This it how it played out as Tony Mowbray's first Sunderland game ends in emphatic win
Tony Mowbray’s tenure as Sunderland head coach got off to a dream start as three second-half goals saw Rotherham swept aside at the Stadium of Light.
Jack Clarke and Ross Stewart combined three times in twenty minutes, with the Scot adding a brace to his already impressive goal tally for the season.
The feel-good factor was heightened by the fact that three new signings were unveiled at the interval, with Abdoullah Ba and Amad Diallo joining Edouard Michut after completing their moves.
It was not an insignificant result for the Black Cats even aside from it being Mowbray’s first game, not just a first home of the season but Rotherham’s first league defeat.
Mowbray had just one training session with his new squad before the game and so it was little surprise that he named not only an unchanged XI, but the style of play was instantly familiar from what has broadly been an encouraging start to the season.
The Black Cats started by some distance the better of the sides, and were frustrated not to be able to turn that into a lead within an opening 20 minutes in which they were dominant.
Their first opening came when Pritchard sprung Simms clear with a ball over the top, but after taking a couple of touches to set himself the Everton loanee could only fire wide. Simms turned creator moments later, teeing up Stewart who drove a low effort from the edge of the box just wide of Viktor Johansson’s far post. He came closer still five minutes later, good work from Lynden Gooch allowing him to burst past his marker. From the byline he cut the ball back to the Scot, who beat the goalkeeper but saw his effort hacked clear just in front of the line.
Rotherham began to settle, Patterson twice making smart stops as the game lost a little of its earlier tempo.
Sunderland had lost some of that earlier momentum, but did create another two good chances before the break. Both fell to Stewart, the first after a good run by Gooch infield saw Pritchard find his team-mate in the box. Stewart had no choice but to take it first time and could only slice his effort well over the bar. Moments later he headed over a cross from Dennis Cirkin, the last meaningful action of a fairly tepid half but one in which Sunderland will feel they should have gone ahead in front.
They wouldn’t have to wait long, a fast start to the second quickly rewarded. Danny Batth couldn’t believe he hadn’t headed his side into the lead when he met Pritchard’s excellent free kick in the box, but Sunderland won it back quickly and found Clarke high on the left wing. He glided past his marker and drive in a low cross, which the Scot met with an emphatic half volley on his left foot.
Barely ten minutes had passed when the pair repeated the trick. After a long pause for an injury and a Rotherham sub, the Sunderland wing back again drove into the channel. He fizzed another low cross to the far post and this time it was on his right foot that Stewart scored the first-time finish.
The pair weren’t done there, though the third was almost all about Clarke. Stewart found him on the left touchline with a deft pass, and from there the winger cut inside and just kept going. Past one, past two, past three, before cleverly cutting his shot back across goal and into the bottom corner. It had been a dizzying fifteen minutes and the Stadium of Light was rocking.
A raft of substitutions allowed Rotherham to get something of foothold into the game and though they threatened intermittently with their physicality in the box late on, Sunderland held on comfortably for an uplifting three points and a perfect start for Mowbray.
Sunderland XI: Patterson; O’Nien, Batth, Cirkin; Gooch, Evans, Neil (Embleton, 88), Clarke (Wright, 83); Pritchard (Roberts, 67), Simms, Stewart
Subs: Bass, Embleton, Matete, Hume, Alese
Rotherham United XI: Johansson; Harding (McCart, 74), Wood, Peltier; Norton-Cuffy, Wiles, Barlaser (Lindsay, 76), Rathbone, Ferguson (High, 67); Ogbene (Kelly, 74), Washington (Eaves, 63)
Subs: Vickers, Odoffin
Bookings: Peltier, 25 Norton-Cuffy, 50 Barlaser, 54 Ferguson, 66