Updated: Mar 13
Sunderland dropped out of the playoffs with a shocking performance away at the Memorial Stadium.
Jonson Clarke-Harris opened the scoring in the first half with the only moment of quality in the opening period. Things only got worse in the second half as Clarke-Harris doubled the home sides lead and secured the three points.
Phil Parkinson made two changes to the line-up following Saturday's disappointing draw to Gillingham; Josh Scowen and Antoine Semenyo made their full debuts replacing George Dobson and Lynden Gooch in the starting 11.
Sunderland started on the front foot with Semenyo involved early on – the Bristol City loanee made a great run through the centre of the pitch but couldn’t manage to get a meaningful shot off.
Despite a positive start from the lads, at the back, Sunderland looked all over the place and the long balls were causing all sorts of problems. Jayden Mitchell-Lawson got into the area and looked to pull it back to a teammate but only found Scowen who did well to turn it behind.
25 minutes into the game it was an even affair at the Memorial Stadium with neither team getting a foothold in the game.
The longer the half went on the scrappier it became; it was a tactic that suited the hosts to the ground – the lads needed to concentrate on their own game.
It was a first half with little no zero quality, and it looked like one of those game where a solitary goal would be enough to gain the three points.
Rovers took the lead through Jonson Clarke-Harris and it was far too easy he was found at the back stick and turned with ease and fired it in past Jon McLaughlin.
Sunderland looked lost defensively and were giving away several silly fouls which was an ideal scenario for the hosts to slow the game down and hold onto their lead.
Just before the break, Rovers thought they should have had a penalty as Cameron Hargreaves felt that he was brought down by McLaughlin, but the referee saw it the other way and booked the Rovers midfielder for diving.
The leads needed half time desperately, Parkinson had a big task on his hands to motivate his group and push them towards a much better second half performance.
With Kyle Lafferty booked and on the verge of a second was replaced at half time by Charlie Wyke who came on to lead the line – a sensible decision with the referee dishing out 12 red cards this season.
Sunderland had started the half the better side, but the game was set up perfectly for the hosts to sit back and allow the lads to have the possession in the middle of the park.
An hour into the game Sunderland had two shots with one on target – there was simply no creativity.
In a bid to change the game Parkinson’s threw on Gooch to replace Ozturk as the team moved to a flat back four.
Sunderland’s night got even worse as Rovers were gifted a penalty; the ball struck Max Power’s hand and left the referee with no choice. McLaughlin went the right way and should have saved it as it went underneath the Scot. It was a horror show for Sunderland who were set to hand the hosts their second win in 18 games.
Mitchell-Lawson almost got a third as he broke into the box, but on the angle, he couldn’t beat McLaughlin as his effort crashed into the side netting.
The hosts may not have immense quality, but they had the effort and desire which Sunderland were lacking in every department.
Will Grigg came on for Scowen with minutes left to give the former Wigan striker a rare appearance in a red and white shirt.
Clarke-Harris almost sealed his hat-trick but was denied by a great save from McLaughlin who turned it around the post.
You could argue this was the worst and most damaging performance under Parkinson – a tragic display from a set of players who weren’t worthy of the fan’s devotion.
Full Time: Bristol Rovers 2-0 Sunderland
ALS Man of the Match: Antoine Semenyo, the only player to at least put in some effort.