Shrewsbury Town come within a whisker of snatching a point at the Stadium of Light but are denied late on.
Nathan Broadhead notched a 92nd minute winner in an enthralling encounter in the North East. The visitors looked to be dead and buried after goals courtesy of Elliott Embleton and Broadhead’s first appeared to set the tone for the rest of the contest.
However, Shrewsbury rallied in the second half and reduced the arrears through Josh Vela. Then, a Sunderland old boy Tom Flanagan found a dramatic equaliser in the 58th minute. Nathan Broadhead’s late winner ensured the Black Cats remain on course for the play-offs.
Steve Cotterill made a solitary change from the side that drew 1-1 with Ipswich. Shaun Whalley was drafted in at the expense of Josh Daniels.
Alex Neil’s side started on the front foot and were ahead with four minutes on the clock. Tom Flanagan handled on the edge of the box to give the home side a free-kick. Nathan Broadhead‘s effort was blocked by the wall, but possession fell to Elliott Embleton who drilled his strike into the bottom corner.
Sunderland continued to exert pressure and were 2-0 to the good in the 14th minute. Dennis Cirkin was afforded far too much room to fire goalward – Marko Marosi parried into the path of Everton loanee Nathan Broadhead who slammed home.
The visitors were firmly camped in their own half. Elliott Embleton turned possession over to Lyndon Gooch and the American whipped a shot just wide of the target. Town were forced into a 37th minute substation as Elliott Bennett was forced off with an injury.
Shrewsbury did threaten toward the end of the first half and were thwarted by the linesman’s flag. Shaun Whalley produced a darting run and found George Nurse with Ryan Bowman eventually turning home from an offside position. Then, Bowman struck narrowly off-target in encouraging signs for Steve Cotterill’s side.
Town began the second half in a completely different fashion. Nigerian striker Dan Udoh engineered room on the edge of the box but lashed his final shot over the crossbar. The arrears were reduced five minutes into the second period. George Nurse had time and space to pick out Josh Vela and the latter gleefully side footed beyond Patterson in the Sunderland goal.
Eight minutes later the comeback was complete. Tom Flanagan who made over 100 appearances for Sunderland came back to haunt his former employer. Matthew Pennington saw his effort blocked and the rebound fell kindly to Tom Flanagan whose volley Patterson could not keep out.
Sunderland were in disarray and if Neil had any hair he would have probably been pulling it out. It took until the 72nd minute before they got a grip of the second half. Tottenham loanee Jack Clarke’s cross was not dealt with by Marko Marosi and the ball fell to Ross Stewart. The Scot thumped the rebound against the crossbar.
The home side continued to press for the winner. Marko Marosi pulled off an excellent save to deny Ross Stewart, but the Slovakian was forced to pick the ball out of the net late on. Nathan Broadhead got the faintest of touches to turn home as the goal sparked wild celebrations in most corners of the stadium.
It was a cruel blow for Town to take although it is further evidence of a turnaround in mentality. Shrewsbury welcome Doncaster on Easter Monday, whilst Sunderland visit Plymouth.
Team Line Ups
20. Patterson, 15. Winchester, 26. Wright, 17. Cirkin, 11. Gooch (79), 27. Matete (86), 8. Embleton (62), 13. O’Nien, 25. Clarke, 9. Broadhead, 14. Stewart
Subs: Burge, 4. Evans (62), 5. Batth, 19. Xhemajli, 24. Neill (86), 32. Hume, 77. Roberts (79)
Subs Not Used: 1. Burge, 5. Batth, 19. Xhemajli, 32. Hume
1. Marosi, 5. Pennington, 33. Flanagan, 3. Leahy, 17. Bennett, 10. Vela, 8. Fornah, 7. Whalley, 23. Nurse, 12. Bowman, 11. Udoh
Subs: 6. Pierre (79), 13. Burgoyne, 18. Bloxham (88), 19. Caton, 22. Daniels (37), 27. Craig, 28. Janneh
Subs Not Used: 13. Burgoyne, 19. Caton, 27. Craig, 28. Janneh