Sunderland 2 Fleetwood Town 0: Gloomy night for Grayson on return to Stadium of Light

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Fleetwood no ‘soft touch’ for anyone says Simon Grayson ahead of Sunderland test

Grayson’s side frustrated the Black Cats for an hour but then Aiden O’Brien’s header put the hosts on the way to three points.

The Yorkshireman’s former club, where he departed in October 2016 during an ill-fated Championship campaign, wrapped things up with eight minutes to go, when Max Power headed in. The victory lifted Sunderland to fifth, while Fleetwood dropped a spot to 17th.

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Simon Grayson made an unhappy return to his former club

Fleetwood are winless on the road in seven matches and rarely threatened Lee Burge’s Sunderland goal.

It was certainly not the ideal time for Grayson to be heading back to Sunderland, where Kyril Louis-Dreyfus’ successful takeover has lifted spirits and Saturday’s win at Burton propelled the club into the play-off zone.

But Grayson had started positively and wanted to build on the weekend draw with Charlton by ending a run without an away win dating back to December 12.

To stun his former club, though, he was going to have to do it without Fleetwood’s record scorer in the EFL, Paddy Madden.

His absence was the only change, with Harvey Saunders slotting into the attack.

Within seven minutes Saunders, who has scored eight goals in all competitions this season, wasn’t far away from opening the scoring.

He was just shy of getting on the end of Kyle Vassell’s volley back across the six-yard box. That was as close as Fleetwood got.

The teams looked to pass the ball around quite quickly. There was, though, a shortage of efforts for both goalkeepers to deal with initially.

Aiden McGeady went closest for Sunderland 10minutes after that opening chance, although James Hill’s touch prevented the winger’s long-range drive from hitting the target. The corner came to nothing.

Sunderland skipper Power also saw an effort fly wide of Cairns’ upright midway through the opening half.

Fleetwood got on the ball after that but without testing goalkeeper Burge. And it was Sunderland who threatened again by forcing Cairns into his first save, diving to block McGeady’s effort after Lynden Gooch’s run and pass.

With half-time approaching, and Danny Andrew getting the better of Gooch down the right, Fleetwood did look to counter but Vassell was thwarted by Dion Sanderson and it was goalless at the break.

That was to prove costly because Sunderland stepped things up after the restart.

Cairns’ best save was to deny Gooch and soon after he was beaten.

McGeady, who had already played in Gooch, chipped a lovely ball into the area for O’Brien to arrive between his markers to nod low and beyond the goalkeeper in the 61st minute.

After that, substitute Jordan Jones went close a couple of times to adding to the lead only to be thwarted by Cairns again.

But Cairns couldn’t prevent Power’s diving header at the back post from creeping in late on to increase Fleetwood’s frustrations.

SUNDERLAND: Burge, McLaughlin, Sanderson, O’Nien, McFadzean, Gooch (Winchester 72), Power, Leadbitter, McGeady (Jones 68), O’Brien (Maguire 79), Wyke; Subs not used: Matthews, Diamond, Vokins, Younger

FLEETWOOD: Cairns, Hill, Connolly, Holgate (Morris 69), Donacien, Andrew, Batty (Camps 79), Rossiter, Duffy (Biggins 58),Saunders (Burns 58), Vassell; Subs: Coleman, Rydel, Morris.

Referee: James Bell

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