Late Cirkin strike moves Sunderland into the play-off places after Championship win over West Brom at The Hawthorns
Sunderland beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 in the Sky Bet Championship to claim a vital three points at The Hawthorns.
A John Swift penalty separated the sides on the stroke of half time before Dennis Cirkin’s second half brace sealed all three points for the Black Cats on the road.
Cirkin, Abdoullah Ba and Pierre Ekwah all returned to the starting line-up replacing Patrick Roberts, Alex Pritchard and Danny Batth who picked up a knee injury in Tuesday’s draw with Huddersfield Town.
West Brom started the match on the front foot but failed to force Anthony Patterson into a save as Sunderland weathered the Baggies’ early phase of pressure.
The visitors’ first opportunity fell to Joe Gelhardt at the back post following a corner, but the striker’s volley was crucially intervened by Jayson Molumby to force a corner which was cleared away from danger.
Amad manoeuvred space with some neat footwork down the right to skip past his man, but Alex Palmer was alert and quick off his line to deny the attacker in a promising position.
Palmer produced a brilliant full-stretch save in the final five minutes to push Jack Clarke’s curling goal-bound attempt from the left-hand side around his far post for a corner.
The hosts were awarded a penalty with the final kick of the first half when Luke O’Nien was adjudged to have fouled Swift inside the 18-yard box.
Swift stepped up and sent Patterson the wrong way, coolly slotting the ball down the middle to put the Baggies ahead against the run of play.
West Brom started the second half brightly forcing Sunderland’s defence to frantically make several last-ditch blocks to deny the Baggies a second goal.
The visitors equalised on 52 minutes when Cirkin lost his man at the back post and headed Lynden Gooch’s superbly timed cross into Palmer’s top corner.
Patterson was positioned perfectly moments later to get a firm hand to Conor Townsend’s header, pushing the midfielder’s attempt over his crossbar for a corner.
Palmer was next to be called into action following Dan Neil’s strike from distance, the rebound fell to Clarke who cut inside and agonisingly watched his bending attempt curl inches wide of Palmer’s far post.
Sunderland went in search of a winning goal and deservedly took the lead on 85 minutes, Cirkin notching his second of the match after collecting a neat pass from Alex Pritchard inside the box before hammering the ball into the roof of Palmer’s net to finish off a brilliant team move.
Substitutes Mo Faal and Taylor Gardner-Hickham came close to levelling the scores late on, but Tony Mowbray’s side held firm in the dying embers of the match to collect a crucial three points and condemn West Brom to their first league defeat at home since October.
The victory moves Sunderland into the play-off positions on goal difference with just two Sky Bet Championship matches remaining.
Sunderland XI: Patterson, Gooch ©, Hume, O’Nien, Cirkin, Neil, Ekwah (Michut 68’), Amad, Ba (Roberts 68’), Clarke, Gelhardt (Pritchard 77’)
Subs not used: Bass, Anderson, Taylor, Lihadji.
West Bromwich Albion XI: Palmer, Furlong, Ajayi, Pieters (Bartley 90’), Townsend ©, Molumby (Rogic 90’), Yokuslu (Gardner-Hickman 85’), Wallace, Swift (Faal 90’), Grant (Albrighton 83’), Thomas-Asante.
Subs not used: Griffiths, Livermore.