Sunderland beat Shrewsbury Town 3-2 after late drama at Stadium of Light
Yet another last-gasp goal from Sunderland further bolstered their top-six credentials on Good Friday.
It looked as if Tom Flanagan’s volley had rescued an unlikely point for Shrewsbury after Elliot Embleton and Nathan Broadhead’s superb early, but another stoppage time header from Broadhead secured another crucial win.
Late tension and drama iiss proving the dominant theme of Sunderland’s play-off push, even though Alex Neil’s side flew into an early lead with two goals of the highest quality.
Neil had recalled Embleton to the starting XI after his excellent recent cameos, and within moments he had fired his side into the lead. A free kick was awarded right on the edge of the area for handball; Broadhead stepping up to curl his effort into the wall. From there the loose ball bounced for Embleton, who did superbly to arrow a first-time volley into the top corner on his left foot.
The perfect start, and not to be outdone the Everton loanee would soon get on the scoresheet with an excellent effort of his own.
Good play down the right flank allowed the hosts to work the ball inside, where the lively Dennis Cirkin had a long-range effort palmed into a dangerous area by Marosi. Broadhead met it with a rasping half volley and left the goalkeeper with no chance.
The start looked all the better for the fact that though similar in their approach to recent Stadium of Light visitors, Shrewsbury looked to have considerably more about them both in intensity and quality.
The Black Cats were playing well, and nearly had a third on the half-hour mark when Lynden Gooch raced onto a loose ball and curled an excellent effort inches wide of the far post on his left foot.
Neil’s side looked to be in control but the head coach cut an increasingly agitated figure towards the very end of the half, sloppiness in the home ranks allowing the visitors back into the game.
They thought they had reduced the deficit when Ryan Bowman tapped in at the back post, but the striker had moved too early and the offside flag was a relief to a Sunderland defence that had been carved open all too easily.
When Bowman then curled an effort just wide at the start of stoppage time, it was a firm reminder to Sunderland that they couldn’t afford to ease up in the second half.
Shrewsbury picked up where they left off, and got the goal they deserved when a swift break was finished by Josh Vela with a fine finish on the edge of the area.
Within minutes it was two, Sunderland failing to deal with a corner and allowing Flanagan to score a thumping volley on his Wearside return.
Sunderland finally began to show some signs of recovery as the game entered the final quarter, a Winchester effort deflected over the bar before Stewart struck the woodwork from a matter of yards out.
It looked as if the visitors had done enough for a point when Marosi denied Stewart at close range, but with barely a minute left on the clock Clarke swung in a superb cross from the left, and Broadhead’s deft header proved enough to win it.