Sunderland AFC 2-0 Ipswich Town
Sunderland returned to Sky Bet League One action on Saturday, claiming a 2-0 win against Ipswich Town.
A pulsating opening 45 minutes saw both sides push forward, as a deafening atmosphere provided a perfect backdrop at the Stadium of Light.
Chances fell at both ends before the break and penalty appeals were waved away, but the deadlock remained intact at the interval.
The second period was a more understated affair, as both sides held their nerve and looked to craft a decisive opening that would claim victory.
Aiden McGeady and Alex Pritchard were introduced in the final half-hour, with Leon Dajaku also featuring for the final 10 minutes, and the Lads’ intent was rewarded.
With just five minutes to spare, Luke O’Nien struck a knockout blow and McGeady’s penalty sealed the points in added time.
Lee Johnson made several changes to the starting XI, as Tom Flanagan dropped to the bench and Dennis Cirkin missed out.
Bailey Wright was recalled and O’Nien lined up at left-back, with Corry Evans captaining a side that was spearheaded by Nathan Broadhead and Ross Stewart.
Elliot Embleton mustered the first attempt inside five minutes, but the midfielder’s wayward strike failed to live up to his incisive build-up.
Ipswich eased into the game and tested the Lads’ backline, as Macauley Bonne’s volley was well-blocked and Janoi Donacien headed off target.
The visitors looked to spring a counter on 20 minutes, but they were stopped in their tracks as Evans fouled Kyle Edwards and picked up the first yellow card of the contest.
A deafening noise greeted the halfway point of the opening period, as the red and white army rallied around their team and urged them onto the front foot.
Lynden Gooch responded and drove down the right wing, but he was unable to pick out a team-mate and Ipswich regrouped to clear.
Thorben Hoffmann was forced into action for the first time shortly after, collecting Bersant Celina’s low drive after bright play from Edwards.
The action continued at scintillating speed and two penalty appeals were waved away – both for challenges on Stewart – with Hoffmann producing a stunning triple save to ensure parity remained at the break.
Neither side threatened in the opening stages of the second period, and Johnson made a change on the hour mark as McGeady entered the fray.
Clear-cut chances remained few and far between, but the Black Cats continued to signal their intent as Pritchard and Dajaku joined McGeady and Stewart in the final third.
An excellent first touch from Sone Aluko fashioned a rare opening with 15 minutes remaining, but the winger blazed over the top from 10 yards.
And a winner arrived five minutes from time.
Pritchard’s corner looped beyond the Ipswich back line and O’Nien stayed the course, heading home from close range before McGeady’s spot kick sealed victory.
Sunderland AFC: Hoffmann; Winchester; Wright, Doyle, O’Nien; Evans (Pritchard 76’), Neil, Gooch, Embleton (McGeady 63’); Stewart, Broadhead (Dajaku’)
Subs not used: Patterson, Flanagan, Alves, O’Brien
Ipswich Town: Walton, Donacien, Nsiala, Edmundson, Clements, Morsy (C), Evans, Aluko, Celina (Fraser 11’), Edwards (Chaplin 69’), Bonne (Pigott 81’)
Subs not used: Hladky, Vincent-Young, Burgess, El Mizouni