Ipswich returned to winning ways in the Championship after coming back from a goal down to beat play-off hopefuls Sunderland 2-1 in a pulsating encounter at Portman Road.

Jack Clarke opened the scoring for the Black Cats but Kayden Jackson levelled the scores during a frenetic first half.

Conor Chaplin then completed the comeback in the 75th minute when he powered a header past Sunderland goalkeeper Anthony Patterson.

The Tractor Boys ended a run of five games without a victory to retain second spot in the table, seven points adrift of Leicester who lost at Coventry.

The Black Cats, meanwhile, sit just out of the top six on goal difference.

The visitors were presented with a great opportunity to take the lead early on when Harry Clarke lost possession to Aji Alese out wide. The Sunderland man made his way towards the six-yard area, where his cross found Jobe Bellingham but Town keeper Vaclav Hladky blocked the shot.

A spell of concerted pressure in the Wearsiders’ penalty area resulted in a shot from Jack Taylor but his goal-bound effort was blocked by Dan Ballard.

Hladky then used his legs to keep out a shot from Clarke but the Sunderland man got his name on the scoresheet in the 26th minute with a fine strike from the edge the penalty area.

It came following a corner which was initially cleared, but Abdoullah Ba collected the ball and danced across the edge of the penalty area before finding Clarke, who rifled the ball into the net.

Ipswich responded and Clarke’s low cross from the right was pushed away by Patterson but the Tractor Boys were level in the 33rd minute through Jackson.

Lewis Travis, on loan from Blackburn, played a pass into the Sunderland penalty area to Chaplin, who cleverly nudged the ball into Jackson’s path, via a deflection off Pierre Ekwah, and the striker coolly finished.

Patterson prevented the Tractor Boys taking the lead when he got down low to keep out a shot from Clarke as Ipswich exerted pressure on Sunderland, who should have taken the lead when Adil Aouchiche was presented with a gilt-edged chance.

A combination of Hladky and Luke Woolfenden lost possession and Clarke squared the ball to the Sunderland substitute, who sliced wide of an unguarded net.

The majority of the 29,291 crowd then erupted when Chaplin put Town ahead.

Aouchiche fouled Leif Davis, who delivered a free-kick into the penalty area where Chaplin connected with his head.

Woolfenden then struck the post following another Davis free-kick.

There were huge penalty appeals when Sunderland midfielder Luke O’Nien dived in on Omari Hutchinson, which sent him cartwheeling into the air, while Chaplin fired the loose ball inches wide as the game drew to a close.

Sean Longstaff has challenged Newcastle to mount a charge for FA Cup glory after launching their campaign with a morale-boosting derby victory over Sunderland.

The Magpies went into Saturday’s clash with their arch-rivals having lost seven of their previous eight games in all competitions and knowing the potential for a third-round exit at the hands of lower league opposition for a third successive season was a very real possibility if they were not at their best.

In the event, Eddie Howe’s men eased past the Black Cats with the minimum of fuss, securing a 3-0 victory which rekindled memories among the 6,000 travelling fans at the Stadium of Light of last season’s Carabao Cup final trip to Wembley and increased hope of an end to a 69-year wait for a major domestic trophy.

Asked afterwards about the prospect of an extended run in the competition, midfielder Longstaff told NUFC TV: “We knew going out of the Carabao Cup was really disappointing and if we want to make it a memorable season, it’s a chance to win a trophy and we’ve got to believe that we can do that. I think we’ve got the squad to do it.

“It’s about getting through the first game, so now we’re through and no matter who we get, whether we’re at home or away, we’re going to give it all we’ve got.

“If we can get another trip to Wembley and hopefully put a positive end on it, it would be amazing, but there’s a long way to go before that, so we’re not getting ahead of ourselves.”

Howe and his players arrived on Wearside knowing their season had reached something of a watershed following last month’s Champions League and Carabao Cup exits and a poor run of form in the Premier League.

They did so without a win over Sunderland, now playing their football in the Sky Bet Championship after a four-season exile in League One, in nine attempts – a run which included six successive defeats – dating back to 2011.

But if there was any anxiety on and off the pitch before kick-off, it was soon dispelled as, aided by an error-strewn display from the hosts, they surged to victory without ever having to find top gear.

They went ahead 10 minutes before the break when defender Dan Ballard, who had moments earlier been fortunate to escape unpunished after hauling down Alexander Isak as he surged into the penalty area, turned Joelinton’s cross into his own net with the Sweden international lurking behind him ready to apply the finishing touch.

