Sunderland send a warning to their promotion rivals after stunning Wycombe Wanderers triumph
Sunderland climbed back into the top six for the first time since Phil Parkinson’s arrival and ignited their automatic promotion hopes with an outstanding display against Wycombe Wanderers.
Just as they had done a week previous, the Black Cats surged into a three-goal lead with an attacking display of verve and tenacity.
A superb free kick from Chris Maguire midway through the second period saw Sunderland cut the gap to Wycombe to six points, with a game in hand on Gareth Ainsworth’s side.
Wanderers had arrived at the Stadium of Light top of the league but with their remarkable form on the wane, with just one point from their last four games.
Bouyed by their impressive recent form, the Black Cats had sensed the opportunity to make a statement and close the gap to the top two.
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The threat from the visitors was as expected, a couple of early set pieces causing some nervousness in the Sunderland box.
Ainsworth’s side went close when a free kick from deep dropped for winger David Wheeler, but his effort was deflected wide. From there Sunderland took complete control, surging into an emphatic lead in a fashion even more impressive than their superb showing against Lincoln City last week.
The lead came from a goal typical of their increased attacking threat of late.
Denver Hume advanced down the left and did well to gather the switch of play. He drove inside and passed to Lynden Gooch, who had pulled into space. His low cross found its target, Wyke converting from a matter of yards out.
They continued to threaten and grow in confidence, Wyke heading off the post after a tremendous one-two between Lynden Gooch and Luke O’Nien allowed the latter to cross.
Wycombe were struggling to cope with the movement, though Alex Samuel had a good opening when a free-kick from deep dropped to him at the back post, his effort wild and over the bar.
Sunderland doubled their lead within minutes, a fine team move that allowed Jordan Willis to burst forward into space. He flew to the byline and hit a low cross that Hume took first time, thumping an effort in to the bottom corner that Ryan Allsop had no hope of saving.
By the 20-minute mark, it was three.
As they had done to Michael Appleton’s side last week, the pressure of their pressing allowed Sunderlad to force an effort from their opponent in possession.
Darius Charles tried to shepherd the ball away from Wyke, but his pressure was persistent.
Charles tried to go back to his goalkeeper but the ball lacked pace, and though Gooch was unlikely to reach the ball, the panic from Anthony Stewart was such that he moved across to block the forward’s path.
The referee blew for a penalty and Chris Maguire sent Allsop the wrong way.
Ainsworth was forced into a change, throwing on Adebayo Akinfenwa in an attempt to get a platform into the game, but it was Sunderland who continued to create all of the chances.
Wyke was inches away from making it four, denied by a slight touch from a Wycombe defender as he prepared to turn a good cross from George Dobson into the back of the net.
The pressure was relentless, Tom Flanagan seeing an effort turned onto the bar by Allsop after Alim Ozturk had gathered a loose ball from a corner and smartly turned towards the far post.
Willis came close when he headed a corner from Maguire just wide, and nothing embodied Sunderland’s confidence better than his eye-catching surges down the right. Another fine run almost saw Gooch extend the lead, his header just wide of the far post.
A knock to Flanagan in the first half forced Parkinson into a change at the break, but the Black Cats continued to make most of the running after the interval.
Wyke again came close to extending the lead, turning a good pass from Gooch just wide of the far post. It had been superb work from Max Power to launch the move, his crunching tackle on the halfway line turning over possession in a dangerous area.
Wycombe were seeing more of the ball as the half developed, but the home side were comfortable and rarely threatened.
Jon McLaughlin’s only involvement in the game was from set piece situations, a challenge he rose to comfortably.
The Blck Cats were in complete control and added some deserved gloss to the scoreline when Wyke did well to win a free-kick around 20 yards out, just to the left of goal. Maguire stepped up and curled it in off the underside of the crossbar.
Sunderland were fortunate that Lynch did not see red when making a tackle on a yellow card, while McLaughlin had to do well to deny Samuel as he burst through on goal late on.
But their lead was never truly troubled as they costed to three emphatic and heartening points.
Sunderland XI: McLaughlin; O’Nien, Wilis, Ozturk, Flanagan (Lynch, 45), Hume; Power, Dobson; Maguire, Gooch (McNulty, 84), Wyke
Subs: Burge, McLaughlin, Watmore, Grigg, Leadbitter
Wycombe Wanderers XI: Allsop, Phillips (Akinfenwa, 28), Stewart, Charles, Jacobson; Bloomfield, Thompson, Gape (Parker, 77); Wheeler, Samuel, Smyth (Pattison, 75)
Subs: Kashet, Freeman, Aarons, Ofoborh
Bookings: Maguire, 22 Lynch, 70