THE early effects of Storm Cristoph were evident at the Stadium of Light last night, with wind and rain leaving puddles on the playing surface. By the final whistle, however, it was Sunderland’s promotion hopes that had been blown off course.

Lee Johnson’s wait for a first home league win goes on, and having been appointed to try to repair the damage inflicted at the tail end of Phil Parkinson’s reign, Sunderland’s recently-appointed head coach has received an early crash course into the realities of life on Wearside.

If Johnson thought he could rely on Sunderland’s history and stature to engineer a return to the Championship, he will already find himself recalibrating his ambitions. The Black Cats had already failed to see of Bristol Rovers, Burton and AFC Wimbledon on home soil this season, and now a Plymouth side that had failed to win any of their previous nine away games can be added to that list.

The visitors fully merited their success, with well-taken goals from Adam Lewis and Joe Edwards sandwiching a headed finish from Aiden O’Brien that briefly threatened a Sunderland revival at the start of the second half. Plymouth’s players needed an 800-mile round trip to take part in last night’s game – their opponents’ limitations meant their efforts were fully worthwhile.

The decision to play the game in difficult conditions proved the right one, with the playing surface not deteriorating too badly despite a series of ruts gradually beginning to appear down the heart of the pitch.

It was not a night for pretty football, although 11 minutes in, and it appeared as though no one had told that to the Pilgrims. The best move of the game unlocked the Sunderland defence and enabled the visitors to claim the lead.

Luke Jephcott was at the heart of it, releasing Conor Grant towards the byline with an excellent disguised pass. Grant drilled a low ball across the face of the goalmouth, and after nipping ahead of a static Sunderland defence, Liverpool loanee Lewis was left with the simple task of turning home from three yards.

It was a slick opener, and despite going on to dominate possession, Sunderland were unable to match it in the remainder of the first half. A remodelled central midfield featuring new signing Carl Winchester and Josh Scowen did not function as planned, although the hosts still came close on two notable occasions before the interval.

The first opportunity owed much to the instincts of O’Brien, with the forward fashioning a back-heel from Jack Diamond’s cross that led to Plymouth goalkeeper Mike Cooper scrambling the ball around the post.

The second should have resulted in a 23rd-minute equaliser, but after Charlie Wyke’s square ball left Aiden McGeady alone in the 18-yard box, Sunderland’s Irish winger slid a side-footed finish too close to Cooper, who saved with his foot.

With Jordan Willis departing towards the end of the opening period after another injury setback, the hosts would have been feeling sorry for themselves at the break. However, six minutes into the second half, and they were level. A neat passing move involving McGeady and Winchester resulted in Callum McFadzean breaking on the overlap, and after the full-back crossed towards the near post, O’Brien stole ahead of his marker to glance home a header.

It should have been the platform for Sunderland to kick on, but the hosts switched off again to enable Plymouth to restore their lead five minutes later. Edwards was afforded too much space as he received a pass from Grant, and he opened up his body to curl past Lee Burge.