How Sunderland climbed up the League One table on a tough but crucial night

For the most part this was a tough watch.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 8:53 pm

Swindon came for a point and still suffering from a raft of injuries, Sunderland struggled to find a rhythm.

So it makes the narrow win all the more important and a quick glance at the table tells you that the result was far, far more important than the result.

It was Chris Maguire again who produced the defining moment from the bench.

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Charlie Wyke heads Sunderland into the lead at the Stadium of Light
Charlie Wyke heads Sunderland into the lead at the Stadium of Light

The Black Cats were struggling when he produced another tremendous free kick from deep, nodded in from the penalty spot by Wyke.

They came through nervy end to climb to fourth.

Sunderland’s defensive injuries have left Johnson with countless dilemmas in recent weeks and the absence of Conor McLaughlin was another here.

Max Power was forced to step into an unconventional role on the right of the back three, with Lynden Gooch pushing upfield and Jordan Jones tucking in behind Wyke.

Swindon’s form had improved in recent weeks but from the off they were happy to sit in deep, taking time out the game wherever possible.

The onus was going to be on Johnson’s side to break them down and after a relatively sedate start, they began to threaten with a series of half chances.

Carl Winchester blasted wide from disatnce, before Jones saw an effort deflected over.

They came closest 18 minutes in when Gooch showed a terrific burst of pace to beat his man, his low cross from the byline stabbed just wide by Wyke.

Sunderland were dominating possession, Swindon testing Lee Burge only through a couple of long-range free kicks.

The Black Cats, though, began to lose their way as the half developed, sloppy in possession and guilty of giving away too many cheap free kicks.

Jones and Aiden McGeady were lacking the time and space they need to drive at the defence, and as a result Connal Trueman, signned on an emergency loan from Birmingham on Monday, was barely tested.

Wyke was pressing well but too often found himself isolated.

As he had done last week after a similar first half, Johnson reacted at the break by pushing Gooch into a central position.

Sunderland did look more dangerous, moving the ball a little quicker as they finally began to find McGeady in more advanced positions.

A wonderful cross from the winger was unlucky not to find a team-mate as Gooch finally drew a save from Trueman with a stinging effort from the edge of the area.

In truth though, Sunderland were struggling for momentum and pressure, an issue compounded when Gooch went down with a knock.

Johnson turned to Maguire and O’Brien and fresh from his weekend heroics, another glorious free-kick from the former found Wyke.

His header was deft, leaving Trueman with no chance and opening up a game that had reached a stalemate.

Stung into action, Hallam Hope drew a fine save from Burge at the other end as Johnson fumed with his players for switching off.

The end to the game was more open than Sunderland would have liked, the hosts twice missing glorious opportunities on the counter to seal the win.

Swindon threatened as their talented forwards finally came into the contest, the ever-dangerous Twine hitting the crossbar with a late free kick. Sunderland held on, just, to three key points.

Sunderland XI: Burge; Power, Sanderson, O’Nien, McFadzean; Jones (Maguire, 61), Scowen (Neil, 90), Winchester, McGeady (Diamond, 89); Gooch (O’Brien, 61), Wyke

Subs: Matthews, Neil, Vokins, Younger

Swindon Town XI: Trueman; Conroy, Broadbent, Grounds; Hunt, Palmer (Missilou, 82), Twine, Payne, Thompson (Hope, 70); Garrick, Pitman (Omotoye, 73)

Subs: Matthews, Caddis, Iandolo, Curran

Bookings:

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