Garner sends Town on way to victory at Stadium of Light
Town ended a 29 year wait for an away victory against Sunderland thanks to two first-half goals.
Former Black Cat, Martyn Waghorn, had already rattled the post with a free-kick before Joe Garner joined him on 10 goals for the season with a strike 10 minutes before the break.
Blues doubled the advantage right on half-time when Adam Matthews diverted Grant Ward’s cross into his own net.
Waghorn went close to adding a third late on as Town saw out the game to stay within sight of the Play-Off places.
Town made three changes to the side that went down to Wolves last weekend, Cole Skuse, Freddie Sears and Ward coming in. New signing Mustapha Carayol was among the substitutes.
Ward had an early shot deflected for a corner, Waghorn swinging in a vicious delivery that was cleared by John O’Shea.
Ovie Ejaria had a shot blocked inside the Town box as the Black Cats responded, Sears and Jonas Knudsen linked up down Blues’ left channel but O’Shea was again in the right place to end the danger.
Joel Asoro had a gilt edged chance to open the scoring on 10 minutes but he dragged his shot wide of the far post after excellent work by Ashley Fletcher.
Asoro had a left footer deflected for a corner as Chris Coleman’s side looked to build up some momentum, Cameron Carter-Vickers clearing as Fletcher waited to pounce.
Billy Jones was inches away from Bryan Oviedo’s free-kick at the far post as Sunderland continued to threaten, but at the other end Sears led a breakaway that saw Ward brought down on the edge of the box, Waghorn curling a terrific free-kick against the post.
O’Shea headed wide from a corner, Fletcher tested Bialkowski with a volley from the edge of the box, then on 35 minutes Town got the breakthrough, Garner allowed time and space to turn inside the box and find the bottom corner.
Right on the break, Mick McCarthy’s side made it two. Callum Connolly set up Ward, whose excellent cross was put into his own net by Matthews to put Blues in complete control of the game.
Ejaria smashed an ambitious effort over the bar, Garner with an even more ambitious strike from 40 yards that landed safely in Lee Camp’s hands as the second-half got underway.
Sunderland made a double change before the hour with Kazenga Lualua and George Honeyman entering the fray.
The Black Cats had a handball appeal against Knudsen turned down, then Lualua couldn’t keep his shot down after Bialkowski had forced out a cross.
Carter-Vickers shadowed the danger from Fletcher, Lualua testing Bialkowski with a snap shot from 25 yards, Fletcher then denied by Knudsen as Sunderland looked for a lifeline.
Stephen Gleeson replaced Ward for the last 20 minutes, Waghorn then having a great chance to end the contest but he toe-poked the ball past the post when in on goal.
Luke Hyam replaced Skuse in the final stages and while Sunderland kept plugging away, Bialkowski was rarely tested as Blues eased the way to the three points.
Sunderland: Camp, Jones, O’Shea, Browning, Cattermole, Robson (Honeyman 56), Oviedo, Matthews (McGeady 68), Ejaria, Fletcher, Asoro (Lualua 56). Subs not used: Ruiter, Maja, Gooch, Love. Booked: Asoro.
Town: Bialkowski, Spence, Chambers, Carter-Vickers, Knudsen, Ward (Gleeson 70), Connolly, Skuse (Hyam 81), Sears, Waghorn, Garner (Webster 90). Subs not used: Crowe, Iorfa, Celina, Carayol. Booked: Garner.
Att: 27, 909