Phil Smith's Sunderland AFC player ratings: Luke O'Nien the star in vital Walsall victory

Sunderland did it the hard way as they picked up three points against Walsall - but how did their players fare?

Saturday, 16th March 2019, 4:24 pm
Updated Saturday, 16th March 2019, 4:28 pm
Luke O'Nien was the star man as Sunderland beat Walsall

Goals from Lee Cattermole and Will Grigg saw the Black Cats come from behind to seal victory against the Saddlers, in a result which takes on added significance given both Luton and Barnsley dropped points. But how did our man Phil Smith rate the individual performances on show at the Stadium of Light? Scroll down and click through the pages and see who shone - and struggled - for the Black Cats against Walsall:

Little he could do about the opening goal. Was rarely tested by Walsall, who struggled to force clear openings. 6
Went from strength to strength in the game. Offered a constant attacking threat and made two crucial interventions in the box, one in the first half and one in stoppage time as Gordon almost levelled. 8

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Did OK in the first half but physically was struggling in the second. Taken off and went straight down the tunnel clutching his hamstring. 5
Looked like he may have been fortunate to avoid giving away a penalty when Devlin broke into the box midway through the second half. A generally composed performance, particularly in seeing the game out late on. 6
A bad error in the opening minutes left Sunderland with a lot of work to do. Improved greatly as the game progressed. 5
Debate may play on as to whether it was his goal, but no doubting how well he did to fire it into such a dangerous area from a narrow angle. Played well, and was taken off mostly as both he and Leadbitter were carrying yellow cards. 6
Set pieces were invariably right on the money and contributed to yet another goal. Control of the game from midfield was generally very good. 7
Did his best to get in support of Grigg and looked composed when dropped deeper for the closing stages. 6
Missed four half chances from the edge of the area in the first half, needing just a little more composure. Carried the ball away from dangerous areas well. 6
Unlucky not to come out of the game with an assist. Quieter in the second half but dragged his side into it in the first half, causing problems as he drove infield from the right flank. 7
It had looked like being another frustrating afternoon for the striker before his outstanding finish. The first touch was good and the second even better. A crucial intervention in the promotion race. 7
Not everything came off but definitely brought some extra drive and intensity at a point where Sunderland were losing a bit of momentum. 6
After a long lay-off from league action it took him a little while to get up to speed but after that there was one excellent challenge in his box and one very good driving run forward. 6
Helped get his side ahead with his first touch, Grigg going on to score a fine goal. A good cameo from the target man. 6