LEE JOHNSON has defended his decision to dispense with the services of Chris Maguire after the former Sunderland striker returned to haunt his former team at the Stadium of Light last night.

Maguire scored a hat-trick as Lincoln claimed a 3-1 win on Wearside, with the result ending Sunderland’s ten-games unbeaten run in League One and preventing Johnson’s side from returning to the top of the table.

The 32-year-old left under something of a cloud in the summer, when he was not offered a new deal after falling out of Johnson’s preferred starting side in the second half of last season.

He clearly enjoyed getting one over on his former boss last night, sprinting down the touchline to celebrate in Johnson’s face after opening the scoring, but the Sunderland boss, who was sent off in the closing stages after intervening in a touchline fracas, stands by his decision to move Maguire on.

“It’s not for me to comment (on the way Maguire reacted),” said Johnson. “You’d have to ask him. When you’re manager you pick a team, you don’t hold grudges, and players sometimes move on, it’s part of the game.

“For me, you pick players – (Elliot) Embleton, (Alex) Pritchard - based on your belief in them. Today, he’s had his day and good luck to him.”

Having opened the scoring with a first-half drive, Maguire added two more goals in the second half via a penalty and a sublime chip over Sunderland goalkeeper Anthony Patterson.

He insists he retains a great deal of respect for the Black Cats supporters, but was not about to apologise for his taunts at Johnson.

“It was a build up of things,” said the Lincoln striker. “I thought I was hard done by in my time here – it didn’t end the way I wanted it to. I got a yellow card early on, and I looked over and he (Johnson) was trying to get me sent off.

“It worked in favour of us because, at the end of the day, he’s been sent up the tunnel. I can’t tell you what I said, but I think I did my talking on the pitch. It was just a bit of tongue in cheek for my last six months here. It ended badly for me.”

Johnson was unhappy with the state of the Stadium of Light pitch, which had pools of water standing on it at kick-off despite it not having rained in the previous 24 hours.

“I’ve said before that we’ve got some fantastic ground staff here, but I honestly don’t know what happened today,” said the Sunderland boss. “Until we have that discussion, it’s very difficult for me to have an opinion on it.

“Often, there’s context to any particular situation. It’s nothing against the people, but for some reason, the pitch was waterlogged 40 minutes before the game.

"The sporting director sent me a picture and said, ‘What’s gone on here? Have you asked for it to be watered?’ Somebody’s got it wrong somewhere because it wasn’t mean to be like that.”