Sunderland made incredibly hard work of beating promotion rivals Barnsley 4 – 2 at the SOL on Tuesday evening in wet and windy conditions. A dominant first half performance saw Aiden McGeady, Josh Maja and Lynden Gooch put the lads three nil up after half an hour although Barnsley did rally before the break and get one back through Kieffer Moore. Moore then grabbed another goal midway through the second half setting up a nervy finish for Ross’ side who needed a late Luke O'Nien strike to seal the points.
Sunderland went into the game still unbeaten after Saturday’s late dramatic comeback at Walsall where Max Power received his third red card of the season. Fortunately for Power and Sunderland the red card was rescinded meaning he was available for selection with Dylan McGeouch and Lee Cattermole both still side-lined through injury.
Barnsley headed to Wearside boasting a seven game unbeaten run and lying only two points behind the lads in the table. Jack Ross made one change from the weekend with Chris Maguire returning at the expense of Bryan Oviedo.
Sunderland got the game underway kicking towards the South Stand in wet and windy conditions with the lads having the first effort on target but Power's log range effort was charged down. It was a cagey opening from both sides but the visitors fashioned a decent position after ten minutes with the left back finding space down our right side but he failed to pick out one of several Barnsley shirts in the box.
After twelve minutes Sunderland almost opened the scoring after a great passage of play saw us string numerous passes together and switch the ball from the right to the left. James crossed for Maja but he bundled his shot wide of the near post. At the other end the visitors had an effort on goal after Baldwin hopelessly gave away possession on the edge of the box but the Barnsley shot was wide of the left-hand post. The visitors had another effort soon after but McLaughlin was equal to the low shot.
After eighteen minutes Sunderland took the lead after McGeady both won and scored a penalty. The Irishman was felled by a sliding tackle as he surged into the box but he picked himself up and coolly slotted the ball into the bottom left hand corner of the net sending the keeper the wrong way. From the restart the lads doubled the lead through Josh Maja as he was played in on goal and rode a challenge before curling an unstoppable shot with his left foot past the keeper.
Jack Ross’ side were on fire and Josh Maja was guilty of missing an easier chance from what he scored from after some slick football from Sunderland. Honeyman slipped the ball to Maguire on the right hand side and he clipped a ball into the six yard box for Maja with the goal at his mercy but he nodded wide.
The visitors hit back and had a shot which sailed over before we did well clearing a corner as the game settled back down after Sunderland’s electric spell on top. Just as this happened the ref played a great advantage after Honeyman was hacked down and Sunderland added to their lead through Lynden Gooch. The American picked up the ball on the edge of the box to steer a cracking strike into the top right hand corner of the goal.
Sunderland were cruising at this point with the fans cheering every pass but five minutes before the break the visitors snatched a goal back through Moore. McLaughlin had just made a great save to block a shot but Gooch had a poor touch trying to clear allowing Moore to smash the ball into the back of the net. The goal swung the momentum in favour of the visitors and they ended the first half well on top and almost added another but Sunderland were grateful to the woodwork before the ref brought proceedings to a close.
Neither side made any changes at the break but there was an early stoppage after Matthews went down under a challenge in our box but he was able to get up an continue. Sunderland had the first effort on goal in the second half when McGeady found space on the edge of the box but he drove a powerful shot over the bar.
The visitors started the second half as they finished the first on top and forcing a succession of corners but for the odd scramble the defence dealt with this relatively comfortably. With half an hour remaining Jack Ross made his first change with Luke O'Nien replacing Josh Maja. This change back fired immediately as Barnsley and Moore grabbed their second of the game with a free header from a corner.
Sunderland were rattled but rode the storm and should have scored with twenty minutes left after fantastic work and cross from McGeady on the left but Gooch didn’t connect with the header. With fifteen minutes remaining Maguire wasted a good chance when he was played in on goal with just the keeper to beat but the keeper did well racing from his box and making a challenge.
With ten minutes left Barnsley had a half chance after Moore got up ahead of Flanagan but his downward header was held by McLaughlin. Sunderland sealed the game going down the other end and scoring their fourth after McGeady done well on the left slipping in O'Nien to slot home.
Ross made a couple of changes late on with Sinclair and Oviedo replacing Maguire and Gooch but despite six minutes injury time Sunderland saw out the victory.
Final Score: 4-2
ALS Man of the Match: Aiden McGeady