SUNDERLAND survived a big injury scare to make it a hat-trick of wins – as manager Jimmy Adamson started to see light at the end of the tunnel.
The Rokermen managed just one win in their first 10 games in Division Two following May’s heart-breaking relegation, but victory over Oldham Athletic was a third successive triumph, as Sunderland climbed into mid-table – just four points adrift of the third promotion spot.
Yet the Wearsiders had to overcome the temporary loss of goalkeeper Barry Siddall, who was stretchered off early in the first half when bravely challenging Oldham striker Alan Young, with Sunderland defender Shaun Elliott involved, too.
Siddall was motionless on the ground and was carried off
Joe Bolton took over in goal, but sub Mel Holden remained on the sidelines as Adamson opted to wait to see if Siddall could recover from his injury.
Siddall – who had three stitches in a deep cut below his right knee – was back to great approval from the crowd nine minutes later, with his clean sheet intact, and Sunderland, back to 11 men, went on to dominate.
Gary Rowell was denied by keeper John Platt after a brilliantly-judged ball from Kevin Arnott, with full-back Mick Henderson – praised post-match for his best performance of the campaign – driving an effort wide before Sunderland made the breakthrough on 37 minutes.
Bobby Kerr sent over a dangerous, inswinging corner from the left and defender Shaun Elliott beat keeper Platt at the near post to glance home a header for his first goal of the season.
Platt denied Sunderland a second before the break, expertly keeping out a spectacular diving header from Arnott.
But two goals in five second-half minutes just before the hour mark sealed Sunderland’s triumph.
Roy Greenwood was hacked down just outside the penalty box, and though a set-piece shot looked on, the ball was played wide to Jackie Ashurst, whose right-foot strike on the run took the slightest of deflections off the Oldham wall on its way past Platt.
It was soon 3-0 as Bolton overlapped on the left and sent in a deep cross, which reached Bob Lee beyond the far post. The striker pulled it down in a flash and his angled effort flew past Platt.
Argus hailed the display, though rueing the fact that Sunderland managed only three goals despite their dominance. He wrote in the Echo: “It was a fine team effort which took Oldham apart and had them struggling to avoid a flood of goals. If there was one flaw, it was that, on overall play, they should have had more than three goals to show for their efforts.”
Oldham responded with a 79th-minute consolation, Steven Taylor heading past Bolton at the near post, from Alan Groves’ indirect free-kick.
Adamson was delighted with his side’s application, telling the Echo: “We look for two things every week – result and performance.
“We got both against Oldham and this makes me very happy. The players are adjusting well to the Second Division now and three wins in a row must increase their confidence.”
Deputy manager Dave Merrington added: “The players gave a tremendous performance. As for whether they have turned the corner yet, I think the onus is on the players to prove it. I think they can.”