Newcastle were effectively home and dry within seconds of the restart when Miguel Almiron mugged Pierre Ekwah on the edge of his own box and squared for Isak to extend the lead, and the £63million striker completed the job with a 90th-minute penalty after a frustrated Ballard had barged Anthony Gordon to the ground.

 

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Sunderland had flickered briefly in the meantime with Alex Pritchard clipping the top of the crossbar and then forcing a good save from Martin Dubravka, but it was all too little, too late.

 

Isak, who swiftly turned his attention to Saturday’s league clash with Manchester City, said: “We just have to get back to our form and start winning games. That’s the main target.

“Hopefully this can be like a turn-around for us because we’ve had bad results before, so we can use this energy to turn things around, and it’s a good way to start against City.”

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe has urged his players to use their FA Cup derby victory over Sunderland as a springboard for the second half of the season.

The Magpies ended a run of seven defeats in eight games in all competitions with a resounding 3-0 third-round win at the Stadium of Light on Saturday to get the better of their arch-rivals for the first time in 10 attempts dating back to 2011.

A place in the fourth round presents the prospect of a run in a competition which has assumed ever greater importance for the club following their exits from the Champions League and Carabao Cup in December.

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Asked if they could use the win as a launchpad, head coach Howe said: “Well, hopefully. That’s how we have to look at it.

“Naturally when you don’t win for a period of time, confidence can be affected. Our players are the same as any others.

“Today will have done them the world of good. We’ve not just won the game, but we’ve performed well, we’ve scored goals, we’ve kept a clean sheet so all round, it’s a very good day.”

Victory over the Black Cats was significant – it was a first in the FA Cup under Howe after third-round exits at the hands of League One sides Cambridge and Sheffield Wednesday in the last two seasons.

Asked about the prospect of a cup run, Howe said: “We’d love that. The third round has not been kind to us the last couple of years, two difficult moments for us.

“But as I said in the build-up to the game, those moments actually helped us grow. Now we stand here and we know we needed to win today, so we’re delighted to do that and yes, we’d love a run in the FA Cup. It’s an important competition now for us.”

The hosts frustrated Newcastle until 10 minutes before the break, when defender Dan Ballard turned Joelinton’s cross into his own net, and they contributed further to their own downfall when Miguel Almiron robbed Pierre Ekwah to set up Alexander Isak for the second before Ballard handed the Sweden international the chance to double his tally from the penalty spot after barging Anthony Gordon to the ground.

Asked about the white-hot derby atmosphere, Howe said: “I don’t think it was too dissimilar to Milan, to PSG and other places we’ve been this year, so I think those experiences probably helped us.”

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Opposite number Michael Beale was philosophical after a defeat he hopes can help aid his side’s bid for promotion from the Sky Bet Championship.

He said: “Let’s be honest, there was a gap between the two teams when we arrived at the stadium today and at the end of the day, we’ve tried to close that gap over 90 minutes and we weren’t able to do that.

“My young team must really be honest with themselves, the staff, the players, everyone at the football club about today because then I think we’ll improve and we can use it in our Championship form for the games we’ve got coming up.

“But the big thing for us is being honest and not hiding away from the fact there is a gap.”

Alexander Isak’s double cemented a first derby victory over Sunderland since 2011 as Eddie Howe finally won an FA Cup tie as Newcastle boss at the third attempt.

Perhaps fittingly at the end of a week during which the Black Cats scored a PR own goal by allowing a bar at the Stadium of Light to be decorated in Magpies colours, much of the damage in a 3-0 defeat was self-inflicted.

Dan Ballard put the ball into his own net and conceded a late penalty after Pierre Ekwah’s error had served up the second for Isak.

Newcastle arrived on Wearside without a victory in nine attempts – a run which included six successive wins for their arch-rivals – in a fixture which had not been played since March 2016, and with Howe under a measure of pressure after a sequence of seven defeats in eight outings in all competitions.

In the event, they won at a canter with the Sky Bet Championship promotion hopefuls, and in particular dangerman Jack Clarke, who was well handled by Kieran Trippier, only really making their presence felt after the game was effectively over.

The visitors, who had gone out of the cup at the same stage to League One sides Cambridge and Sheffield Wednesday in the last two seasons, started on the front foot and Black Cats keeper Anthony Patterson had to make a second-minute save from Sean Longstaff’s header after he had met Miguel Almiron’s cross.

