Morgan Whittaker at Sunderland


Sunderland 3
Ekwah 52
Clarke 60
Bellingham 67

Argyle 1
Hardie 39

A second-half surge from Sunderland condemned Argyle to a 3-1 defeat at the Stadium of Light.

The Greens were excellent in the first period, creating the better early chances and snatching the lead with a Ryan Hardie goal six minutes before the interval.

Momentum switched the full 180 after the break, Pierre Ekwah levelling from a free-kick and the impressive Jack Clarke edged the Black Cats in front on the hour. Substitute Jobe Bellingham made it three goals in 15 minutes and all three points for the hosts.

Argyle Head Coach Ian Foster made four changes from the sapping midweek extra-time defeat against Leeds in the FA Cup, Mickel Miller, Alfie Devine, Darko Gyabi and Adam Forsahw replacing Joe Edwards, Adam Randell, Callum Wright and Matty Sorinola

A 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough in the North-East derby last weekend left Sunderland just one point outside the play-offs, but Argyle were the brighter starters, Mickel Miller standing up a delicious cross for the onrushing Bali Mumba, who was just unable to steer his header goalwards.

Smart positioning from Lewis Gibson thwarted the first Sunderland foray but the general direction of threat came from the Argyle left, Miller fizzing a cross into the side-netting after good approach play from Mumba and Alfie Devine.

Hardie then broke the offside trap in a fine start from the Greens, forcing home ‘keeper Anthony Patterson into a decent save. In the typically sizzling Sunderland atmosphere, the Pilgrims were playing with fabulous composure and confidence.

The Black Cats had to wait 24 minutes before warming the hands of Argyle goalkeeper Conor Hazard, a Clarke strike from distance comfortably repelled by the Northern Ireland international.   

The game descended into a scrappy spell before being awoken by another magic moment in a cracking campaign for Hardie, who ran from halfway to latch on to a pass through a very high Sunderland defensive line, calmly dancing around Patterson to slot a fine finish.

Home howls for an offside flag were ignored by the officials and Argyle entered half-time at the Stadium of Light with a slender lead.

The Black Cats emerged for the second period with renewed verve, Hazard punching a clear a dangerous cross from Dan Ballard. Sunderland were level from the next attack, Ekwah fizzing a low free-kick into the net from 20 yards.

The Argyle riposte was to find the home net, Morgan Whittaker flicking an Adam Forshaw free-kick beyond Patterson, but the offside flag quickly quelled any celebrations, and Sunderland promptly surged up the other end to grab the lead.

Clarke has been one of the star performers in the Sky Bet Championship this term, and he provided further evidence of his obvious quality with a lovely whipped finish that rattled into the net via the inside of the post.

Argyle freshened up the engine room with Randell replacing Forshaw but there was sadly no holding back the home tide, Bellingham curling in a Sunderland third just two minutes after emerging from the bench.

The Greens turned to Lino Sousa and Matty Sorinola to spark some life into a wilting second period, replacing Mumba and Miller, but it was a big ask against a Sunderland side now roared on by a bouncing Stadium of Light.

Ben Waine and Julio Pleguezuelo replaced Devine and Ashley Phillips for the final 13 minutes but the Greens were struggling to lay a proper glove on the Sunderland lead.

Argyle battled to the very end but were ultimately undone by a 15-minute blitz from the home side.

Sunderland: 1 Anthony Patterson; 5 Dan Ballard, 10 Patrick Roberts (14 Romaine Mundle 69), 13 Luke O'Nien (capt), 15 Nazariy Rusyn (22 Adil Aouchiche 88), 17 Abdoullah Ba (7 Jobe Bellingham 65), 20 Jack Clarke, 24 Dan Neil, 32 Trai Hume, 33 Leo Hjelde, 39 Pierre Ekwah (31 Chris Rigg 65). Substitutes: 30 Nathan Bishop (gk), 6 Timothee Pembele, 9 Luis Hemir Semedo, 11 Mason Burstow, 23 Jensen Seelt.

Booked: Ba 9

Argyle: 21 Conor Hazard; 2 Bali Mumba (29 Matty Sorinola 73), 9 Ryan Hardie, 10 Morgan Whittaker (capt), 14 Mickel Miller (3 Lino Sousa 73), 16 Alfie Devine (23 Ben Waine 77), 17 Lewis Gibson, 18 Darko Gyabi, 22 Brendan Galloway, 26 Ashley Phillips (5 Julio Pleguezuelo 77), 27 Adam Forshaw (20 Adam Randell 65). Substitutes (not used): 25 Callum Burton (gk), 6 Dan Scarr, 8 Joe Edwards, 35 Freddie Issaka.

Booked: Whittaker 24, Phillips 33, Mumba 44, Gyabi 69, Sorinola 87

Referee: Anthony Backhouse

Attendance: 41,269