THIS afternoon’s was dubbed as an early top of the table clash in League One and it lived up to it’s promise as Sunderland came out on top with an entertaining 2-1 win over Accrington Stanley.

Sunderland took the game by the scruff of the neck in the opening exchanges at the Stadium of Light and showed why they currently top the pile in League One.

There was plenty of urgency, energy and pace in their attack which Accrington were not up to speed with. The Black Cats really should have scored within 12 minutes when Dan Neil hung a cross to the back post which Lynden Gooch got underneath and headed over the bar. However, Neil was to have his best moment in a Sunderland shirt moments later.

Gooch’s cleared cross was nodded down by Elliot Embleton into the path of Neil. Under a bit of pressure, the young midfielder dropped his shoulder and brought the ball onto his left foot and let rip from 25 yards. The ball flew into the right hand corner and the Stadium of Light erupted in what was a special way for Neil to get his first senior goal for the club.

The Black Cats followed up the goal with relentless pressure as Embleton fired over from inside the box after a Ross Stewart lay off and Carl Winchester almost topped Neil’s goal with a spectacular effort of his own. His left footed strike from 25 yards was literally inches away from going in.

However, what happened on 30 minutes was a stark reminder of an old footballing cliché. Something about not taking your chances.

A corner ball from Sean McConville was met beautifully by the head of Michael Nottingham who’s powerful header flew into the top right hand corner despite the best efforts of debutant keeper Thorben Hoffman to claw the ball out. He was to have no clean sheet debut and Stanley were back in the game.

The Black Cats nerves seemed rattled and they had to survive a couple more scares when Dion Charles struck low in the box but was thwarted by Hoffman. Then in stoppage, the German keeper almost produced a debut shocker when he his attempted punch missed the ball from a curling free-kick ensuing another goalmouth scramble.

While the first half was another great home performance by the Black Cats, it also represented how quickly events can turn and it was up to Sunderland to put the game to bed.

The first ten minutes of the second half was nip and tuck but it didn’t take long for the Northern Irishman dubbed ‘Winiesta’ to get in on the act.

Sunderland worked the ball very well from the left as Embleton drifted inside. Aidan McGeady received possession in a central position allowing the space to open up on the right for Carl Winchester. McGeady slipped the ball through and Winchester did the rest as he stroked the ball into the bottom left corner.

The Black Cats regained a spring in their step and should have made it three and four when Stewart was slipped in behind the defence. He attempted to round the goalkeeper but he was denied by the outstretched arm of James Trafford. Shortly afterwards, McGeady curled from the edge of the box in an effort you would expect the net to bulge from but the ball whistled just wide.

Callum Doyle was let off the hook when he lost the ball in a defensive area to Coleby Bishop. The Stanley striker charged forward and cut the ball back to Matt Butcher but his effort was vitally blocked on the line by Dennis Cirkin who headed behind for a corner.

Embleton had a huge chance to put the game to bed eight minutes from time as Sunderland broke away but the Stanley striker Dion Charles charged back and heroically blocked the effort with a sliding challenge at the vital moment.

Sunderland put more bodies in defence to run the clock down and it was a nervy six minutes of stoppage time but the Black Cats held on. Their fourth home win in a row sends keep them top of the League One table and they’re now the team to beat.