But for all their early possession, they were unable to make the pressure count and Trippier’s deflected 14th-minute free-kick, which was claimed comfortably by Patterson, was as close as either side came in the opening stages.

Longstaff lifted a 22nd-minute shot over after Almiron and Trippier had combined once again down the right, but with Bruno Guimaraes, Joelinton and Longstaff struggling to create openings as the hosts got men behind the ball in numbers, Isak was largely isolated.

Isak saw appeals for a 30th-minute penalty waved away by referee Craig Pawson after he had gone to ground under Ballard’s challenge, and Longstaff fired wastefully over following Anthony Gordon’s surge down the left.

However, Newcastle took the lead with 10 minutes of the first half remaining when Joelinton exchanged passes with Guimaraes to get in behind full-back Trai Hume and cross towards Isak at the far post, where Ballard turned the ball into his own net as he tried to deny the striker a tap-in.

The home side’s efforts to get themselves back into the game were repeatedly hampered by their failure to retain possession inside their own half, and they would have gone in at the break two down had Almiron’s acrobatic volley crept inside, rather than just past, the post.

It was 2-0, however, within seconds of the restart when Almiron robbed Ekwah on the edge of his own penalty area and squared for Isak to finish emphatically.

Ekwah very nearly atoned for his error almost immediately when his dipping shot from distance took a deflection and forced keeper Martin Dubravka into a save – his first of the match – with a trailing leg.

Alex Pritchard clipped the bar with a well-struck 59th-minute attempt and then forced Dubravka into a fine one-handed save with 16 minutes remaining with the Black Cats throwing caution to the wind.

However, Isak’s 90th-minute spot-kick, awarded after Ballard had barged Gordon to the ground, completed a comprehensive victory for the Magpies.

A Sunderland fanzine has labelled the club’s decision to decorate a Stadium of Light bar in the colours of arch-rivals Newcastle as a “real schoolboy error”.

The bitter north-east rivals meet on Wearside in the FA Cup third round on Saturday and Sunderland fans reacted furiously when images circulated on Thursday of the Black Cats Bar decked out in banners with the messages: “Keep the Black and White Flying High” and “We are United”. Sunderland’s motto “Ha’way the lads” in red was also replaced with the Geordie spelling “Howay” in black.

Sunderland swiftly apologised for “a serious error in judgment” and announced an immediate review, while chairman Kyril Louis-Dreyfus said he was “disgusted and hurt” by the “inappropriate signs”.

The PA news agency understands Newcastle were invited to submit designs for the bar in December and that they were signed off by a senior member of staff at Sunderland. It is understood the move was intended to lessen the potential for the area to be damaged by rival supporters.

The images added to already-existing tensions among Black Cats fans after season ticket holders were moved from their usual seats in the north stand to accommodate 6,000 travelling Newcastle fans.

Malcolm Dugdale, a contributor to Sunderland fanzine Roker Report, believes the club “haven’t done themselves any favours”.

He told the PA news agency: “For the fans there was the potential that this was really going to cause a hell of a lot of discord, what happened earlier this week and yesterday.

“Now that’s turned around and there’s elements coming out in the media about certain people approved it a number of weeks ago.

“The club have come out, made a couple of statements and backtracked on (the redecoration), which is the right thing to do.

“If we now get a win, I think there’s a chance a certain element of the fanbase will to a certain extent forgive and forget, but if we get spanked then this is prime ammunition for people who might not be fully behind Kyril and the ownership team to really ask some difficult questions.

“Even though it’s kind of an expectation that we might get spanked because of the difference in league positions at the minute, anything other than a really good performance and a close result, I think this could really tear that up.

“The club haven’t done themselves any favours with what’s gone on in the last 48 hours. Real schoolboy errors is the phrase that springs to mind.”

Fanzine A Love Supreme posted on X, formerly Twitter: “At a complete loss for words. What on earth are the club doing?!?!?!

“Let’s hope the players don’t roll over and let the Mags tickle their tummy like the club have.”

Sunderland released a statement on Thursday apologising to fans.

The statement read: “Sunderland AFC acknowledges that a serious error in judgment was made in relation to Black Cats Bar.

“We apologise to our fans for the understandable concern they have fairly voiced in response and this sentiment is shared by the club’s ownership group and board of directors.

“A direct decision has also been taken to return the space to its original state and we once again apologise to our supporters that this was not addressed sooner.”

Sunderland approved the signage for a Newcastle-themed decoration of a bar at the Stadium of Light for Saturday’s FA Cup derby last month.

