The game against Northampton was Sunderland’s 100th game in League One (excluding play offs). If you read that sentence ten years ago you would have probably laughed, however that is the sad reality of Sunderland at present. Regardless of where you think Sunderland should be, we are where we are for a reason. Depressing, I know
I didn’t expect us to have more than 46 games in League One never mind over 100, however we are currently in our third consecutive campaign in the third division. Hopefully this is the last season in League One and Lee Johnson guides us back to the Championship come May. This article will take a look at some of the best League One performances since our back to back relegations in 2018.
SUNDERLAND 4-2 BARNSLEY - 27TH NOVEMBER 2018
Whilst the score line might suggest that this was a routine victory it was actually a tense, nervy affair. However it was one of Sunderland’s best performances under Jack Ross. Both sides had been relegated from the Championship at the end of the 2017/18 season and were looking to secure an immediate return. Sunderland went into the game on a 13 game unbeaten run whilst Barnsley hadn’t lost in 7 games. Under the floodlights at the Stadium of Light the lads raced into a 3-0 lead after 30 mins, McGeady was fouled in the box before dispatching the resulting spot kick to make it 1-0. A minute later Josh Maja turned his man and curled the ball into the bottom corner to make it 2. A brilliant counter attack had Sunderland in total control of the game, McGeady fed the ball to Gooch who curled a strike into the top-left corner. However Barnsley pulled one back through Kieffer Moore in the 41st minute and hit the post just before half time. The Tykes continued to press Sunderland in the second half and scored again in the 61st minute. From a corner Kieffer Moore had a free header and made it 3-2, setting up a nervy last 30 minutes. However a Luke O’Nien tap in sealed the points in the last ten minutes. The victory kept us second in League One and was one of our performances of the season. We managed to take the game away from a very good Barnsley side in the opening 30 mins. Despite shipping two goals and it looking tense we managed to stay ahead with some smart defensive work and some fantastic saves from Jon McLaughlin. The ability to take our chances and be out of sight was something we lacked in the 18/19 season. We would often go 1-0 up, fail to capitalise and then be pegged back to 1-1. We drew 19 games in our first season in League One, 15 of those were 1-1. Despite the victory over Barnsley it was the Yorkshire club who had the last laugh as they were promoted at the end of the season, finishing second.
DONCASTER 1-2 SUNDERLAND 29TH DECEMBER 2019
Whilst the performance in this game was good, the significance of this result was far more important. Sunderland had went into the game on a nine game winless run and in 15th place. The 0-0 draw at home to Bolton on Boxing Day had led to calls for Phil Parkinson to be sacked and led to a statement from fan groups urging Stewart Donald to sell the club. Starting the game in 15th place it was the lowest position Sunderland had ever been in our history. Backed by 4000 travelling fans, Sunderland took the lead in the sixth minute thanks to a Lynden Gooch effort from the edge of the box. The lads could have been out of sight in the first half as Charlie Wyke had a trio of shots saved by the Doncaster keeper. In typical Sunderland fashion we let our lead slip whilst dominating. Against the run of play Jon Taylor equalised in the 40st minute, firing a shot past Jon McLaughlin. Despite the setback the lads showed tremendous character in the second half and got their reward in the 61st minute. Chris Maguire lashed home a Denver Hume cutback and sent the travelling Sunderland fans into raptures. After seeing out the rest of the game without a problem we took three points back to Wearside. The scenes at full time were fantastic with the Red and White army in full voice. The result marked an end to the dreadful run under Parkinson and was a turning point in the season. We won eight out of the next 11 games looked on course for promotion. However, a run of four games without a win in February/March 2020 left us out of the play offs when the season was halted due to Covid. The resulting curtailment and Points Per Game weighing meant we finished 8th and missed out on the Play Offs.
SAFC 4-0 WYCOMBE 11TH JANUARY 2020
A resurgent Sunderland headed into the game against top of the table Wycombe on the back of a 3-1 victory against Lincoln the week before. Whilst league leaders Wycombe came into the game having lost three out of their last four. Like the Lincoln game the week before we started with a frantic pace and raced into a 3-0 lead inside the opening 21 minutes. Charlie Wyke tapped in the first after a Gooch cross in the six minute. Before Denver Hume rifled home his first senior goal after a cross from Jordan Willis. After an off the ball foul on Gooch in the box, Chris Maguire smashed home the resulting spot kick and had the game out of sight. The thrashing was completed ten minutes from time when Chris Maguire scored his second, with a stunning free kick which hit the underside of the woodwork. The performance and result was arguably the best under Phil Parkinson. The ruthlessness going forward was matched by a resolute performance at the back. We managed to keep out the league leaders without them even looking threatening. It was one of those performances that left you scratching your head thinking why can’t we play like this every week. As explained above the season was curtailed in June 2020 meaning Sunderland missed out on the play offs. However the curtailment and PPG method had different fortunes for Wycombe. The Chairboys were 7th when the season was halted in March, however they moved into the Play Offs via the PPG method. Wycombe eventually won the Play Off final and are now in the Championship. Like Barnsley the season before, Sunderland outplayed a side that eventually ended up getting promoted, typical eh.
LINCOLN 0-4 SUNDERLAND 12TH DECEMBER 2020
This game should be fresh in your mind since it was only a few weeks ago. After the horror show against Wigan in Lee Johnson’s first game things could literally only get better. Lincoln went into the game in second place and had only conceded 10 goals all season. After a quick start Lincoln missed two glorious chances. However after 16 minutes Jack Diamond was tripped by Jorge Grant in the box and Grant Leadbitter tucked away the resulting spot kick. Nine minutes later Charlie Wyke prodded home a second. Our third goal that afternoon was arguably the best. On the counter attack Aiden McGeady drove at the Lincoln defence before passing the ball into Diamond who produced a sensational finish, curling the ball past Alex Palmer. Sunderland dominated again in the second half and added a fourth when Charlie Wyke crashed home a Maguire pull back. The game was significant for a number of reasons, it marked Lee Johnson’s first win in charge and it was Aiden McGeady’s first appearance in over a year. Whilst we were fortunate not to be 2-0 down early on we looked a real threat going forward and attacked with pace and intent. We took risks and were rewarded for doing so, something we rarely did under Phil Parkinson. We couldn’t capitalise on the performance against Wimbledon a few days later, however having eight players self-isolating due to Covid didn’t help. After another draw against Northampton last weekend let’s hope we can kick on under Johnson and achieve promotion at the third time of asking.