Carlos Corberan was left to rue West Brom striker Brandon Thomas-Asante’s failure to manage the situation after he was handed two quick-fire yellow cards in the first half of his side’s 1-0 defeat to Sunderland at The Hawthorns.

West Brom were reduced to 10 men in the 43rd minute when Thomas-Asante was booked twice in quick succession for fouls on Jack Clarke and Dan Ballard – the latter whose every touch was booed by the home fans after his challenge in the reverse fixture had ruled Josh Maja out for four months.

Albion’s situation worsened further in first half stoppage time when Pierre Ekwah struck the only goal and inflicted a first defeat in 11 matches on the hosts, who are still seeking to confirm their place in the Championship play-offs.

The Baggies were marginally the better side heading towards half-time and with the game goalless, but a dramatic few minutes saw them lose their striker and fall behind.

“The second yellow card had a massive impact. You can have desire, but when you have a yellow card, you need to increase the calm,” Corberan said.

“To concede from a set-piece after losing a player is painful.

“If the referee understood it to be a yellow card, it has been our mistake to achieve two yellow cards. It’s a lesson for Brandon and it’s a lesson for us.

“We haven’t had the experience to play with a player less since I arrived. I know for some teams how much of a disadvantage it can be.

“For me it was unfair that in the first game, they injured Maja. It was a terrible action. It was unbelievable. The player (Ballard) who scored that day injured a player and the referee didn’t send him off or give him a yellow card.

“It was ridiculous – not just because it was against us, I am talking about football. If somebody today breaks their limits with two actions, they’re two yellow cards. When you have a yellow card, you must control yourself.”

Sunderland interim manager Mike Dodds, who guided the Black Cats to only their second victory in 12 with this win, was pleased with Ballard’s application in a testing atmosphere.

The centre-half enjoyed conducting the celebrations with the travelling supporters at the final whistle.

“It can work that way,” Dodds replied, when asked whether the boos could act as a performance stimulus.

“When you have a group like ours, and the opposition fans want to give some stick, they’ll stick up for each other. It brings the group closer together, but Dan is a big boy. He’s an international, he’s a Premier League player in waiting for me. He can take it.

“I was a bit surprised. I am always respectful to the fans, but the first boo did take me by surprise.

“He’s a great kid, Dan. West Brom fans target him, that’s fine, it’s a part of the game. Dan showed today he can handle that side of the game, but I didn’t need today as confirmation.”

Leeds missed the chance to go top of the Sky Bet Championship after being held to a disappointing goalless draw by Sunderland at Elland Road.

Daniel Farke’s promotion-chasers climbed back into the top two but another below-par display saw them fall short of usurping leaders Leicester, who slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Millwall.

Leeds, who were beaten in the league for the first time this year at Coventry on Saturday, extended their unbeaten home Championship record this season to 21 matches.

But, after misfiring against resolute opponents, the stalemate left them one point behind Leicester and level with third-placed Ipswich, with both promotion rivals having a game in hand.

Sunderland made clear their intentions from kick off as they sat deep and invited Leeds on and, with space hard to come by, the home side found it difficult to fashion early chances.

Former Leeds forward Jack Clarke just failed to get his head on to a fizzing cross from Timothee Pembele for the visitors before Georginio Rutter fired the hosts’ first chance over the crossbar in the 18th minute.

Leeds had a whopping 80 per cent possession through the first half an hour and had nothing to show for it, while it was their goalkeeper Illan Meslier who was forced into the game’s first two saves.

Both of those were from Clarke, who was keen to impress on his first appearance back at Elland Road since departing for Tottenham in 2019.

At the start of the second half, Leeds fans did their best to lift their team, who appeared weighed down with the expectation, and the response was immediate as Rutter and Dan James both flashed shots wide.

But it required a crucial intervention from skipper Ethan Ampadu to cut out Clarke’s dangerous low cross as Sunderland threatened again.

Crysencio Summerville’s free-kick curled the wrong side of a post and Rutter hooked a tame effort wide as Leeds toiled without inspiration.

With tension mounting on the terraces, Meslier saved Sunderland substitute Patrick Roberts’ free-kick before Leeds’ appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears when a corner struck visiting skipper Luke O’Nien on the hand.

Leeds boss Daniel Farke sent on Joel Piroe, Connor Roberts and Mateo Joseph in the 83rd minute – Willy Gnonto had already replaced Glen Kamara – in a final bid to wrestle victory from a disjointed performance.

Gnonto’s 20-yard shot was deflected over the crossbar in the closing stages and, despite forcing late pressure, below-par Leeds failed to create any clear-cut chances and missed a key opportunity in the promotion race.

Birmingham manager Tony Mowbray saluted an “amazing achievement” after his team made it two home wins in a week by coming from behind to beat Sunderland 2-1.

Koji Miyoshi grabbed an 80th-minute winner after Jordan James cancelled out Jack Clarke’s 22nd-minute lead on the hour.

It meant City have recorded their first back-to-back home successes since October and they have climbed to 15th, six points above the Sky Bet Championship drop zone.

“I’m very proud of the group and their desire and determination to work really hard for each other on the back of a landscape of where we are in the league,” said Mowbray.

