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Sunderland 2 Rovers 0

19 April 2019

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Rovers were undone by two first-half strikes despite a battling performance at Sunderland.

Ben Whiteman and John Marquis returned to the starting line-up after injuries to bolster manager Grant McCann's options.

The opening stages of the match were frantic, with the returning Whiteman having a shot blocked after two minutes and Marquis put through four minutes later - he went down after colliding with Alim Ozturk - but referee Andy Woolmer was not interested.

Rovers were made to pay one minute later when a cross from Aiden McGeady found the head of Charlie Wyke, who cushioned the ball down for Lewis Morgan to smash the ball home.

Sunderland had showed the ruthlessness which has them pushing for a top-two spot, but Rovers were still creating chances - Mallik Wilks did not test Jon McLaughlin with a header where he did not get enough power on it after 13 minutes, and after beating his man for pace could not pull back his cross enough to find any of his waiting team-mates.

Luke O'Nien fired an effort over after 15 minutes, with the Black Cats looking to double their advantage, but Rovers had settled into the game and were creating chances - albeit not always clear cut ones - with regularity.

The best came after 21 minutes when Whiteman's first-time effort was punched away by McLaughlin, after an incisive pass from Herbie Kane.

When Rovers had to defend they did so in numbers, with Tommy Rowe then Andy Butler getting in key blocks.

But the home side made it 2-0 just after the half hour mark, when Wyke was left with an easy tap-in after Rovers had failed to deal with a corner and Jimmy Dunne nodded into the forward's path.

Marko Marosi had to be alert to keep out another effort from Wyke - this time a header - moments later.

Two deliveries from Danny Andrew - both looking for Marquis - caused problems as half-time approached. Rovers' No.9 was inches away from turning the first delivery home to cut the deficit, while the second found Marquis and he was penalised despite replays suggesting a home defender had run into him.

Andrew was inches away from halving the deficit with the final action of the half, after Kane was brought down outside the area to concede a free-kick.

The left-back's effort deceived everyone but came crashing back off the near post to ensure the hosts maintained their two-goal advantage at the break.

Rovers boss McCann made a double change for the second period, with Ali Crawford and Alfie May coming on for Whiteman and James Coppinger.

May quickly got in on the action by getting on the end of a Kane pass, with Mclaughlin doing well to block his effort.

Marosi did well after 57 minutes to turn away an effort from Wyke, whose effort had looked destined for the far corner.

Referee Woolmer was again uninterested in Rovers' claims for a spot-kick when Ozturk seemed to haul down Butler in the area when challenging to get on the end of a Crawford free-kick.

McLaughlin had to be alert after 73 minutes when Wilks headed the ball towards him from a corner, but again there was not enough pace on it from the on-loan Leeds man to really test the home keeper.

The home side made their first change after 75 minutes, with former Rovers loanee Lynden Gooch coming on in place of McGeady, followed shortly afterward by Will Grigg replacing goalscorer Wyke.

Rovers enjoyed some good possession as the game headed into the final 10 minutes, with Marquis unable to get enough direction on his header following a Andrew delivery from the left.

Tyler Smith was introduced with seven minutes to go as McCann tried to mix things up in search of a way back into the game, but with the home side content to defend their lead there was no way through.

And Marosi made the last significant save of the game, turning away a snapshot from substitute Grigg right at the end of stoppage time.


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