Kevin Ball’s boys seal first victory

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KEVIN Ball’s side notched its first win of the season with a deserved victory at the Britannia Stadium in a game which saw Phil Bardsley continue his progress towards a first-team return.

The former Player of the Season got another 90 minutes under his belt and by the time he came off, Sunderland were not only in control of the game but unlucky not to be be leading by more.

Stoke simply failed to rise to the occasion, despite coming into the game on the back of a first league win at Southampton. The Potters gave Karim Rossi a start up front while City’s in-form goalscorer Jordan Richardson continued in midfield.

The game got off to a slow start but just before the quarter-hour Bardsley got forward to cross for fellow defender John Egan’s header which forced an important instinctive stop from keeper Dale Eve.

Stoke struggled for rhythm and were almost undone when centre-half Louis Laing coasted through the Potters defence but was unable to put in a decisive cross.

It was no surprise then when the vistors took the lead midway through the half after Craig Lynch, back from his Hartlepool loan and in excellent form, beat two defenders before moving the ball on to Laing, who squared for Egan to slot past Eve.

Lynch then had a chance of his own on the half-hour when he found space outside the box but drove his left-foot shot wide.

A youthful Stoke side did not put a really threatening move together until the 33rd minute when a clever one-two allowed Richardson some space in the area, but Jordan Pickford palmed the shot away.

That move buoyed Stoke who were much more in it in the run-up to half-time although Sunderland could have doubled their lead had Jordan Laidler not scooped a shot over the bar.

Sunderland deserved their lead at the break and came close to extending it in the 58th minute when Laidler headed wide an excellent cross from Blair Adams.

He had an even better chance seconds later when Adam Mitchell’s accurate cross left him with a header that he somehow managed to flick the wrong side of the post.

Stoke weren’t offering and could count themselves lucky to be only one down, especially after Laing fired over after from 18 yards and Laing saw another shot smothered by Eve.

Lynch, a constant threat all night from the left wing, steered a shot wide after another run on 80 minutes.

A bad-looking injury suffered by Laing dampened the mood in the last few minutes and although Stoke pressed in the final moments, Sunderland ran out worthy winners to widen the gap between the two sides at the bottom of Group 2.

Stoke City: Eve, Glasgow, Keane, Heneghan, Campbell, Hall (sub Scott 88), Richardson (sub Barrington 73), Clarkson, Rigg, Musungu, Rossi (sub Alabi 73).

Sunderland: Pickford, Bardsley (sub Marrs 79), Egan, Ferguson, Adams, Mitchell, Laing (sub Knott 88), Reed (sub Armstrong 50), Trialist, Lynch, Laidler.