“After not winning many home games this season, it’s an amazing achievement for them.”

Despite the gap, Mowbray refuses to accept City are safe.

“We’re in a predicament and we’re still in the same position after a couple of teams won,” he added.

“We’re still six points away from trouble but it’s given us a bit of confidence and momentum and the belief that we can win against anyone at home.

“This is what the team needs to know to have that confidence and belief in themselves.

“The team is fighting hard for each other but this was about the supporters and the players on the pitch.

“We gifted Sunderland the first goal but we found a way to score two goals.”

Several supporter incentives meant Birmingham were watched by 27,449 – the biggest crowd at St Andrew’s for more than seven years.

Mowbray said he used the home crowd to spur on the players as they took the game to Sunderland after a lacklustre first-half performance.

“The message at half-time was ‘we will score, and if we score one, this place will take off and we’ll score two or three’, they made it happen,” he added.

“Days like this with a full stadium against a good team with a big support following them show that we can come out on top and win, and we did that together.”

Clarke intercepted Seung-Ho Paik’s square pass to Marc Roberts then raced on to coolly slot past John Ruddy.

James equalised after Miyoshi had two shots blocked when Tyler Roberts’ angled drive had been parried by goalkeeper Anthony Patterson.

Miyoshi prodded home ahead of Patterson after reacting quickest to Jay Stansfield’s deflected cross.

Sunderland have not won on their travels since Boxing Day and are currently 10th, five points off the top six.

Their head coach Michael Beale admitted: “Unless we improve our away form it (play-offs) is going to be difficult.

“We have to find a way of getting positive away results because it’s nowhere good enough.

“We’re certainly not giving up on anything with the amount of games we’ve got to go.

“But our away form all season has been a concern.”

Tony Mowbray celebrated back-to-back home wins against his most recent former clubs after Birmingham came from behind to beat Sunderland 2-1.

Koji Miyoshi capped a magnificent comeback by City after Jordan James equalised on the hour to make it two home victories in five days after they beat Blackburn 1-0 on Tuesday night.

Jack Clarke gave Sunderland the lead in the 22nd minute with his 15th goal of the season as the Black Cats dominated the first half.

But it was a different story in the second half as Blues, watched by 27,449 – the biggest crowd at St Andrew’s for more than seven years when 29,656 saw a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa on October 30, 2016 – looked far hungrier.

Sunderland midfielder Jobe Bellingham – making his first return to St Andrew’s since leaving in the summer – beat Cody Drameh on the left but his cross was blocked by the legs of goalkeeper John Ruddy.

Pierre Ekwah sent a rising drive over the bar then Mason Burstow seemed to have a golden chance to score when he latched on to Romaine Mundle’s deflected cross, but the ball hit his heel and sailed harmlessly over.

Mundle had the first on-target effort but his 25-yard drive arrowed straight at Ruddy.

Birmingham’s first chance was a blockbuster as Jay Stansfield crashed a full-blooded 25-yard volley goalwards only for goalkeeper Anthony Patterson to tip it over after Sunderland partly cleared a corner.

But the visitors’ bright start was rewarded when they took the lead.

Seung-Ho Paik’s square pass to Marc Roberts was easily intercepted by Clarke, who raced on to coolly slot past Ruddy into the bottom corner of the net.

Birmingham continued to give the ball away in dangerous situations and Paik was booked for catching Ekwah late, Bellingham curling over the resulting 20-yard free-kick.

Sunderland went close to a second goal in the 42nd minute.

Mundle got the wrong side of Krystian Bielik but his curling shot – aiming for the same corner of the net as Clarke did for the goal – was turned aside by Ruddy at full stretch.

Birmingham looked a different proposition after the break, however, and their improvement was rewarded with the equaliser on the hour.

Midfielder James slotted home after Miyoshi had two shots blocked – the first by Trai Hume on the line – after Tyler Roberts’ angled drive had been parried by Patterson.

Sunderland had the ball in the net again in the 68th minute – but any joy was short-lived as Burstow’s header from Clarke’s free-kick was ruled offside.

Birmingham’s revival was in full swing when Miyoshi put the hosts ahead with 10 minutes of normal time to go.

The Japan midfielder prodded home ahead of Patterson after reacting quickest to Stansfield’s deflected cross for his fifth goal of the season.

Some half-time truths helped to spark a dramatic Sunderland improvement as the Black Cats came from behind to beat Plymouth 3-1 and climb into the Sky Bet Championship’s top six.

Michael Beale’s side trailed at the break after Ryan Hardie’s opener for Plymouth, but Sunderland were transformed after the restart and extended their unbeaten Championship stretch to three games with three “special” goals.

Pierre Ekwah levelled for the home side seven minutes after half-time before Jack Clarke’s stunning 14th goal of the season just before the hour mark. Substitute Jobe Bellingham then wrapped up the points just two minutes after coming off the bench with a fine third.

“We only played in one half, to be honest,” said Beale, whose side have now won successive games at the Stadium of Light.

“We started the game well, but we really fell away and there were too many individual errors.