The PA news agency understands the Magpies were invited to submit designs for the Black Cats Bar, which will provide corporate hospitality for travelling fans for the third-round tie, in December and that they were signed off by a senior member of staff at the Wearside club.

It is understood the move was intended to lessen the potential for the area, which normally carries Sunderland’s livery, to be damaged by rival supporters.

Black Cats fans reacted furiously on Thursday when images of banners proclaiming the messages “Keep the Black and White Flying High” and “We are United” emerged on social media. Sunderland’s motto “Ha’way the lads” in red had also been replaced with the Geordie spelling “Howay” in black.

Sunderland swiftly apologised for “a serious error in judgment” and announced an immediate review, and chairman Kyril Louis-Dreyfus said he was “disgusted and hurt” by the “inappropriate signs”, which have since been removed.

There was already disquiet on the banks of the Wear after the hosts confirmed that Newcastle’s 6,000 allocation would be housed in both tiers of the North Stand, meaning some season ticket holders would have to relocate.

The controversy has added fresh spice to a fixture which is one of the stand-out ties of the round, although Magpies boss Eddie Howe played down suggestions that his club’s fans had been handed a head-start.

Howe said: “No, I don’t feel that. Look, these things can happen, it’s up to Sunderland what they do with their stadium. It’s nothing to do with us.”

The game, the first between the sides for almost eight years, represents Howe’s first taste of the Tyne-Wear rivalry, and he is expecting his players to handle the white-hot atmosphere.

Asked if he thought the signage row could further fuel the passion of the home fans, he said: “Regardless of what you’re expecting, you still have to play the match in front of you.

“We’ve just got to blank out any distractions and play the game and use our support – which I’m sure will be incredible – to propel us to a really good performance.”

Howe’s comments came after Louis-Dreyfus had issued a heartfelt apology to Sunderland fans and promised the club would do better in future.

He wrote on Instagram: “I would like to apologise to everyone associated with Sunderland AFC for the events that have unfolded today.

“Like our supporters, I was disgusted and hurt by the pictures circulating online of the inappropriate signs that have been ripped down.

“I take full responsibility for every decision that is taken by the employees of our club and you have my word that I will personally make sure that we make the necessary changes required to improve because it is clear that there are many areas where we need to be better.”

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe will go into Saturday’s FA Cup clash with derby rivals Sunderland adamant he does not need daily reassurances from the club’s big-spending owners.

The Magpies will run out for the third-round tie at the Stadium of Light having lost seven of their last eight games and each of the most recent four in all competitions.

It is a sequence which has led to speculation that Howe’s future as head coach under a Saudi-backed regime which has invested around £400million in new players since taking over in October 2021 could be uncertain.

Sources on Tyneside have dismissed talk of pressure on the 46-year-old in the wake of a difficult run, although defeat by the Black Cats is unthinkable if a season which has already brought Champions league and Carabao Cup disappointment is not to deteriorate further.

Asked about the speculation, Howe said: “I certainly don’t need daily reassurances. I feel comfortable in the fact that we are working as hard as we can to improve performances and improve results.

“Obviously I know it’s a results-based business – all the usual things you’d expect me to say – but I do feel the support from the club, and that’s really important in this moment.”

The Magpies and the Black Cats have enjoyed very different fortunes since the clubs last met almost eight years ago with the Amanda Stavely-led £305million takeover having sparked fresh optimism on Tyneside at a time when Sunderland were fighting their way back from back-to-back relegations and a four-year stay in League One.

However, the Wearside club had enjoyed six successive victories over their neighbours before a 1-1 draw last time out and new boss Michael Beale this week ventured the opinion that in terms of size, stature and history, there is little – other than hard cash – between them.

Howe, whose last visit to Sunderland in April 2017 saw his Bournemouth side relegate David Moyes’ men, said: “I’m not going to get into a war of words with any manager, I just don’t think it’s wise to make those comparisons or comments.

“We know who we are and what we are. I certainly know more about the size of this football club since managing it and the future is very bright no matter what happens in the short term.”

Howe, who identified Sunderland wide men Jack Clarke and Patrick Roberts – the latter is an injury doubt this weekend – as significant threats, is desperate to end a grim run of results which has seen his side win only once since a 1-0 Premier League victory over Manchester United on December 2, and admits achieving that at the Stadium of Light could rekindle his side’s campaign.

He said: “It can certainly reboot us and just change the external – and even internal – view of ourselves because it can change very quickly.

