Sunderland get back to winning ways with much-needed home win over Shrewsbury Town

The positive was that Sunderland got over the line.

Charlie Wyke celebrates his winning goal for Sunderland
Charlie Wyke celebrates his winning goal for Sunderland

There had been times in the second half where it looked as if this could be another one of those afternoons at the Stadium of Light, more frustration and more ground lost.

Shrewsbury Town had been in fine form before a COVID-19 outbreak before the turn of the year, and as this game you could see their confidence grow.

In the second half they pushed Sunderland onto the back foot, the home side unable to build any spell of possession to lift the pressure.

Twenty minutes from the end, Shaun Whalley pounced on some slack Sunderland positioning and broke towards goal.

His final effort was smashed high into the Roker End but at the moment, his side looked the most likely.

Not long before then, more poor positioning had allowed Ro-Shaun Williams to get free in the box, only a poor cross sparing the Black Cats.

This was a strange afternoon in which Sunderland had looked like two very different sides.

Half an hour in, Jack Diamond superbly to pounce on a loose pass and Matija Sarkic was fortunate to get to the ball seconds before him.

At that point, the Black Cats were good value for their lead and we were seeing a performance close to the all-action, energetic gamestyle Lee Johnson had talked of.

They'd spurned a great chance moments earlier to go 2-0 up, when Wyke's pressing saw him get round the goalkeeper but with Sarkic stranded, he could only fire wide from a relatively narrow angle.

Sunderland had been excellent, let down only by some poor decision making in the final third.

Diamond had on more than one occasion got into an excellent position, only to find an opponent with the final ball.

Johnson's side had showed their intent in the first minute, Scowen meeting one of those Diamond crosses on the volley and firing wide.

After the frustration of Tuesday night's considerable setback against Plymouth Argyle, the intent to lift the tempo and move the ball quicker was notable.

The goal was a terrific when it came eighteen minutes in.

The build-up play was swift, meaning that when McGeady received the ball, he was in a position to do damage. From the left-hand side of the box he burst past his marker on the outside, standing up an excellent cross from the byline. Charlie Wyke still had much to do at that stage, but the header was superb, looping away from Sarkic and into the top corner.

This was the closest we have seen SUnderland come to Johnson's template on home turf.

The momentum swung late in the first half, a loose kick from Lee Burge letting Leon Clarke in and from close range, the striker somehow fired over the bar.

When Harry Chapman burst past two defenders moments later, it took a fine stop from Burge to deny him.

The Black Cats were never able to regain their dominance from there, and the secnd half was marked by a slackness in possession.

To their credit, there was also some excellent defending in the box, with Bailey Wright dominant.

An afternoon that raised plenty of questions, but one also delivered a much-needed and overdue home win.

Sunderland XI: Burge; Power, Willis, Wright, McFadzean; Leadbitter, Scowen (O’Nien, 88), Diamond (Maguire, 35), McGeady (Winchester, 80)r; O’Brien, Wyke

Subs: Matthews, Sanderson, Graham, Winchester, Embleton, Maguire, O’Nien

Shrewsbury Town XI: Sarkic; Love (Udoh, 89), Williams (Sears, 65), Pierre, Ebanks-Landell, Pennington; Norburn, Vela, Clarke (Goss, 77); Chapman, Whalley

Subs: Burgoyne, Golbourne, Edwards, Cummings

Bookings: McGeady, 27 Pierre, 73 Vela, 90