Onwards and Upwards

Phil Parkinson’s first home game in charge saw Sunderland take on Tranmere Rovers, who sat near the foot of the table. After a 1-0 defeat to Wycombe at the weekend, the new manager really needed a convincing win in this game to give the supporters some confidence that promotion is still the expectation. An excellent crowd of around 28,500 was expected to watch the lads under the floodlights, which is incredible considering our recent run of form. Hopefully, the players could use this attendance to their advantage and really go at the Tranmere back line, rather than just settling for mediocrity.

Parkinson opted for a total of four changes from the side that was defeated at Adams’ Park last Saturday afternoon. George Dobson replaced Grant Leadbitter in the heart of midfield, hopefully adding a bit more pace and urgency in possession. Aiden McGeady missed out through suspension, after collecting five yellow cards this season. This meant that Chris Maguire came into the side, a player who is more than capable of producing a moment of magic; which is often the difference between a win and a draw at this level. Lynden Gooch came in for Conor McLaughlin, meaning that Luke O’Nien moved back into defence. The final change saw Will Grigg replace Charlie Wyke, who missed out after picking up an unfortunate ankle injury on Saturday afternoon. Benjamin Kimpioka earned himself a spot on the bench, he’s a player that many supporters would like to see feature more regularly due to his pace and physicality.

Sunderland got off to a fast start, with a very close attempt coming after just three minutes. Chris Maguire found Will Grigg in the box and his brilliant effort rebounded off the woodwork. This was a huge warning for the visitors and a sign of what to expect from Sunderland for the remainder of the game. Another opportunity came not long after, as Duncan Watmore burst down the wing with pace before fizzing a dangerous ball across the face of goal but unfortunately no-one was there in red and white to tap it in.

After lots of pressure, the opening goal finally came after twenty-four minutes. Will Grigg slotted a brilliantly timed through ball into the path of Duncan Watmore, who placed the ball calmly into the corner of the net to open the scoring, 1-0. The Tranmere defenders had barely caught their breath before Duncan Watmore was charging at them yet again, this time winning a free-kick in a very promising position. Chris Maguire doubled the lead from the resulting set piece, by bending the ball past Scott Davies just 120 seconds after Duncan Watmore opened the scoring. It was the kind of fierce, attacking Football that the fans have been crying out for, the kind of football that keeps you on the edge of your seat for the full ninety minutes. Things just kept getting better, as Chris Maguire threaded the ball through the Tranmere defence for Duncan Watmore to pull it back and Lynden Gooch had the easy job of tapping it into the open net, 3-0 Sunderland at the break.

The second half got underway and If it was to be anything like the first, we were in for a treat. Unfortunately, Lynden Gooch’s game came to an abrupt end as he was forced off with a knock, which allowed Marc McNulty to come on for the remainder of the match. Tranmere almost found themselves a goal but Lee Burge tipped Stefan Payne‘s header onto the post to maintain the three goal advantage.

Then substitute, Marc McNulty, almost added a fourth when he ran through the defence but he dinked his attempt just over the crossbar. Things only got worse for Tranmere when Will Grigg converted from close range, the striker was involved in most of the Sunderland attacks and really deserved a goal for his efforts. The fifth and final goal of the game arrived in stoppage time as Luke O’Nien headed home after a brilliant free kick was delivered into the box. The game finished Sunderland 5-0 Tranmere, a perfect performance and a much needed win on Phil Parkinson’s home debut.

Overall, it was a terrific performance from the lads and great to finally get a clean sheet as well. We looked a threat every time we went forward, with a much more direct approach towards goal. Everyone played their part in this victory, but Duncan Watmore was particularly influential and Tranmere really struggled to keep up with him. Sunderland travel to Shrewsbury on Saturday afternoon and hopefully it’s onwards and upwards from here.