“I have made reference to it many times; the Manchester United game, our best performance of the season, was not that long ago and now the view is very different on the team.

“Confidence is a very fragile thing for the players as well, so anything that helps them re-find their best rhythm as quickly as possible is what we’re seeking.”

Newcastle boss Eddie Howe has played down the significance of a blunder which saw a bar at the home of arch-rivals Sunderland decorated in his club’s colours ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup derby.

The Wearside club have launched an investigation into how the Black Cats Bar at the Stadium of Light, which will host corporate hospitality for travelling fans, was decked out in black and white and Magpies slogans, sparking fury from home supporters.

But as “disgusted and hurt” Sunderland chairman Kyril Louis-Dreyfus vowed to address the issue, Newcastle head coach Howe waved away suggestions the 6,000 visiting supporters had been handed a head-start in the run-up to the eagerly-anticipated third-round fixture.

He said: “No, I don’t feel that. Look, these things can happen, it’s up to Sunderland what they do with their stadium. It’s nothing to do with us.”

The game, the first between the sides for almost eight years, represents Howe’s first taste of the Tyne-Wear rivalry, and he is expecting his players to handle the white-hot atmosphere.

Asked if he thought the signage row could further fuel the passion of the home fans, he said: “Regardless of what you’re expecting, you still have to play the match in front of you.

“We’ve just got to blank out any distractions and play the game and use our support – which I’m sure will be incredible – to propel us to a really good performance.”

The controversy came to light on Thursday, when images of the bar were circulated on social media.

Sunderland later apologised and confirmed it would be returned to its original state.

Louis-Dreyfus wrote on Instagram: “I would like to apologise to everyone associated with Sunderland AFC for the events that have unfolded today.

“Like our supporters, I was disgusted and hurt by the pictures circulating online of the inappropriate signs that have been ripped down.

“I take full responsibility for every decision that is taken by the employees of our club and you have my word that I will personally make sure that we make the necessary changes required to improve because it is clear that there are many areas where we need to be better.”

Red-faced Sunderland chiefs have apologised for a “serious error in judgement” after a bar at the Stadium of Light was decorated in the colours of arch-rivals Newcastle ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup derby.

Fans reacted with fury when images emerged on social media on Thursday of the Black Cats Bar at the Wearside venue with banners proclaiming the messages “Keep the Black and White Flying High” and “We are United”, while Sunderland’s motto “Ha’way the lads” in red had been replaced with the Geordie spelling “Howay” in black.

However, the Sky Bet Championship club later released a statement announcing an immediate review and confirming the bar, which will serve as a corporate hospitality area for visiting fans, would be returned to its previous livery before the third-round tie.

It said: “Sunderland AFC acknowledges that a serious error in judgement was made in relation to Black Cats Bar earlier this afternoon.

“We apologise to our fans for the understandable concern they have fairly voiced in response and this sentiment is shared by the club’s ownership group and board of directors, who have requested an immediate review is undertaken to determine how this process unfolded.

“A direct decision has also been taken by the ownership group and board of directors to return the space to its original state and we once again apologise to our supporters that this was not addressed sooner.”

Tensions were already running high among Black Cats fans after some season ticket holders were moved from their usual seats to accommodate 6,000 travelling Magpies supporters in the stadium’s North Stand.

The latest development sparked fresh anger as the club was accused of laying out the welcome mat for their Tyneside counterparts.

Long-standing fanzine A Love Supreme said on X, formerly Twitter: “At a complete loss for words. What on earth are the club doing?!?!?!

“Let’s hope the players don’t roll over and let the Mags tickle their tummy like the club have.

“Don’t think the club realise how much of a mistake decorating the stadium with Newcastle stuff is. Any good will they’ve developed from the results on the pitch/ getting us back into the Championship could genuinely be completely gone especially if we lose on Saturday.”

The eagerly-anticipated fixture will be the first time the north-east neighbours have met since a 1-1 Premier League draw at St James’ Park in March 2016, with the clubs having taken very different paths during the intervening period.

Sunderland, who had won each of the previous six encounters, spent four seasons in League One after successive relegations from the top flight, while Newcastle have been reinvigorated since being taken over by Amanda Staveley’s Saudi-backed consortium in October 2021.

Manager Michael Beale is intent on doing all he can to help ensure 2024 brings plenty more goals for Nazariy Rusyn and Sunderland’s strikers after watching an unwanted run come to an end against Preston.

The Ukrainian became the first of Sunderland’s recognised strikers to score this season when he turned in Jack Clarke’s 44th-minute cross at the Stadium of Light.

