Sunderland came from behind to beat Walsall 2 – 1 at the SOL in blustery conditions on Saturday and make up ground on Barnsley in the hunt for automatic promotion. The lads fell behind to an early goal from Josh Gordon after Jack Ross’ side started the game below par before Lee Cattermole drew the lads level before the break with his sixth goal of the season. Will Grigg then sealed the points midway through the second half with a well worked goal which leaves Sunderland two points off second with a game in hand.
After Barnsley drew away to Doncaster on Friday night automatic promotion was back in the hands of Jack Ross' Sunderland side. Walsall headed to Wearside with one eye looking over their shoulders sitting only four points clear of the relegation zone with the game set to have a big impact on both ends of the table.
Jack Ross had some good news on the injury front with defenders Tom Flanagan and Reece James both available after sitting out Tuesday’s stalemate at Oakwell although George Honeyman remained suspended whilst Duncan Watmore unfortunately joined Chris Maguire facing a lengthy spell on the side lines after being on the receiving end of a bad tackle last Saturday at Wycombe.
Ross made two changes to the side that drew with Barnsley on Tuesday with Tom Flanagan and Lewis Morgan replacing Jimmy Dunne and Lynden Gooch. The visitors got the game underway kicking towards the North Stand and straight away you could see the ball holding up in the wind as it swirled round the stadium.
The visitors took the lead inside five minutes after Sunderland conceded a sloppy opener after Flanagan was penalised for a foul on the corner of the box. The free kick was curled into the box and flicked past McLaughlin by Josh Gordon who was given far too much space in the box. The visitors had another chance to break soon after when O'Nien conceded possession on the halfway line with a lazy pass to McGeady but fortunately the Walsall shot was blocked. Another loose ball in the midfield this time by Leadbitter allowed the visitors to breach our defence again but the linesman’s flag spared Sunderland.
After fifteen minutes the lads thought they had equalised after Power had bundled the ball into the back of the net from Leadbitter's free kick but the ref ruled it out for a foul. After twenty minutes Morgan had an effort from the edge of the box which just curled past the post after he was set up after a good run forward by McGeady. A minute later Morgan went close again with a powerful drive after again being played in by McGeady but the keeper parried it over and onto the roof of the net. From the resulting corner Morgan had another effort but it was skied well over.
On twenty five minutes more good work from McGeady down the right hand side created space for O'Nien but the stand in right back dragged his shot across goal and wide of the post. At the other end McLaughlin was forced into a decent save after Gordon got into the box with a surging run before the rebound was scrambled clear by O'Nien at the back post.
Sunderland drew level just after the half hour through Lee Cattermole who squeezed a volley in at the near post from a tight angle. Cattermole picked up the ball after Leadbitter's corner was half cleared with he stand in skipper bringing the ball down on his chest and firing past the keeper. Five minutes later we had another effort after Leadbitter's free kick was misjudged by the Walsall defender allowing Grigg to bring it down and unleash a left footed volley but the keeper made a decent save. Before the break Power had a decent effort deflected wide after he got into a good position after a good touch allowed him to break into the box but the sides went in level at half time.
Neither side made any changes at the break and Lee Cattermole picked up an early yellow for a foul just inside our half. McGeady had a decent effort on goal from the edge of the box which was tipped round the post for a corner. Leadbitter swung it in and Max Power got on the end of it and looped a header just over and onto the roof of the net. Two minutes later we had another effort when Leadbitter struck a half volley from the edge of the box which the keeper managed to hold.
With half an hour to go Ross made his first change of the game with Lynden Gooch replacing Lee Cattermole. Five minutes later Denver Hume followed him onto the pitch replacing Adam Matthews. With twenty minutes remaining a good run and cross down the right by Gooch almost presented McGeady with a open goal at the back post but a defender got back to nod behind for a corner which was over hit and wasted.
Jack Ross made his final change with Charlie Wyke replacing Lewis Morgan and the change had an immediate impact as he set up Sunderland’s second of the goal. The ball was played in to Wyke who teed up Grigg who clipped a low left footed shot past the keeper into the bottom right hand corner.
The lads continued to have the majority of the play without threatening too much although the visitors continued to look lively going forward. With five minutes remaining Walsall won a free kick midway in our half which was taken short and played wide but Hume did well to cut out the cross with Walsall having numbers forward.
The lads continued to defend well especially as Walsall, as you would expect through the kitchen sink forward for the final stages of the game, but Sunderland’s backline remained resolute. There was four minutes of injury time and Sunderland almost nabbed a third after a mix up at the back for the visitors almost presented McGeady with an open goal but they recovered to scramble it clear. At the other end there was a scare when Walsall got a sight of goal at the death but Luke O'Nien did well to block the shot.
Final Score: Sunderland 2 Walsall 1
ALS Man of the Match: Aiden McGeady