Finlay report: Sunderland makes huge statement of intent in five-star show against Cheltenham

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As the automatic promotion statements disappeared, this was pretty important.

And it came on a night when the unity between fans and players reached new heights as the team finished the night at the top of the Sky Bet League One leaderboard.

The final moments of at least four of Sunderland’s five home games this season were nervous, but this one was far from being as the Black Cats were in total control from the first minute.

That latest statement also came as Lee Johnson shuffled his pack – changing both roster and personnel in an attempt to brush up on the starting 11.


The team

Johnson made five changes in total, and all played their part in one of Sunderland’s performances during their time in League One.

Nathan Broadhead was one of those modifications, as he led the line alongside Ross Stewart in a two-man attack, and showed his versatility as well as his willingness to make dangerous and searing runs – something that caused many problems with the defense of Cheltenham from the start.

Fresh out of his call-up in Northern Ireland, captain Corry Evans has returned to his place in the squad in place of Dan Neil and the captain’s armband, and has shown poise and experience in the center of the park .

Captain Corry Evans was recalled to the side
Photo by Ian Horrocks / Sunderland AFC via Getty Images


Action in the first half

From the first minute, the Black Cats looked to control the game and one of Lee Johnson’s changes almost paid off in the opening 10 minutes.

A long ball found Broadhead, but after maneuvering it around the Cheltenham keeper and squaring it to Ross Stewart, a defender managed to deflect the ball from a corner.

From the corner, Sunderland took the lead – Wright’s header from McGeady’s corner flew to the lower right corner.

On the visitors’ side, chances were rare, but if Mattie Pollock’s header on a Liam Sercombe cross had been on target, things might have been slightly different at the Stadium of Light.

However, it felt like there would only be one winner, with the Robins too often having to resort to long balls as they were unable to string together a series of passes, which is partly to the point. honor of the press. on the side of Lee Johnson.

The Black Cats were expressing their attractive brand of football with fluidity, and Carl Winchester was not far from adding to his record for the season, but his long-range strike narrowly flew to the right post.

Michael Duff’s side couldn’t create any form of momentum, and an absolutely superb move from the home side cut them in half, and it was two for the hosts.

Winchester passed the ball to Broadhead – the forward faked the ball for Ross Stewart, who scored his first goal of the night as he confidently placed the effort in the lower right corner.

Stewart could have had his second sooner than he came, as two chances missed him. McGeady was twice the creator, but in both cases, Stewart’s efforts passed the bar.

When his goal came, he sealed the three points with less than 40 minutes on the clock. Again, another brilliant team move was completed by the Scotsman, after Broadhead and McGeady were involved in hitting the striker with a simple effort a few yards away.

Half: Sunderland 3-0 Cheltenham

Sunderland v Cheltenham Town - Sky Bet League One

Stewart scores his second
Photo by Ian Horrocks / Sunderland AFC via Getty Images


Second half action

The half-time interval saw a change in staff and training for Michael Duff, as he moved up to four from behind in order to match the Black Cats – but that seemed to have little impact, as Sunderland continued to search for a fourth.

Aiden O’Brien and Corry Evans both tested the goalkeeper – O’Brien’s effort was gunned down against the turf and crushed over the bar, before Evans’ fierce command ‘forced a superb save from Scott Flinders.

Lee Johnson’s side were undoubtedly in the mood to score more goals, and the fourth was just around the corner, as Evans cut the ball for Luke O’Nien who managed to put it in the lower right corner.

As Lee Johnson and his team celebrated the fourth, the fifth goal lifted the roof of the Stadium of Light and closed one of League One’s best nights for Sunderland.

Two of Sunderland’s summer signings were involved, as Nathan Broadhead’s initial run and effort was blocked and rolled into the path of Leon Dajaku, who effortlessly rolled the ball into the upper left corner to seal the Victoire.

Sunderland v Cheltenham Town - Sky Bet League One

Dajaku puts the icing on the cake
Photo by Ian Horrocks / Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

After the game, Lee Johnson praised his team, but stressed that the victory was due to many different elements within the club, from the boardroom to the grass cutters and the fans.

I am super proud tonight of the whole club.

I haven’t been here that long, especially at the Stadium of Light with the fans, and it was a great night under the lights and the pitch was smooth – the ground staff did a great job and the guys produced some football wonderful and wonderful field goals to send the fans home very, very happy.


Finlay’s verdict

The unity the club is slowly creating with all the aspects and elements that play a part in their transition is enormous, and Tuesday night was arguably one of the best atmospheres and performances the Stadium of Light has witnessed in League One.

With Wigan dropping points against Sheffield on Wednesday, a gap has widened between Sunderland and the play-off positions – he may be small, but he’s a good piece to have in place.

Wednesday is back on the training ground as another challenge looms on the horizon.

A sold-out clash with Portsmouth will always serve as a tasty treat and will undoubtedly be a tough test for this generation of young, but mature players.

For now it’s ‘time to recover’ in Lee Johnson’s words, but on Saturday three more points are up for grabs and – and pretend these would be a huge boost to confidence ahead of another international break. potential.


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