Toothless Town pay the price and drop out of top six with Sunderland defeat
Town paid the price for not making the first-half dominance pay at the Stadium of Light.
James Norwood and Will Keane both went close for Blues in an opening 45 minutes controlled by Blues but Sunderland were a changed side after the break.
Lynden Gooch hit the post after a brilliant individual run and Bailey Wright smashed a shot against the bar before Chris Maguire edged the Black Cats in front with a quality finish on 81 minutes.
Kayden Jackson had the chance to rescue a point for Blues but was denied by a last ditch Tom Flanagan tackle as Town suffered a third successive defeat.
Tomas Holy returned in goal in one of five changes to the team that went down against Peterborough last weekend, Jon Nolan and Janoi Donacien also included.
Jon McLaughlin had to move quickly off his line to deny James Norwood as he looked to get on the end of a Holy kick downfield, Myles Kenlock then finding himself in a great position on the left but Sunderland smothered away the danger as Blues asked the early questions.
The Black Cats did have the ball in the net through Charlie Wyke but the offside flag was raised early, while at the other end Blues were getting some joy down the left flank and Keane headed just over from a cross.
Kenlock then sent Norwood clear with another ball down the left, McLaughlin doing well to make the block, the ‘keeper getting down quickly to hold on to Nolan’s low drive as Town continued to look the more likely to make the breakthrough.
Keane forced his way to goal, his shot blocked 10 yards out, the home fans getting frustrated as their team struggled to get a foothold in the game, Norwood blistering a right footer wide, then seeing another effort deflected to safety.
Cole Skuse was in the right place to spot the danger from Gooch’s pass in a rare attacking position for the Black Cats, Norwood heading over, then Kenlock just short of finding Keane in the box.
George Dobson fired well wide from distance, Nolan going much closer with the last kick of a first-half that Town dominated but without getting the just rewards.
The Black Cats started on the front foot and Gooch had a shot blocked by Donacien after Maguire opened up the Town defence, then the home side should have been ahead, Gooch danced around four Blues before hitting the post and from the rebound Wyke couldn’t beat Holy from close range.
Holy gathered from Maguire’s cross as Sunderland looked a different side, Wyke brought down by Luke Chambers 25 yards out, Maguire’s free-kick blocked and Denver Hume then thwarted by Donacien.
Holy just did enough to stop Max Power’s lofted effort going in, the Sunderland skipper volleying over from the resultant corner as Town were forced back.
Blues were handed a great position on 64 minutes when McLaughlin was judged to have picked up a backpass, Norwood’s free-kick from 12 yards deflecting off Donacien and over the bar.
Wright smashed a shot against the bar as Sunderland turned up the heat on the Town goal before Blues made a double change with Jackson and Emyr Huws on for Norwood and Nolan.
Josh Earl, wearing a mask to protect a cheekbone injury, came on for his debut to replace Donacien, Kyle Lafferty on for Hume in a first change for the Black Cats.
The breakthrough came nine minutes from time with a moment of quality, Maguire finding the bottom corner with a right foot bullet from the edge of the box to lift the Stadium of Light.
Jackson had a run at goal late on as Blues searched for an equaliser but Flanagan timed his tackle to perfection, Downes then volleying just over before time ran out on Town.
Sunderland: J.McLaughlin, Willis, Power, Maguire, Wyke, Gooch (C.McLaughlin 90), Flanagan, O’Nien, Dobson, Wright, Hume (Lafferty 80). Subs not used: Burge, Ozturk, Watmore, Scowen, Semenyo. Booked: O’Nien, J.McLaughlin, Flanagan.
Town: Holy, Donacien (Earl 78), Chambers, Woolfenden, Wilson, Kenlock, Downes, Skuse, Nolan (Huws 71), Norwood (Jackson 71), Keane. Subs not used: Norris, Sears, Judge, Dozzell, Earl. Booked: Downes, Chambers.
From the ITFC Official Website