Sunderland close the gap on the League One play-off places with emphatic Lincoln City victory
Sunderland climbed to within one point of the League One play-off places after an emphatic first half display against Lincoln City.
The Black Cats scored three goals in just over ten minutes as they raced into a lead that they never looked in significant danger of relinquishing.
The away side raced pulled one goal back in a tepid second half but did enough to move up to ninth in the table.
Encouraging performances on the road had raised tentative hopes of a side finding fluency and confidence.
To that end Parkinson resisted the urge to tinker, sticking with the side and shape despite the hectic festive fixture schedule. Tom Flanagan replaced Joel Lynch in the only change, the centre-back droppng out of the squad.
The Black Cats started brightly, Chris Maguire flashing an effort from the edge of the area just wide of the far post.
They looked purposeful and controlled, Lincoln struggling to get their passing game going.
The away side had brought over 3,000 north on the back of an excellent run of form, and they saw their side fall behind just when they had begun to find some rhythm on the ball.
Chris Maguire stood up a corner to the back post, and after seeing a similar effort against Bolton Wanderers unfairly disallowed, Tom Flanagan this time opened his account for the season as he nodded an effort into the floor and up into the top corner.
Sunderland soon took total control, their pressing forcing the away side into a host of mistakes as they tried to play out from the back.
Their lead was doubled with minutes, Lincoln putting themselves under pressure as they tried to build a move.
Maguire sensed an opening and cosed down goalpeer Josh Vickers, heading his attempted clearance towards the back post. Lynden Gooch challenged for the loose ball and though defender Michael Bostwick rose above him, under pressure he could only turn the ball into the back of the net.
Lincoln boss Michael Appleton was left despairing on the touchline but the worst proved yet to come.
Jon McLaughlin fired a free kcik down the heart of the pitch and Jason Shackell completely misjudged its path. Gooch was aware and raced through on goal, showing excellent composure to calmly slot the ball past Vickers.
If Appleton’s side had somewhwat played themselves out of the game, then the intensity and effectiveness of Sunderland’s pressing had clearly played a major part.
They continued to assert their dominance, Denver Hume flashing an effort into the side netting after another good move.
Hume had again been a persistent threat throughout the contest, pushing Lincoln back with his direct style on the ball.
They almost had a fourth just before the break, Jordan Willis stooping to meet a corner and unlucky to see his effort turned onto the crossbar by Vickers.
Seemingly out of the contest at the interval, Appleton shuffled his pack and replaced Jack Payne with John Akinde.
The striker missed a big opening to to atleast give his side a chance when Alim Ozturk sliced a clearance, Akinde failing himself to make any real connection as he tried to turn the ball towards goal.
The home side were showing far more composure in possession, though as the half developed they were still unable to test McLaughlin in the Sunderland goal.
When the goal came it was a frustrating one for the home side, Hume losing possession as Harry Anderson edged him off the bal. The winger beat McLaughlin with his effort but with the ball seemingly drifting wide, Walker intervened and turned it in at the back post.
He looked to be in an offisode position but the goal stood and he should done better just moments later when failing to connect with a corner that was flicked in his direction at the back post.
The warning signs were there for the home side, who had lacked the tempo they played with in the second half.
They almost restored their three-goal advantage when Max Power took aim from long range, smashing a superb effort off the crossbar.
The game was opening up more than Sunderland would have liked, the Black Cats just losing the control they had played with throughout the opening exchanges of the contest.
They got the job done nevertheless, Lincoln beginning to lose momentum and belief in the closing stages as Sunderland saw out the game and sealed three hugely important points.
Sunderland XI: McLaughlin; O’Nien, Willis, Ozturk, Flanagan, Hume; Dobson, Power; Maguire (Watmore, 63), Gooch (Leadbitter, 90), Wyke
Subs: Burge, McLaughlin, McNulty, Grigg, Taylor
Lincoln City XI: Vickers; Eardley, Shackell, Toffolo, Hesketh (Elbouzedi, 78), Bostwick (Bolger, 37), Morrell, Anderson, Payne (Akinde, 45), Grant; Walker
Subs: Smith, O’Connor, Melbourne, Chapman
Bookings: Hesketh, 60 O’Nien, 88