Sunderland AFC 5-0 Cheltenham Town
Sunderland returned to the top of the Sky Bet League One table on Tuesday night, running riot against Cheltenham Town at the Stadium of Light.
Bailey Wright opened the scoring by heading home Aiden McGeady’s corner, before Ross Stewart struck twice to give the Lads a three-goal lead at the break.
Luke O’Nien and Leon Dajaku fired a quickfire double between them in the second half to round off the victory in style, on a night where Sunderland showed a clinical attacking performance.
Lee Johnson made five changes to the side which came out on top over Bolton Wanderers on Saturday, with Nathan Broadhead, Aiden O’Brien and Niall Huggins among those starting.
Wright along with Corry Evans provided further leadership in the XI, and a fast start from the Lads saw the Australian centre-half net his first of the season.
Carl Winchester’s inch-perfect ball from the right picked out Broadhead, whose first touch sent him through against Scott Flinders. Rounding the goalkeeper and finding the angle acute, he elected to square to Stewart who was denied on the line. From the resulting corner, McGeady picked out Wright to nod tidily into the far corner for the opener.
The alertness of the Black Cats going forward was evident and shortly before the half-hour mark, it was two.
A glittering move saw Winchester involved again with a pass inside, which was dummied cleverly by Broadhead for Stewart, who this time made no mistake and doubled the Sunderland lead.
With their tails up, the Lads looked ruthless and showed some excellent play once more for a third, and Stewart’s second. Broadhead played through McGeady who found himself in behind, and unselfishly claimed a second assist to provide the Lads’ top scorer with his seventh of the league campaign.
Chances continued, with Stewart denied a hat-trick by a last-ditch challenge from Lewis Freestone, before Broadhead fired just wide with a powerful left-footed strike on the cusp of half-time.
The second half continued in the same vein of confidence, O’Brien and Evans both testing Flinders, either side of Stewart’s unselfish square pass in the box to Broadhead being intercepted.
And with the barrage of attack came the clinical edge which certainly was not lacking in the first 45 minutes.
O’Nien got in on the act with a neat finish 12 yards from goal after latching onto Evans’ attempt, as the midfield men showed their excellent attacking intent.
And with barely time to blink, substitute Dajaku made it five with his first Sunderland goal – wrapping a sweet strike into the top corner with his left foot to double the noise inside the stadium.
The final quarter of the match was played out well by the Lads, with Christian Norton’s strike forcing Thorben Hoffmann into his only required save of note.
Tom Flanagan and Broadhead’s precautionary second-half withdrawals were the unfortunate side to the evening’s work, with the Lads down to 10 for the final minutes having made each of the three allotted substitutions.
An entertaining spectacle for the Sunderland fans to enjoy under the lights, which sends the Lads back to the summit ahead of Saturday’s trip to Portsmouth.
SUNDERLAND AFC: Hoffmann; Winchester, Flanagan (Alves 56’), Huggins; Evans ©, O’Nien; McGeady (Dajaku 61’), O’Brien, Broadhead (86’, subs used); Stewart (Pritchard 74’).
Subs not used: Burge, Embleton, Taylor, Neil.
Cheltenham Town: Flinders, Blair, Long, Pollock (May 46’), Freestone, Hussey, Sercombe ©, Thomas, Chapman, Perry (Barkers 70’), Joseph (Norton 70’).
Subs not used: Evans, Bonds, Horton, Williams.