Shrewsbury Town deserved more from their visit to the Stadium of Light but left the North East with nothing to show for their endeavour.
The second half performance in particular warranted at least a point, but Sunderland managed to hang on.
Town were positive and penned in their esteemed opponents, but the killer instinct was missing for the visitors. Charlie Wyke’s 18th minute goal was enough for the Black Cats to take all three points.
Aaron Wilbraham continued to deputise for Steve Cotterill who is recovering from coronavirus. Presumably it was Cotterill picking the team as there were two changes from the side that lost to Southampton in midweek. Donald Love was a surprise inclusion as he replaced Scott Golbourne. The right-back, who played 34 times for Sunderland during a three-year spell, started a league game for the first time in almost a year. The other change saw Leon Clarke come in for Dan Udoh.
Sunderland started the contest at a frenetic pace. Max Power clipped a pass down the channel for Jack Diamond whose cross was attacked by Josh Scowen. The former QPR midfielder struck comfortably wide of the target.
The early pressure belonged to Lee Johnson’s side, with Shrewsbury struggling to get out of their own half. However, had Ro Shaun-Williams been able to pick out Leon Clarke, Town could have been ahead. Instead, Sunderland continued to lay siege to the Town goal. Grant Leadbitter’s corner was cleared only as far as Josh Scowen – his thunderous effort was blocked by his own teammate Jordan Willis.
In the 18th minute, the hosts made their dominance count with what would turn out to be the only goal of the game. Former Everton winger Aiden McGeady’s jinking run culminated into a fine delivery. Charlie Wyke rose well to loop a header over Matija Sarkic and into the back of the net.
Sunderland were rampant and may have been 2-0 up had O’Brien’s cross landed at the feet of McGeady. Then, a raking pass was seized upon by Charlie Wyke. The former Bradford striker nipped ahead of Ethan Ebanks-Landell and Aaron Pierre prior to taking the ball around Matija Sarkic. Wyke had pushed the ball further wide then he had hoped and with the goal gaping could only fire wide.
Shrewsbury were almost the architects of their own downfall when Williams’ underhit pass looked to present a golden opportunity to Jack Diamond. Thankfully for Town Matija Sarkic dealt with the danger.
After a 30-minute period of being under the cosh, Shrewsbury started creating chances of their own. Shaun Whalley found Leon Clarke inside the box. The veteran striker had time and space, but lifted his shot over the crossbar. Clarke again attempted to profit from Whalley, but Bailey Wright was able to get his body in front of the ex Wolves man. The cross fell kindly for Donald Love who smashed over.
The final opportunity of the half fell to Shrewsbury. Chapman bulldozed his way forward and drew a smart stop from ex Coventry keeper Lee Burge.
Sunderland began the second period seeking to double their advantage. Grant Leadbitter’s corner was powered over by Bailey Wright. Wright was involved in the thick of the action at the other end of the pitch, when he cleared Williams’ dangerous looking low cross behind for a corner.
Town were stepping up their intensity in search of an equaliser. Leon Clarke should have done much better, but his poor connection allowed Burge to easily gather. Shaun Whalley posed a significant threat out wide as he moved through the gears and left Grant Leadbitter trailing in his wake. The former Luton winger’s final effort cleared the crossbar.
Sunderland’s defenders were having to resort to last moment interventions. Both Donald Love and Leon Clarke had strikes heroically blocked. At the other end, Aiden McGeady’s ambitious attempt was wayward and substitute Sean Goss breathed a huge sigh of relief as he was robbed by Max Power – the final shot struck the side netting.
As the game drew to a close, Harry Chapman blazed over, whilst Grant Leadbitter tried to bamboozle Sarkic from a tight angle – but the free-kick was off target.
Shrewsbury Town slip to their first league defeat for two months, but it is clear the club is moving in the right direction. Town go to Burton on Tuesday night, whilst Sunderland visit Ipswich.
Team Line Ups
1. Burge, 6. Power, 5. Wright, 4. Willis, 25. McFadzean, 14. Scowen (87), 23. Leadbitter, 21. Diamond (66), 28. McGeady (81), 9. Wyke, 10. O’Brien
Subs: 7. Maguire (66), 13. O’Nein (88), 16. Sanderson, 17. Embleton, 18. Graham, 20. Matthews, 26. Winchester (81)
Subs Not Used: 16. Sanderson, 17. Embleton, 18. Graham, 20. Matthews
31. Sarkic, 17. Love (89), 2. Pierre, 24. Ebanks-Landell, 29. Pennington, 5. Williams (66) 8. Norburn, 10. Vela, 32. Chapman, 7. Whalley, 11. Clarke (78)
Subs: 1. Burgoyne, 3. Golbourne, 4. Edwards, 6. Goss (78), 12. Sears (66), 23. Udoh (89), 35. Cummings
Subs Not Used: 1. Burgoyne, 3. Golbourne, 4. Edwards, 35. Cummings
Other League One Results
Charlton 2 – 2 Swindon
Crewe 1 – 1 AFC Wimbledon
Gillingham 2 – 2 Rochdale
Ipswich 0 – 1 Peterborough
Lincoln 2 – 1 Northampton
Oxford 2 – 0 Bristol Rovers
Portsmouth 0 – 4 Hull
Wigan 0 – 0 Fleetwood