That goal followed Alex Pritchard’s first of the campaign in the 10th minute to put the Black Cats on track for a New Year’s Day victory.

Even though Pritchard’s 25-yard thunderbolt was of the highest quality, it was Rusyn’s predatory finish that was needed much more on Wearside.

Rusyn, Eliezer Mayenda, Luis Hemir and on-loan Chelsea man Mason Burstow have all struggled for time and goals since arriving in the summer.

Beale, who claimed a first home win since taking charge before Christmas, said: “The story of the game is a No 9 scores for Sunderland. He earned his goal and it has been difficult for him.

“His wife and children aren’t here. That must be hard for him, with everything going on back home at this time of the year. He’s been here six months and he’s on to his third coach, I am delighted for him.

“You can transfer talent but someone has to be comfortable in an environment. We have to do a lot to help people settle and that goal will do him the world of good, to get a standing ovation too, what a way to start the year. Well done Naz.”

Beale added: “I feel like I have been in the job two weeks, with four games, two travels, and been trying to get round the group.

“The most important thing was to get a home win against a Preston team fighting with us around the same position. This was a game more even and we took our chances. I’m delighted with our return from four games.”

Preston have won just four of their last 19 league matches and that has seen them drop to mid-table after starting the season with a eight-match unbeaten run.

Boss Ryan Lowe said: “We can’t give that much space and let a goal go in from 25 yards out for the first one. We have to get out to the ball.

“Then the second one before half-time…we spoke about Jack Clarke all week. We had to lock that out because he was the danger. He puts the ball across the box and it is 2-0 at half-time and it is game over.

“I am asking them for belief at half-time, be more dogged, be brave and at 2-0 we have kept them at bay – they are a good team.

“They scored one from outside the box and one from inside the box. We weren’t clinical enough, smart enough, at the top end of the pitch. We conceded two goals that are avoidable.

“Seven days ago we were beating Leeds United so to then lose against Sheffield Wednesday was disappointing. We need to find a way to get back to what we were doing at the start of the season.

“It is frustrating, we have to keep trying to find solutions, I can’t criticise the players.

“We need to find solutions over the next two weeks, the next worry is to pick points up as quickly as we can. We know it’s not good enough.”

Sunderland started the new year in style by celebrating a 2-0 win over Preston which included a first goal scored by one of the club’s strikers this season.

After playmaker Alex Pritchard had got the scoring under way at the Stadium of Light with his own first goal of the campaign in the 10th minute, the second arrived through Ukrainian Nazariy Rusyn just before the break.

It was the goal Wearside had waited for all season – a goal from a front man – and he was given a standing ovation when he was replaced with 12 minutes left.

Rusyn, signed from Zorya at the end of the summer window, turned in Jack Clarke’s cross in the 44th minute to put Sunderland on track for victory.

Those goals were enough to earn Michael Beale a first home win too – and second victory overall – since taking over from Tony Mowbray before Christmas to keep Sunderland firmly in the play-off picture while Preston’s slump continued.

Both teams wanted a positive start to the year following dips in form and Beale and Ryan Lowe made three changes to their starting line-ups.

Sunderland re-introduced striker Rusyn to the side for the first time in more than a month while Pritchard replaced the injured Patrick Roberts.

Lowe, whose team lost at home to Sheffield Wednesday on Friday, brought in Ched Evans, Jordan Storey and Mads Frokjaer-Jensen in search of a change in fortune.

Aside from Ben Whiteman’s effort that forced a save out of Anthony Patterson six minutes in, Preston’s defence was busiest early on.

The danger signs were already there after just 90 seconds when Clarke curled an effort just wide of the upright following a decent move.

Midfielder Pierre Ekwah had also fired wide from just inside the area when Pritchard found the net.

The 30-year-old was afforded too much space deep in the Preston half. There was still plenty of work to do and he struck right-footed with power past Freddie Woodman from 25 yards.

It was the first time Pritchard had found the net since scoring at Preston on the final weekend of last season in May.

After that Clarke forced Woodman into a save to his left after another of his probing runs while Preston created a couple of half chances for Frokjaer-Jensen to fire over.

But, with just a minute remaining of the opening half, Sunderland got the second goal.

Clarke drove at his marker before rolling a pass into the path of Rusyn to apply the lovely finish low and beyond Woodman. His movement was perfect and much-needed for a team in desperate need of some strike power.

