Sunderland AFC 1-0 Bolton Wanderers
Carl Winchester’s first-half winner once again sealed victory for Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, overcoming Bolton Wanderers on Wearside to maintain a 100% home record in Sky Bet League One.
The Northern Irishman’s third of the campaign provided the crucial turning point, as the Lads stay in the automatic promotion places.
Lee Johnson made two changes from the Lads’ last league outing at Fleetwood Town seven days ago, with Alex Pritchard given a starting place as Lynden Gooch dropped out, and Tom Flanagan returning from suspension to replace Bailey Wright.
After an even start, the Lads took the initiative and grabbed a lead 17 minutes into the contest. An excellent break forward by Dennis Cirkin resulted in a fizzed low ball across the six-yard box, picking out the back-post arrival of Winchester to tap home.
Sunderland carved out further shouts, most notably two Ross Stewart hits saved by Joel Dixon and Pritchard’s ambitious effort off target from outside the area, while Eoin Doyle got in front of his marker well to fire a first-time shot wide at the other end.
To close the first half, Cirkin’s brilliant persistence saw him win a ball near the by-line on the left flank, squaring for Dan Neil whose shot was well blocked by the Bolton rear guard.
The second half forced the visitors to open up and play in a riskier fashion, delivering numerous threatening balls into the box. Striker Doyle was then denied in the air by a good reflex stop from Thorben Hoffmann, tipping the effort over the top.
George Johnston later volleyed a good chance wide, with Pritchard being denied by Dixon in Sunderland’s best opportunity.
A nasty clash of heads between Cirkin and Lloyd Isgrove saw both players replaced as a precautionary measure, with Johnson making a triple change after 65 minutes – Corry Evans, Leon Dajaku and Niall Huggins entering the fray. With Cirkin’s being a ‘concussion’ substitution, Bailey Wright was able to come on as a fourth change late on.
With the majority of the second period being played in the Sunderland half, the Lads looked mainly on the break to earn attacking chances, with Winchester and Ross Stewart both seeing shots blocked in a counter move.
Hoffmann was again alert with five minutes remaining to thwart Doyle, who combined with his namesake Callum Doyle to keep Bolton at bay.
With seven minutes added on by the referee, the task was all on the Black Cats to see the match out. Dajaku passed up two genuine chances in added time, but a resolute clean sheet saw the three points stay on Wearside.
SUNDERLAND AFC: Hoffmann; Winchester, Flanagan, Doyle (Wright 88’), Cirkin (Huggins 65’); O’Nien, Neil; Embleton (Dajaku 65’), Pritchard (Evans 65’), McGeady ©; Stewart.
Subs not used: Burge, Alves, Broadhead.
Bolton Wanderers: Dixon, Jones, Williams, Santos, Johnston, Sheehan (Lee 85’), Doyle, Sarcevic ©, Afolayan, Isgrove (Kachunga 61’), Gordon (John 72’).
Subs not used: Gilks, Delfouneso, Thomason, Baptiste.