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Chronicle Live
Chronicle Live
James Hunter

Sunderland move into play-off spot after Dennis Cirkin's double downs top six rivals West Brom

Sunderland climbed into the Championship play-off spots as they came from behind to beat top-six rivals West Bromwich Albion in a crucial game at The Hawthorns. The Black Cats trailed to John Swift's penalty on the stroke of half-time, which was controversially awarded after Luke O'Nien had been adjudged to have fouled the Baggies man.

But Dennis Cirkin - who was returning after serving a suspension - headed Sunderland level within minutes of the second half getting under way, and the defender then completed the turnaround five minutes from time.

The win extended Sunderland's unbeaten run to seven games, and ended West Brom's 12 league game unbeaten run at home which stretched back to October.

But, more importantly, it saw Tony Mowbray's side climb to sixth in the table with just two games of the season remaining - albeit, West Brom and Blackburn each have a game in hand of them. Mowbray made three changes to the side that started against Huddersfield at the weekend, one of which was forced upon him due to the knee injury that saw Danny Batth limp off late in the game against the Terriers.

READ MORE: West Bromwich Albion 1-2 Sunderland: Highlights and reaction as Black Cats climb into play-off spot

Cirkin replaced Batth, while the other changes saw Pierre Ekwah and Abdoullah Ba come into the starting XI in place of Patrick Roberts and Alex Pritchard. Baggies boss Carlos Corberan made one change, in his case to the side that won at Blackpool in midweek.

Okay Yukuslu came in for the injured Nathaniel Chalobah. Sunderland weathered an early spell of pressure from West Brom, which saw the hosts pressing high up the pitch and putting the Black Cats' defenders under pressure at every opportunity.

But Sunderland soon settled into the game and began to take control, with Ba seeing a low shot blocked behind for a corner, and from that set-piece Gelhardt saw a volley headed over by Jayson Molumby for another corner. Midway through the half, a slick passing move saw Amad burst into the box down the right but Alex Palmer was quickly off his line to block the forward's shot as he tried to apply the finish.

Anthony Patterson had a let-off ten minutes before the break when he played a loose pass under pressure from Molumby and only a slip from Jed Wallace prevented him intercepting with an open goal to aim at. Karlan Grant sliced a shot well wide for the hosts.

And at the other end, Jack Clarke cut into the box from the left and his low right-foot shot was brilliantly pushed round the post by Palmer diving to his left. Amad then curled a shot narrowly wide from 25 yards after Sunderland had won possession high up the pitch.

But in the final minute of the first half, O'Nien tried to clear a loose ball just inside the penalty area on the left and only succeeded in catching Swift, with referee John Busby pointing to the spot and Swift got up to smash his penalty straight down the middle, leaving Patterson no chance. West Brom should have doubled their lead right at the start of the second half as Sunderland's penalty are resembled a pinball machine, with shots from Molumby, Grant, Conor Townsend, and Darnell Furlong blocked one after the other.

Sunderland survived - somehow - and then in the 52nd minute they got back on level terms. Lynden Gooch crossed from the right and Cirkin got above his marker to head past Palmer into the top right-hand corner.

Sunderland then almost turned the game on its head five minutes later when Gooch fired a shot at goal from a tight angle inside the area on the right, but Palmer kept it out with his legs. West Brom responded well to conceding and spent long periods of the second half camped inside the Sunderland half, but they struggled to create chances.

And instead it was Sunderland who completed the turnaround in the 84th minute with a brilliantly-crafted goal. Cirkin started the move on the left, feeding the ball to substitute Edouard Michut, he then found fellow-sub Pritchard inside the box and he played it back into the path of Cirkin to finish.

West Brom threw everything at Sunderland in the final stages with sub Taylor Gardner-Hickman going closest with a long-range shot that whistled past the post, but the Black Cats held out for a crucial victory.

How they lined up

West Brom: Palmer, Furlon, Ajayi, Pieters (Bartley 90), Townsend, Molumby (Rogic 90), Yokuslu (Gardner-Hickman 85), Wallace, Swift (Faal 90), Grant (Albrighton 83), Thomas-Assante. Subs not used: Griffiths, Livermore,

Booked: Molumby, Yokuslu, Swift

Sunderland: Patterson, Hume, O'Nien, Cirkin, Gooch, Neil, Ekwah (Michut 68), Clarke, Amad, Ba (Roberts 68), Gelhardt (Pritchard 78). Subs not used: Bass, Anderson, Taylor, Lihadji

Booked: Gelhardt, O'Nien, Gooch

Referee: John Busby (Oxfordshire)

Attendance: 24,764


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