Sunderland move into League One automatic promotion spot with comfortable win at Doncaster Rovers
Sunderland moved back into the automatic promotion places with an emphatic win over Doncaster Rovers.
A Ben Blythe own goal made it three in the second half and in truth it could have been more.
It was clinical and ruthless display from the Black Cats, taking them back to the two points-per-game mark and lifting spirits after the news that Nathan Broadhead may not play again this season.
Doncaster had started with an aggressive press, but it didn’t take long for the visitors to assume control as Callum Doyle began to build some pressure with a couple of encouraging breaks down the left-hand side.
The home side had been struggling with injuries and COVID-19 of late and their inexperience showed just five minutes in.
Dajaku did well to glide into the box, tipped by the trailing leg of the Doncaster defender. Stewart made no mistake, sending Louis Jones the wrong way from the spot.
It already looked a long way back for Doncaster, and Sunderland continued to dominate even if the killer final ball was just lacking.
Alex Pritchard went close with a free kick from the edge of the area, and then was left baffled as Jones made a superb stop to deny a long-range effort that seemed destined for the bottom corner.
Sunderland looked a constant threat, Dajaku seeing an effort blocked as he broke into the area.
Doncaster were unable to build any pressure, but the visitors will have felt they had another gear to go through as their forays forward yielded few real, clear cut chances.
That began to change as half time approached, a clever first touch and run from Neil opening up the box before he fired into the side netting from a narrow angle.
The second did eventually arrive shortly after, Flanagan releasing the again very influential Pritchard in the right-hand channel. His pass inside was excellent and from there it was superb from Embleton, one touch teeing up the volley through Jones.
Doncaster moved quickly to change things at half time, and the introduction of experienced forward Omar Bogle immediately gave them more presence and threat up front.
The threat of a revival last just minutes all the same, defensive frailties clear as Gooch picked the ball up just inside the Doncaster half and simply kept going, driving all the way to the byline. His low cross was turned towards goal by an audacious Pritchard backheel, and the unfortunate Blythe could only turn it into his own net.
Sunderland were now completely dominant, Embleton twice going close to a second.
Hoffmann was eventually forced into a decent save from Horton’s effort at the back post, but it continued to be Sunderland who did all the significant running and only an offside flag prevented substitute Hume adding a fourth following an excellent counter.
Doncaster briefly threatened in the final minutes, but only after Dajaku and Embleton had gone close to adding another for the impressive visitors.