Jack Ross’ Sunderland won their third game in a row to keep up their automatic promotion challenge with a comfortable 2 – 0 win over Plymouth Argyle at the SOL on Saturday. Goals from midfielders Lee Cattermole and George Honeyman sealed the victory for the lads who remain third in the league hot on the heels of Luton and Barnsley who both also won.
Sunderland welcomed Plymouth to the SOL having won the reverse fixture 2 – 0 earlier in the season although the visitors had history on their side having won two of their last three trips to Wearside. Argyle were in decent form despite sitting 14th in the league having lost only one of their last ten 10 winning six of these.
Jack Ross revealed in his pre match press conference without naming names that he had a few fresh injury concerns whilst Chris Maguire and Bryan Oviedo remain ruled out long term. The Scot did suggest some players may be returning to full fitness one of whom was Donald Love. Ross made only one change to the side that won at Bristol on Saturday with Lewis Morgan replacing Duncan Watmore.
The visitors must have won the toss as the lads switched ends and kicked off towards the North Stand and we won a early free kick on the half way line after O'Nien was fouled but the ball into the box was gathered comfortably by the keeper. We then forced a corner which we bizarrely didn’t score from as Argyle cleared.
After six minutes Tom Flanagan needed treatment after a challenge on the half way line but he was able to continue. From the restart the visitors had a decent effort from the edge of the box which had McLaughlin scrambling but it went the wrong side of the post.
Sunderland were having the better of the opening stages but lacking end product in the final third whilst the visitors looked dangerous on the counter attack. A neat move started by McGeady on the half way line almost created an opening after he played a one two with O'Nien but the ball got stuck under the Irishman’s feet and the ball was cleared.
After 22 minutes McGeady was hacked down just past the half way line after already jumping one challenge but the ref failed to book the perpetrator. We had a decent effort on goal from a corner from Flanagan which the keeper held after 25 minutes then McGeady came close to opening the scoring with a shot from the edge of the box but the keeper turned it wide.
We took the lead after the half hour through Lee Cattermole after a sustained spell of pressure around the visitors box. The ball eventually fell to Cattermole surging into the box and he clinically found the roof of the net with a composed side footed finish.
Five minutes before half time we carved another good opening after McGeady set O'Nien away down the right hand flank and he delivered a great cross through the six yard box but Sunderland had no one on the end of it. Soon after we forced a corner which Leadbitter stood up into the box allowing the keeper to claim it easily.
On the stroke of half time McGeady had a great chance to double our lead after Morgan played him through on goal with great cross field ball but the keeper did well to stand up to McGeady and block the shot. The ball then found its way to Grigg on the right hand side of the box but his effort was charged down by the defender.
There was four minutes of injury time and Grigg had a gilt edge chance from inside the six yard box but again the keeper denied Sunderland. It was a good opening half from Jack Ross’ side with the only disappointment being we weren’t further ahead.
Neither side made any changes at the break and the first real action of the second period was Jimmy Dunne being cautioned for clattering a Plymouth player just inside our half. From the resulting free kick the visitors did manage an effort on goal with an ambitious volley blazed over the bar.
Plymouth had a chance after 57 minutes when Morgan was turned in the box but the shot was deflected wide for a corner although the visitors were appealing for a penalty for handball. We cleared the corner and forged a decent chance on a break when O'Nien clipped in a cross towards Cattermole but it was just too high. At the other end the Plymouth right back went close with a long range strike which sailed just wide but had McLaughlin worried enough to dive full stretch to his left.
With 25 minutes remaining the visitors had two chances to take the lead first McLaughlin had to be alert to palm away a shot what looked destined for the bottom corner. Then the rebound was slammed into the side netting when it looked easier to score. This prompted Jack Ross into his first change of the game with Duncan Watmore replacing Lewis Morgan.
We forced a corner with 20 minutes to play after Watmore had a cross blocked but Leadbitter's in swinger was punched away for a throw. The throw was tossed in to Watmore who had a touch and went down under a challenge in the box but half hearted appeals for a penalty were waved away. With 15 minutes remaining we fashioned our best chance of the second half when James crossed for Grigg but his header was wide.
With ten minutes left the visitors were forced into a double substitution one of which going off was the keeper who had been struggling and not able to take goal kicks. Sunderland wasted another opportunity in the closing stages when Watmore burst into the right hand side of the box and rolled a cross along the six yard box which was full of red and white shirts but they all missed it with Honeyman closest.
Honeyman soon made up for it a minute later when he sealed the points for the lads as Sunderland finally grabbed a deserved second. A cross from the left hand side from McGeady found Watmore who teed up the Sunderland skipper who made no mistake blasting a left footed volley into the back of the net. We could have had a third a minute later when Sunderland broke again in numbers but Watmore wasted the opportunity with a poor cross when we had men over.
For the final minutes Gooch and Wyke replaced McGeady and Grigg as Jack Ross ran down the clock. Watmore was flattered in injury time which brought a yellow card as the lads saw out the game professionally.
Final Score: Sunderland 2 Plymouth Argyle 0
ALS Man of the Match: George Honeyman