The story of the game as Phil Parkinson's Sunderland era starts with insipid defeat
Sunderland fell to a 1-0 defeat in Phil Parkinson’s first game in charge.
The Black Cats failed to muster a shot on target until stoppage time, when Aiden McGeady added some rare spark with an effort from range that was turned onto the crossbar.
They never recovered from an early set piece goal from a canny Wycombe Wanderers side, who never looked like giving up their lead and moved seven points clear of Sunderland in the table.
Parkinson had sprung a number of surprises in his first Sunderland XI, dropping Jon McLaughlin to the bench and handing Lee Burge his first league start.
Duncan Watmore was also fit enough to take his place in the starting lineup for the first time in this campaign.
The Black Cats started relatively well, Parkinson unsurprisingly trying to utilise Charlie Wyke and Watmore by getting the ball forward early.
Burge found Watmore seven minutes in with an excellent kick from hand, the winger doing well to drive inside and tee up Aiden McGeady, who curled an early effort over the crossbar.
Wycombe had the most of the territory, clear in their goal to try and win set pieces in advanced positions and apply pressure that way.
Sunderland were dealing with it well enough, Jordan Willis impressing against Adebayo Akinfenwa.
They went close when Denver Hume drove into space on the left, crossing for Wyke wh drew a decent stop from Ryan Allsop with an early header. He thumped the rebound into the back of the net but the flag was already up.
The home side began to take the ascendancy and looked to be fortunate when Joel Lynch switched off, allowing David Wheeler to nip into space behind him. Wheeler went to ground as Lynch challenged just as he went to shoot, with Gareth Ainsworth irate as the referee waved play on.
The Black Cats couldn’t hold out much longer, punished for a habit of giving away cheap free kicks in dangerous positions.
Sunderland had been indebted to Burge as he scrambled across to turn a free kick from Joe Jacobson wide, but from the following corner Akinfenwa ought to have scored when putting a free header straight at the goalkeeper.
Luke O’Nien gave away another foul in the final third just before the half hour mark, and when Akinfenwa won the first ball, defender Darius Charles was on hand to thump into the back of the net.
The confidence drained from the visiting side, and they almost conceded a similar goal moments later as Nick Freeman fired a half volley just wide of the far post.
Sunderland were struggling to make any inroads in the Wycombe half, Wyke increasingly isolated.
They did go close when McLaughlin won a long free kick forward, nodding down for Watmore who beat his man and got to the byline. His low cross almost reached McGeady for the easiest of finishes, but the home defence were just able to clear.
Jacobson had Burge scamrbling again with another free kick just before half time, with Parkinson going into the break with much to ponder.
He responded immediately, throwing on Will Grigg for Wyke, who had picked up a number of knocks through the first half.
Grigg started posititvely, dropping off his marker and showing good intelligence to bring players around him into play.
They went close to an equaliser when he released Hume down the left, his cross gathered by McLaughlin who fired just wide of the far post.
The game settled in to a predictable pattern, the home side happy to take time out of the game whenever possible. and protect their lead. Parkinson threw on Chris Maguire and Marc McNulty in search of a spark in the final 20 minutes.
Though they began to spend more time on the ball, chances remain tough to carve out and they were fortunate when McGeady gave away another free kick in the last ten minutes.
The ball was played to the back post where Akinfenwa ought to have scored, heading just wide of the far post.
The referee added on six minutes of stoppage time after a second half that never developed any tempo or rhythm.
That gave the away side a lifeline they were unable to take, denied by a stunning save from Allsop as he turned that McGeady effort onto the woodwork.
It leaves Parkinson with much to ponder ahead of his first home game.
Sunderland XI: Burge; McLaughlin, Willis, Lynch, Hume, Leadbitter (McNulty, 69), Power, O’Nien; Watmore (Maguire, 61), McGeady, Wyke (Grigg, 45)
Subs: McLaughlin, Gooch, Flanagan, Dobson
Wycombe Wanderers XI: Allsop; Grimmer, Stewart, Charles, Jacobson; Bloomfield (Pattison, 76), Freeman, Gape; Aarons (Parker, 90), Wheelet, Akinfenwa
Subs: Yates, Jombati, Kashket, Mascoll, Phillips
Bookings: McGeady, 81