Blackpool 0 Sunderland 1: Josh Maja seals valuable away win for Black Cats

Josh Maja celebrates his goal against Blackpool.
Josh Maja celebrates his goal against Blackpool.

Josh Maja scored his 15th goal of the season to seal three crucial points for Sunderland.

The 20-year-old delivered an excellent all-round display as his side came out deserved winners in a vibrant, open game.

Blackpool posed a threat throughout but the Black Cats played at an excellent tempo and should have scored more.

If there had been frustration with how Sunderland had started their last game, any fears of a repeat were quickly pushed to one side.

Lining up with two strikers and with the away support dominating Bloomfield Road, the Black Cats were much the better side even if Chris Taylor was the first to have a meaningful effort for the hosts, hammering over the bar from distance.

Sunderland came close when they built a clever overlap at the back post, Max Power crossing invitingly to the back post where Charlie Wyke and Aiden McGeady just couldn't convert.

The goal did come not long after and it was an excellent move.

After being critical of his distribution against Shewsbury, jack Baldwin stepped out and split the Blackpool defence with an excellent pass into the channel.

McGeady flashed across goal and Josh Maja turned it in with a typically excellent finish.

With Charlie Wyke battling the two centre-backs, Maja was enjoying the extra space and time to influence proceedings.

Blackpool have enjoyed a good season so far and showed why with a strong response to falling behind.

The speedy Nathan Delfouneso was causing a threat by breaking from the right flank, where Sunderland's system occasionally left them a little exposed.

They were forunate that when Donervon Daniels got free and headed across goal, a combination of the post, a good Jon McLaughlin block and a Luke O'Nien clearance kept the scores level.

Tom Flanagan then had to make an excellent covering challenge as Delfouneso again threatened to run in on goal.

Despite the pressure, Sunderland always retained a threat and almost got a reward when McGeady again crossed from the left, Baldwin heading wide at the back post.

The centre back had to make a crucial clearance just minutes in the second half.

Flanagan looked to be fouled as a long ball was played down the pitch, but nothing was given, Armand Gnanduillet able to run through on goal.

McLaughlin just got a leg to his effort, taking the pace off the ball and allowing Baldwin to scramble back and clear, using the post to his aid.

Blackpool were adamant that the ball crossed the line but play was waved on.

Sunderland responded, both Maja and Lynden Gooch drawing saves from Mark Howard in the Blackpool goal.

McGeady came closest, cutting in from the right and almost catching Howard with an effort that swerved and dipped late.

While the hosts offered a continued threat, it was Sunderland having the best of the chances and Maja went within inches of a second when he fired across goal inside the box.

Only a deflection forced it wide and from the following corner, Flanagan had a header cleared off the line.

They forged another good opening when Lee Cattermole sprang Maja clear on the counter. He carried the ball upfield and played in McGeady, who drove an effort over the bar.

That crucial second just continued to elude the visitors and kept Blackpool in the game, Sunderland relieved when a cross from Marc Bola evaded everyone and allowed Reece James to clear.

The Black Cats flew down the other end and Howard had to make an outstanding save to deny Gooch as he went for the top corner.

Ross used his substitutes well to wind down the clock as the Black Cats held out to win an excellent game.

Sunderland XI: McLaughlin; O'Nien, Flanagan, Baldwin, James; Power, Cattermole; McGeady, Gooch; Maja (Maguire, 88), Wyke (McGeouch, 84)

Subs: Ruiter, Ozturk, Sinclair, Mumba, Kimpioka

Blackpool XI: Howard; Daniels, Heneghan, O'Connor, Bola; Guy, Spearing; Delfouneso (Dodoo, 72), Taylor (Pritchard, 84), Feeney; Gnanduillet

Subs: Mafoumbi, Nottingham, Pritchard, O'Sullivan, Davies, Shaw

Attendance: 10,994 (7,804 away)

Bookings: Cattermole, 17 O'Connor, 55 Gooch, 55