A League One record crowd saw Sunderland get back to winning ways beating Bradford City 1 – 0 on Boxing Day at the SOL. Over 46k fans saw Jack Ross’ side comfortably beat the Bantams thanks to a first half strike from Aiden McGeady although the lads really should have won by more although Sunderland still closed the gap on top to five points.
Bradford headed to Wearside in a decent run of form which had saw them win three of their last five games and move out of the relegation zone. Having lost on Saturday away to Portsmouth the gap between the league leaders and Sunderland stood at eight before the game although the lads still do have two games in hand.
Jack Ross was without Glenn Loovens for the game due to suspension after he was sent off at Fratton Park although he is also injured which will see him have a lengthier spell on the side-lines. Adam Matthews and Jon Flanagan were also still doubtful although Jack Ross hoped to have top scorer Josh Maja available after an illness.
Ross made four changes to the side that was beat by Portsmouth with Oviedo, Flanagan, Maguire and Maja replacing Loovens, James, Honeyman and Watmore. Meanwhile Charlie Wyke was fit enough to be on the bench.
Sunderland got the game underway and immediately went on the attack kicking towards the Roker End. Bradford had the first effort on goal after Cattermole conceded a free kick on the edge of the box after a mistake by Baldwin but the shot was way over. We had our first effort soon after when Gooch played in Maja but he dragged his shot across goal. The two then combined again this time Maja fed Gooch on the edge of the box but he clipped a left foot effort wide.
Just after ten minutes Maja almost opened the scoring when he latched onto a cross from Oviedo after some good work on the left by the Costa Rican. Oviedo beat his man and drove a low cross into Maja at the front post but Maja's flicked shot with the outside of his boot rolled agonisingly wide.
The lads had a chance from a corner on 25 minutes after we won the set piece after a good passage of football involving Maguire and Gooch. McGeady swung in the corner and Baldwin rose highest and placed a decent header on target but the keeper managed to hold it.
We took the lead on the half hour through Aiden McGeady as Sunderland’s dominance eventually told after the Irishman slammed a shot into the bottom corner The chance fell to McGeady after the keeper spilled a shot from Maja under pressure from Maguire and the winger made no mistake blasting the ball into the back of the net from just outside of the six yard box. We tried to double our lead immediately from the restart when Gooch got down the line and stood a ball up to the back post but Maja couldn’t get his head on it.
We ended the first half on too with a corner but couldn’t add to the lead. Neither side made any changes at the break and we started on the front foot again with O'Nien flashing a dangerous ball into the box but no one was on the end of it. We then forced a corner which was played in towards Baldwin but he couldn’t divert it goalwards before there was a break in play while one of the Bradford players received treatment
The visitors had there best chance of the game after 53 minutes when Bradford sprung Sunderland’s offside trap and McLaughlin raced off his line and over committed leaving an open goal after being rounded. The Bradford striker clipped the ball towards the goal but O'Nien did well getting back onto the line and calmly chesting back to McLaughlin.
Sunderland continued to be the better side going forward and through mixture of bad finishing and good defending didn’t add to the lead with Oviedo and Baldwin souring chances. With half an hour remaining Maguire won a free kick on the right hand side of the box which Oviedo curled towards the top corner but a defender glanced it over the bar with the keeper well beaten. We went close from the resulting corner but Flanagan’s header was over.
With twenty minutes remaining McGeady tested the keeper from the edge of the box but he held it quite easily. At the other end Bradford had a chance after some sloppy defending from Sunderland from a corner but Flanagan did well to block a shot. Flanagan then went on a run before being tackled and then getting involved in a skirmish which he was booked for.
With fifteen minutes remaining Ross made his first change of the game with Watmore replacing Maja. Having hardly troubled McLaughlin all game just as the massive attendance was announced McLaughlin turned into a hybrid of Lee Camp and Jason Steel and spilled a tame shot which looked to bobble over the line despite the efforts of McLaughlin to get back. However the linesman had a good look and didn’t award the goal which on one look at the stadium looked a real let off.
Ross reacted by replacing Gooch with Wyke for the final five or so minutes before McGeouch soon followed him replacing Maguire. Wyke got into the game immediately teeing up Watmore whose header was tipped over but Bradford easily cleared the resulting corner.
There was four minutes of injury time which Sunderland saw out the highlight of which was a storming run from Duncan Watmore which saw him run from his own half beating a few men before being fouled. We held on for the win as a large roar greeted the referees whistle.
Final Score: Sunderland 1 Bradford City 0
ALS Man of the Match: Luke O'Nien