12 February 2020 02:10
Lynden Gooch scored twice as Sunderland blew Rochdale away before half-time to move up to fifth in the table. Gooch's goals came either side of an own-goal from Dale defender Eoghan O'Connell as Sunderland effectively wrapped up victory in a little over half-an-hour in a game played amidst blustery conditions at the Stadium of Light. And on a night when promotion rivals Wycombe Wanderers and Portsmouth both lost, and Ipswich Town dropped points, this victory cut the gap between Sunderland and the automatic promotion places to four points – and they have two games in hand of Peterborough United, who are now second. Stephen Dooley came into the side in place of Oliver Rathbone, whose late goal had rescued a point against Rovers, and Jim McNulty replaced former Sunderland defender Paul McShane, who dropped to the bench. Bailey Wright headed over from a corner inside the first five minutes, and a few minutes later Gooch flicked a first-time shot just wide of the post from a Luke O'Nien cross.
But Sunderland made their early pressure count on 11 minutes, Maguire delivering a curling cross from the right which dropped over Charlie Wyke but Gooch was beyond him and had stolen a march on defender Luke Matheson to apply the finish from six yards out. And Sunderland doubled their lead on the quarter-hour, with Maguire and Gooch again at the centre of the action. Gooch's surging run put the Dale defence on the back foot, he released Maguire inside the area to his right and when the Scot sent the ball across the edge of the six-yard area, defender O'Connell stuck out a foot only to see his attempted clearance loop into the air and drop into his own net, beating keeper Robert Sanchez. The third goal came on 32 minutes, capping a superb move from the Black Cats. O'Nien started it off with a lovely lay-off into the path of Maguire down the right, his cross hit a defender and came to O'Nien inside the area and the wingback's shot was kept out by Sanchez but the rebound fell for Gooch and he made no mistake.
Sunderland were tearing Rochdale to shreds down the right, and left-back Rhys Norrington-Davies was spared more punishment when he limped off and was substituted shortly before the break. Maguire set up another chance for O'Nien before half-time, but this time his initial shot was blocked by a defender and when the rebound came back to him he hit his follow-up straight at Sanchez. Gooch saw a shot saved just after half-time, while at the other end Rochdale had to wait until almost the hour mark for their first shot of the match, a long-range effort from Jimmy Ryan which was swatted away by Jon McLaughlin. They created a better chance in the final 10 minutes when a long ball from Sanchez was flicked on by substitute Aaron Wilbraham for Ian Henderson inside the box and he lifted his shot over McLaughlin, but the shot dropped over the bar. At the other end O'Nien saw a fierce shot pushed behind by Sanchez as Sunderland looked to finish with a flourish. As it was, the second half ended goalless but that will not worry the Black Cats, who had done all the hard work in the first period. A brace from Lynden Gooch and an own goal from Eoghan O'Connell gave the Black Cats a three-goal lead that they never looked in danger of relinquishing. It lifted the Black Cats to within five points of the automatic promotion positions, and they have two games-in-hand on Peterborough United, who rose to second on Tuesday night after again scoring four, this time at home to Southend United. Lynden Gooch celebrates putting Sunderland ahead at the Stadium of Light Their commitment to playing out from the back is both commendable and dangerous, and even before kick off it felt as if the game would be decided by whether they would be able to pass through a home press that has been increasingly effective and aggressive in recent weeks. Sunderland quickly took control of the contest and went close two minutes in, Bailey Wright getting above his marker but heading over the bar from a Chris Maguire corner. Brian Barry Murphy's side were trying to settle into the contest, but were increasingly ponderous in possession, beginning to lose it regularly in dangerous positions. Sunderland went close to an early lead after an excellent move down the right-hand side, Luke O'Nien crossing from the right and Gooch just missing as he made a good run into the centre of the box, his first-time volley wide of the far post. The Black Cats again progressed down the right with ease, and this time it was Maguire who fired in a wonderful cross. Within minutes it was two, Jimmy Ryan taking too long on the ball in the centre of the pitch and losing possession. His cross was low across the box and though Eoghan O'Connell got their first, he could only turn the ball over his own line. They were presented with one opening just before the half hour mark, but with Matt Done overlapping, Ian Henderson took too long on the ball and Tom Flanagan was able to make an excellent covering challenge. Maguire dound O'Nien in the box and though Robert Sanchez made a fine stop from the wing-back, Gooch was on hand to hammer home the rebound. The Black Cats were perhaps not quite playing with the same tempo as the first half, but did continue to stretch the play and felt they should have had a penalty when Matheson challenged Denver Hume as he burst into the box. The game had little tempo as it meandered towards a conclusion, though Sunderland were fortunate that Henderson could only turn an effort over the crossbar as he broke free into the box with ten minutes to play. Sunderland XI: McLaughlin; O'Nien, Willis, Wright, Flanagan, Hume; Power, Dobson; Maguire (Semenyo, 71), Gooch (Watmore, 77), Wyke (Lafferty, 85) Rochdale XI: Sanchez; Matheson, McNulty, O'Connell, Norrington-Davies (Keohane, 39); Lund, Morley (Wilbraham, 50), Ryan, Dooley; Done (McLaughlin, 69), Henderson Lynden Gooch was in inspired form as he scored a first-half brace, with his goals coming either side of an own goal from Eoghan O'Connell. The result moves the Black Cats up to fifth in League One, four points adrift of Peterborough United in second.