After the restart, Preston forced Patterson into a couple of saves from Liam Miller and Frokjaer-Jensen but Sunderland controlled the game and tempo without creating anything else themselves.

Sunderland head coach Michael Beale is calling for his players to show more of a cutting edge after his side drew 1-1 at Championship strugglers Rotherham.

Jack Clarke’s deflected effort earned a point for the visitors and cancelled out Sam Clucas’ thunderbolt volley.

The result against the division’s bottom side saw Sunderland slip out of the play-off places.

Beale said: “We had to have a real, honest conversation at half-time because we did not really execute our gameplan. In the first half we were slow getting started.

“Other teams have come here and found it difficult. Not just ourselves.

“We started the second half in the worst possible way. But I was really pleased with our reaction.

“I want us to be less fussy and spiteful in the final third. There has to be an end product from our possession.

“We were due the luck with the deflection, over the last three games.

“There is a frustration going away. We have to recover and go again.”

Rotherham certainly enjoyed the better of a goalless first half and took the lead early in the second half.

Clucas dispatched an unstoppable 48th-minute effort after running on to Pierre Ekwah’s cleared header.

Sunderland equalised in the 72nd minute through dangerman Clarke, whose effort took a huge deflection on its way past Viktor Johansson after Rotherham could only partially clear Alex Pritchard’s cross.

The visitors piled on the pressure in search of the winner but the hosts could well have stolen the points themselves deep into stoppage time when Tom Eaves headed wide from Cafu’s cross.

The Millers have taken four points from post-Christmas matches at home to Middlesbrough and Sunderland, leaving head coach Leam Richardson satisfied.

“I think the level of effort and commitment was there,” he said.

“We probably played better than we did in the previous game (the 1-0 win over Middlesbrough).

“(Clucas’) goal was worthy of winning any game. His performance deserved the goal as well. He and Christ (Tiehi) were asked to do many jobs and they did them very well.

“Credit again goes to the players. I thought we were worthy of a positive result. Certainly in the first half we were in the ascendancy.

“We are still quite new to each other. We are not blessed with what we have available.

“I demand a minimum level of something. The players know that. We have certainly had that in the four games I’ve been here.

“I thought there was a game there to be possibly won.”

Sunderland had to battle back to earn a 1-1 draw at Championship strugglers Rotherham.

Two second-half goals ensured a point for both sides with Jack Clarke getting a deflected leveller for the visitors after Sam Clucas put the Millers ahead.

Rotherham remained bottom despite picking up four points from their two post-Christmas matches, while Sunderland dropped out of the top six.

It was a quiet opening 15 minutes but the game almost came to life when Dan Neil took aim from distance and saw his effort whistle just wide of target.

Rotherham almost capitalised on a loose ball from Jobe Bellingham in midfield and Jordan Hugill was able to send Sam Nombe clear on goal. The Millers’ record signing’s effort was kept out by the onrushing Anthony Patterson.

From the resulting corner, a flicked effort from Hakeem Odoffin was touched over the top by Patterson.

Patterson again came to Sunderland’s rescue as he got down low to tip Nombe’s bending effort behind.

Again the corner caused panic in the Black Cats box and the visitors would have been relieved to see the ball scrambled over the top after Jamie Lindsay had tried a backheel.

Rotherham were certainly creating the better chances with only a wayward effort from Clarke in response from Michael Beale’s side.

Odoffin was the next to come close for the home side as he flicked a header goalwards but into Patterson’s grasp.

Rotherham got the opener in the 48th minute when Sam Clucas volleyed in superbly from the edge of the box after running onto Pierre Ekwah’s cleared header.

Sunderland responded with Clarke leading another attack. He found Trai Hume but his effort was easily dealt with by Rotherham goalkeeper Viktor Johansson.

Luke O’Nien then tried a long-range effort which flew just wide of Johansson’s goal.

The visitors started to enjoy more possession and finally got on level terms with 17 minutes left.

It came when Alex Pritchard’s cross was only cleared as far as Clarke and his effort took a deflection to loop over Johansson and in.

Sunderland were pushing for all three points in the final 10 minutes. A vicious volley from O’Nien was blocked while a decent chance fell to Dan Ballard but the defender fired wide from the edge of the box.

Six minutes of added time gave both sides a chance to grab a winner.

Rotherham substitute Georgie Kelly fired into the stand when off balance down the left.

Sunderland threatened when Pritchard found Timothee Pembele with a cross from the left but his header was gathered at the second attempt by Johansson.

