Doncaster Rovers 1 Sunderland 2: Rovers end year on losing note as they are out-battled by Black Cats
Doncaster Rovers failed to see out 2019 with a victory as they were out-fought by Sunderland at the Keepmoat.
Goals from former Rovers loanee Lynden Gooch and Chris Maguire gave Sunderland a deserved win, ending their nine match search for a victory.
Jon Taylor did equalise for Rovers against the run of play before half time but they largely struggled to make an impression on the game in attacking terms.
The visitors were much the stronger throughout, better organised and operated at a quicker tempo with Rovers unable to match them for long periods.
Darren Moore made one change from the side that started the in at Peterborough with James Coppinger making an expected return in place of Ben Sheaf.
Sunderland ensured their 4,000-strong following remained vocal by taking a sixth minute lead.
The Rovers defence failed to react to a quick tapped free kick from Luke O’Nien, which sent Gooch into space to line up his shot and curl a wonderful effort into the corner from the edge of the box.
The visitors sought to keep the pace high and it served to rattle Rovers further as they struggle for composure against such close attention.
Passes were misplaced regularly, only increasing the pressure upon themselves and inviting Sunderland on.
Black Cats striker Charlie Wyke was unfortunate not to add to their tally with two chances in quick succession.
First, he fired narrowly over the bar after a smart turn in the box, before drawing a superb save from Seny Dieng at full stretch with a curling effort from the corner of the box.
Chris Maguire worked space for a low effort which Dieng parried before Kieran Sadlier eventually removed the danger.
Doncaster grabbed the equaliser five minutes from the break. Coppinger slid Sadlier clear down the left and he curled a wonderful low ball across goal which Taylor ran onto and powered beyond Jon McLaughlin.
Sunderland were the width of the crossbar from going back in front on the stroke of half time when Maguire cannoned a free kick off the woodwork.
Wyke missed a glorious opportunity to put Sunderland ahead shortly after the restart when meeting a low free kick from Maguire only to turn it over from only four yards out.
Sunderland were back in front just after the hour. Rovers failed to deal with the pressure, or to track Maguire who ran onto a loose ball and lashed it beyond Dieng.
Still the pressure came from the visitors and it took a superb reaction save from Dieng to punch off his line when an O’Nien header threatened to drop in.
Rovers struggled to mount pressure with Sunderland continuing to to shut them down and muscle them out of the game superbly.
ROVERS: Dieng; Halliday, Wright, Anderson, John (Thomas 81); Whiteman, Gomes; Taylor, Coppinger (Watters 90), Sadlier; Ennis. Subs not used: Lawlor, Daniels, James, Sheaf, Greaves.
SUNDERLAND: J McLaughlin; Willis, Ozturk, Lynch; O’Nien, Dobson, Power, Hume; Maguire, Gooch (Watmore 80); Wyke. Subs not used: Burge, C McLaughlin, McNulty, Grigg, Leadbitter, De Bock.
REFEREE: Carl Boyeson (East Yorkshire)
ATTENDANCE: 12,432 (4,070 away)