substitutes combined to score Sunderland’s second goal of the game. Gooch played a brilliant little through ball to Luke O’Nien- with essentially his first touch of the game he expertly rifled it into the bottom corner for his first ever Sunderland goal.
O’Nien had been on the field for less than two minutes and did brilliantly to keep his composure as he fired it home. No doubt he was brought on to sure up the midfield, but Jack Ross will be delighted with the midfielder’s attacking impact.
Final Score: Sunderland 2 Shrewsbury 0
ALS Man of the Match: Lynden Gooch