The Millers could have nicked it right at the end but Tom Eaves headed Cafu’s cross off target.

Michael Beale challenged his players to show greater levels of consistency after securing a first win as Sunderland manager with a 1-0 victory at Hull.

Beale’s men moved above the Tigers into the top six of the Sky Bet Championship following Jack Clarke’s 11th goal of the season after 82 minutes.

Sunderland lost 3-0 at home to Coventry in Beale’s first game in charge on Saturday, but responded by recording a first away win since September.

The former Rangers boss said: “I knew it would be a tough game and that we hadn’t won away from home for a long time, but I thought we should have won by more.

“We missed some big chances. Some of our interplay was good and it was just whether we could execute that in the final third.

“I’m absolutely delighted with the mentality of the side.

“That’s a big, big positive, but the big thing for me is that we need consistency. We must back it up against Rotherham.

“The inconsistency tells me we can’t get too high or too low – it’s important we keep going.”

The game was meandering towards a draw until Clarke provided the one moment of quality when he cut inside from the left before calmly steering the ball into the bottom-right corner.

Beale added: “We hadn’t much time to work with the players and it was demoralising on Saturday, what with the way the game went.

“Hull are really dangerous opponents and to come away with a clean sheet was fantastic.

“I think sometimes we are a little bit fussy in the final third – trying to score a perfect goal.

“It’s got to be more effective, but that was a special goal from Jack.

“It was a great three points, but we have to recover and now prepare for Rotherham.”

Hull have now lost back-to-back games, with head coach Liam Rosenior once again rueful of a lack of precision in front of goal.

He said: “It was a very evenly matched game between two teams pushing for the top six.

“I thought we had the better chances, but they also had some degree of control.

“We’re not taking control of the big moments of games – we didn’t take our chances when they came our way.

“I’m tired of coming out with the same story. We haven’t got the points our performances deserve.

“At 0-0 with 20 minutes to go we had to make sure we kept the back door shut.

“It’s a difficult one to take, but we now have to focus on a difficult game against Blackburn.

“We have to be more clinical at one end and more ruthless at the other. If we do that we’ve got the makings of a really good team.

“The players are a frustrated group as they know how good they can be.”

Michael Beale claimed a first victory since taking charge of Sunderland with a 1-0 triumph at Hull in the Championship.

Jack Clarke scored the winning goal after 82 minutes when he cut inside from the left before smartly directing the football into the bottom right-hand corner.

Beale, who replaced Tony Mowbray earlier in the month, suffered a miserable start in his new role when Coventry won 3-0 at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

But the former Rangers manager will be delighted by the resolute manner in which his players went about their business in East Yorkshire – and even happier with the full-time scoreline which moved the Black Cats above Hull into the top six.

Jude Bellingham, sporting a Sunderland scarf in support of his brother Jobe, was watching from the stands but may have been questioning his decision to ditch Madrid for Hull after an awful first half.

The hosts were given no time on the football – especially through the middle – while Sunderland were more direct, but they, too, could not gain an efficient grip on the match and were largely kept at arm’s length from Matt Ingram’s goal.

The game finally awoke from its post-Christmas slumber after 24 minutes, when Tyler Morton weaved a direct route towards goal from the left.

Morton’s cross was dangerous, but goalkeeper Anthony Patterson did well to parry the ball to safety.

By contrast to the opening 45 minutes, the second half began earnestly when Morton sent across a dangerous ball from the right and Scott Twine teed up Aaron Connolly, but his feeble hit in front of goal was easily saved.

Sunderland responded with Patrick Roberts breezing clear of Regan Slater on the right before stabbing the ball into a dangerous area. Centre-back Alfie Jones looked in trouble facing his own goal so therefore did well to divert the ball for a corner.

The longer the game progressed, the more composed Sunderland became.

This was evidenced after 62 minutes when Slater lost possession in Hull’s penalty box. Adil Aouchiche seized control but thrashed the ball just over the crossbar.

Beale’s men then created a fine chance after 67 minutes when Clarke threaded a lovely ball towards an onrushing Roberts. He had it all to do from a tricky angle but should still have made Ingram work harder in a one-on-one situation on the right of the six-yard box.

With Sunderland having committed men forward, Hull nearly scored in transition when Liam Delap bullied his way into the visitors’ box. The Manchester City loan signing let rip from the right but Patterson reacted smartly to tip the ball around the left-hand post.

Patterson also thwarted Morton from a similar angle, but they lacked offensive clout once Clarke scored and could find no way through their hard-working opponents.

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