Sunderland slip to EIGHT points off top after limp Lincoln City display
Sunderland fell to their second defeat of the League One campaign with an insipid showing at Sincil Bank.
An early error from Jon McLaughlin left his side chasing the game and though they were fortunate to see Tyler Walker miss a first half penalty, he scored soon after as the Black Cats suffered a wretched afternoon away from home.
Sunderland pushed to try and rescue a point late on but in truth the home goalkeeper was barely threatened, the Black Cats second best all over the pitch.
A promising week had encouraged Jack Ross to go with an unchanged XI at Sincil Bank, with Michael Appleton taking charge for his first home league game.
Lincoln started the brighter, dominating territory but producing little in the way of real openings in the final third.
Sunderland began to settle and enjoy some possession of their own, but were rocked wehtn the home side took a lead through an error from Jon McLaughlin.
A hopeful ball was fired into the box from Neal Eardley, McLaughlin attempting to come and gather. Tyler Walker challenged and the Scot was umable to control, the ball bouncing into the back of his own net.
The Scot was adamant that he had been fouled but the referee was unconvinced.
The confidence of the away side was hit, and Lincoln enjoyed a strong spell as Jack Payne flashed an effort wide of the far post.
Sunderland were struggling to make any inroads into the game, though they were inches away from equalising on the half hour mark.
Laurens De Bock arrived at the edge of the box and after shifting the ball onto his weaker foot, sent a curling effort flying towards the top corner.
It was a stunning save from Josh Vickers, who had been relieved moments earlier when Chris Maguire flashed a dangerous cross from the byline across him, no Sunderland player gambling to meet it as it flew out to the far side.
They were enjoying more of the ball now, but in truth the home side were relatively comfortable and certainly happy to play on the counter, Payne and Walker proving effective ball carriers and regularly relieving any pressure.
Sunderland had a couple of efforts before the interval, Maguire forcing a save from Vickers from distance and Jordan Willis seeing an effort blocked as he raced onto a loose ball from a corner.
They began the second half with far greater purpose, almost forcing the equaliser when Conor McLaughlin thumped a header wide from close range as he rose to meet a corner.
Lincoln, though had a golden opportunity to put the game to bed when Bruno Andrade got past De Bock, the defender hauling him down in the box.
Walker stepped up but found the post with his penalty, the ball rolling away to safety.
Ross moved quickly, bringing on Aiden McGeady and Marc McNulty.
In truth, though, the home side were enjoying their best spell of the game and Sunderland looked incapable of coping with their speed on the break.
It came as no surprise when they broke swiftly as McGeady gave the ball away, a cross into the box easily turned home by Walker.
The game began to swing from end to end as Sunderland tried to find a way back into the game, but Lincoln defended resolutely and rarely put their goalkeeper in any real trouble.
The Black Cats should have got themselves within one goal on the stroke of stoppage time, but Charlie Wyke turned a McGeady free-kick wide of the post under little pressure.
Sunderland XI: McLaughlin; McLaughlin, Willis, Lynch, De Bock (Grigg, 65); Maguire (McNulty, 53), McGeouch, Power, Gooch (McGeady, 53); O’Nien, Wyke
Subs: Burge, Flanagan, Dobson, Leadbitter
Lincoln City XI: Vickers, Eardley, Shackell, Bolger, Toffolo; O’Connor (Connelly, 76), Morrell, Payne, Andrade (Hesketh, 83), Grant; Walker
Subs: Smith, Chapman, Melbourne, Anderson, Akinde
Bookings: Maguire, 12 Lynch, 26 Shackell, 28 McLaughlin, 42 Andrade, 45 Morrell, 66 McGeady, 90 Wyke, 90
Attendance: 10, 264