Sunderland AFC 2-0 Crewe Alexandra
Two late goals proved crucial for Sunderland on Saturday afternoon, as substitutes Dan Neil and Patrick Roberts sealed three vital points against Crewe Alexandra at the Stadium of Light.
A very welcome result makes it two wins in two for the Black Cats, after finally breaking through against the Cheshire side.
Alex Neil opted to make two changes to the side which started Tuesday’s win over Fleetwood Town, with a 3-5-2 shape reminiscent of the second half which saw the game won in midweek.
Jermain Defoe and Luke O’Nien came in to start, in place of Elliot Embleton and Arbenit Xhemajli.
The first half was devoid of any clear-cut chances for either side, Sunderland expectedly seeing more of the ball and the territory but finding it difficult to carve out any opportunities of note.
Ross Stewart’s header collected by Crewe goalkeeper Dave Richards was the closest the Lads came before the break.
The second half continued with the visitors looking to stand strong, though they did work two brief openings when Chris Long twice tried powerful right-footed efforts. The first sailed off target when he got in behind, and the second on the bounce was kept out by Anthony Patterson.
As the tempo rose with a quarter of the match to play – Roberts, Neil and Leon Dajaku all introduced – the Lads tested Richards and the Crewe defence, as Jack Clarke’s low strike was kept out, and Jay Matete was denied from a tight angle after a great piece of skill to evade two defenders.
Clarke then saw an effort blocked after being teed up from an indirect free-kick inside the area, before Corry Evans’ side-footed hit was parried away by Richards down to his left from 25 yards out.
The deadlock was finally broken six minutes from time, when Stewart knocked it down for Neil to guide an excellent strike into the far corner – bringing raptures inside the Stadium of Light.
And the Lads were far from finished, as with 89 minutes on the clock Roberts and Clarke between them orchestrated a fine move down the left channel, culminating in Sunderland’s number 77 steering in his first goal for the club.
The result sees Neil’s men sit fifth in the Sky Bet League One table, with eight league matches remaining.
SUNDERLAND AFC: Patterson; Winchester, Wright, Cirkin; Gooch (Dajaku 59’), Evans ©, Matete, O’Nien (Neil 59’), Clarke; Defoe (Roberts 63’), Stewart.
Subs not used: Hoffmann, Doyle, Embleton, Hume.
Crewe Alexandra: Richards; Offord ©, O’Riordan, Johnson; Williams (Salisbury 90+6’), Harper (Sambou 75’), Griffiths, Lowery, Lundstram; Ainley (Finney 80’), Long.
Subs not used: Jaaskelainen, Murphy, Onyeka, Porter.