Bristol Rovers 0-1 Sunderland: Aiden O’Brien provides the all-important winner

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Bristol Rovers 0-1 Sunderland: Aiden O’Brien provides winner to keep Lee Johnson’s side in touch with automatic promotion places in League One

  • Bristol Rovers lost 1-0 to Lee Johnson’s Sunderland side in their game on Saturday
  • Aiden O’Brien’s goal keeps them in touch with the automatic promotion places
  • Joey Barton will feel frustrated with Bristol’s defensive performance

Joey Barton became a teacher this week to educate his Bristol Rovers players about the best defenders in football history.

Everyone from Franco Baresi to Sergio Ramos was covered in class, but unfortunately his students are only half paying attention.

The Sunderland winner, scored by Aiden O’Brien, keeping them in touch with the automatic promotion spots in League One, came from defending in a corner generously described as soft.

Joey Barton's Bristol Rovers lost 1-0 to Sunderland on Saturday in their League One clash

Joey Barton’s Bristol Rovers lost 1-0 to Sunderland on Saturday in their League One clash

In fairness to Rovers, who dropped one place to 23rd place but had decent hopes of survival, their rearguard was brave to withstand a barrage of pressure that followed.

But eventually this started to take shape. Lee Johnson’s Sunderland, with their eighth win in 10 league games, still has games in hand over the first two Hull City and Peterborough United.

Johnson has done a good job since arriving at the Stadium of Light in December and you certainly wouldn’t bet against their return to the championship after three years of struggles.

Barton had piqued his opponents on Saturday by playing out his Newcastle United backstory, saying that no amount of money or prestige could ever convince him to manage them.

Aiden O'Brien's scored the only goal of the game to see Sunderland emerge victorious

Aiden O'Brien's scored the only goal of the game to see Sunderland emerge victorious

Aiden O’Brien’s scored the only goal of the game to see Sunderland emerge victorious

O'Brien's goal keeps Lee Johnson's side in touch with the automatic promotion places

O'Brien's goal keeps Lee Johnson's side in touch with the automatic promotion places

O’Brien’s goal keeps Lee Johnson’s side in touch with the automatic promotion places

MATCH FACTS

Bristol Rovers (4-3-3): Jaakkola; Williams, Kilgour (Baldwin 81), Martinez, Leahy (c); McCormick, Grant, Westbrooke (Oztumer 71); Hanlan, Ayunga (Tutonda 76), Walker (Barrett 76)

Replacements not used: Day (GK); Haas, Daly

Manager: Joey Barton

Booked: Leahy

Sunderland (4-2-2-2): Burge; Power (c), Sanderson, O’Nien, McFadzean; Scowen, Winchester; Gooch (Leadbitter 66), McGeady; O’Brien (Stewart 66), Wyke

Switches not used: Matthews (GK); Maguire, Diamond, Neil, Younger

Manager: Lee Johnson

Scorer: O’Brien 39

Booked: Scowen, Sanderson, O’Nien

Referee: Ollie Yates

That seems like a pretty unlikely prospect anyway, but what could be guaranteed was that Barton’s side, fighting relegation to League Two, would give Sunderland a real test of their promotion data.

That was certainly the case in the initial phase, where the visitors were rattled by a tight press and some tough challenges. Zain Westbrooke van Rovers took care of the first chance of the game and shot wide.

A better chance for the hosts came within fifteen minutes when Sunderland center-back Dion Sanderson poorly controlled and Jonah Ayunga offered a firing area at the edge of the area. His attempt also flew wide, but the Black Cats had been warned appropriately.

Gradually they tightened their grip on the procedure, mainly through more ball possession, and eventually the opportunities came. Aiden McGeady curled a shot high and wide after Carl Winchester fired in the Rovers box.

And a quick thought from a free kick to the left made Lynden Gooch mistaken. His shot was blocked by Anssi Jaakkola, but headed towards Charlie Wyke who headed over, unusually for a striker in such a hot shape.

But as the half progressed, the Sunderland opener started to look more and more inevitable. It came six minutes before the break and Barton wouldn’t have been impressed with the way it happened.

McGeady fired into a corner and no one in blue and white seemed to respond. It left O’Brien, unchecked and unchallenged, to stick out a shoe and direct the ball to the bottom corner.

Sunderland knew they probably needed a second goal to be sure and they dominated after half time.

McGeady came close on the volley from Max Power’s cross and O’Brien was not far from his second shot when his first shot hit just over the crossbar.

Jonah Ayunga almost withdrew one for Bristol after taking advantage of Dion Sanderson's mistake

Jonah Ayunga almost withdrew one for Bristol after taking advantage of Dion Sanderson's mistake

Jonah Ayunga almost withdrew one for Bristol after taking advantage of Dion Sanderson’s mistake

While Aiden McGeady came close to scoring in the first half of the game

While Aiden McGeady came close to scoring in the first half of the game

While Aiden McGeady came close to scoring in the first half of the game

At times, it seemed as if Rovers seem to be throwing in the way of shots from Wyke, denied twice in quick succession from the edge of the box.

McGeady curled a free kick that grazed the outside of the post in the final minutes, but their waste only invited a late Rovers disaster.

The largely redundant Sunderland goalkeeper Lee Burge made a sharp save to deny David Tutonda with the gaping goal after Josh Barrett’s corner was not cleared enough. But they held out for a vital three points.

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