“We went really bold with our line-up and it certainly impacted our cohesion early in the game, I wasn’t pleased with our pressing.

“We had honest words at half-time, got out there early and I thought from the moment we kicked off, we were much much better.

“We scored three excellent goals and we’re mixing around the goalscorers now as well. It was three special goals.”

Beale endured a difficult start to life at Sunderland, but is excited by what his youthful side are capable of.

He said: “We’re a young team and so we always can get better. In that first half, there weren’t too many in a Sunderland shirt who did themselves justice and we spoke about that.

“We spoke about wanting to excite our fans at home, to run, play front-foot football and for people to express themselves.

“I could have made five subs, but I told the players that I thought it was the right team and they had to put it right.

“We didn’t want any regrets and I expected more. The second half was fantastic and we have to stay at that level.”

For Plymouth boss Ian Foster, it was a first Championship defeat since replacing Steven Schumacher as Argyle head coach.

He congratulated Sunderland on a “wonderful second-half performance”, but was critical of referee Anthony Backhouse.

Foster was frustrated at the fact his side were down to 10 men when Jack Clarke scored the home side’s second goal, with midfielder Adam Forshaw having received treatment for an injury.

He said: “My understanding is a player has to spend 30 seconds off the pitch, which he did, and they won’t allow him on.

“I got told then the fourth official must get a signal from the referee to allow him back on, which he does straight after they score, which is disappointing.

“In that moment, it’s become very costly for us. He’s got injured, he’s received treatment, I don’t understand why it’s a punishment.

“I’ll try and choose my words carefully here, if I was the referee I’d go home disappointed tonight having watched the game back. I thought it was a very one-sided decision-making process from him.”

Ipswich manager Kieran McKenna praised his team’s level of commitment as they ended a five-match winless run by beating Sunderland 2-1.

The Tractor Boys trailed to Jack Clarke’s opener after 26 minutes, but Kayden Jackson levelled matters seven minutes later before Conor Chaplin completed the comeback in the 75th minute with a powerful header.

Victory sees Ipswich retain second spot in the Championship, seven points adrift of leaders Leicester who lost to Coventry, and McKenna felt it was a gutsy performance from his players.

He said: “It was a really tough game against a good side.

“They have lots of talented players with a really high technical level so it was a really hard-fought game. I thought a really strong and committed performance was needed to get the win and that’s what we gave.

“It wasn’t our smoothest performance in terms of some of our build-up and some of our connections through the pitch, but that’s normal and to be expected and it’s normal across the season.

“You’re not always going to be at your best, especially with the players we had missing and new players coming in. Things aren’t always going to be smooth, but when you’re not at your absolute highest level then you have to show the other ingredients, commitment, intensity, work rate for the team, and we certainly showed all that.

“I thought we carried a threat throughout the game and we had the better of the chances and great to get the winning goal from a set play.”

Sunderland, meanwhile, sit just outside the top six on goal difference and head coach Michael Beale admitted the result was a bitter pill to swallow.

“It was a good game between two good teams,” he said. “I thought we had enough of the game to get a result out of it.

“I thought we had two big chances before we scored in the first half, and obviously the big miss at the start of the second half, and how naive we are to give away a free-kick (for Ipswich’s winner)?

“The smallest player on the pitch has had a free header in the middle of the goal and we’ve got ourselves to blame.

“It was a good game, two good teams giving each other problems and going at each other, it was a refreshing game I thought. It would have been a good game for the neutral.

“But it’s the naivety that’s cost us the points. If we had gone up back up the road with one point, we would have had ifs and buts at the chances that we had. But to go up the road with nothing, it’s really disappointing.”

What the papers say

Chelsea will have to pay more than £100million if they want to sign 19-year-old Irish striker Evan Ferguson as Brighton resist letting go of the teenager, the Evening Standard says. Ferguson has signed a deal with Brighton until 2029 after a promising start to his career, including scoring six goals for the club this season.

Everton have slapped a £60million fee on 22-year-old midfielder Amadou Onana, and i sport reports that Arsenal, who are interested in the Belgian, will have to sell a player to afford him.

Fulham, Everton and clubs overseas are said to be interested in Brentford’s 26-year-old midfielder Frank Onyeka, the Guardian reports.

The Times says West Ham are interested in Mexican striker Santiago Gimenez, who Feyenoord value at £30million. The 22-year-old has scored 18 goals in 16 Eredivisie games this season.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Jack Clarke: Football London reports West Ham and Crystal Palace are interested in Sunderland’s 23-year-old forward who is valued at around £20million.

Victor Osimhen: Senior figures at Real Madrid believe the club should sign the 25-year-old Napoli striker instead of Paris St Germain’s Kylian Mbappe, according to Football Transfers.

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.”

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.”

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.”

Jack Clarke’s penalty denied Joe Edwards his first home win as Millwall manager and rescued a 1-1 draw for Sunderland at The Den.

Kevin Nisbet gave the hosts a deserved lead after an energetic first half in South London.

However, Clarke equalised from the penalty spot with 12 minutes left, much to the delight of the travelling Sunderland supporters behind the goal.

Arsenal loanee Brooke Norton-Cuffy had the first shot on target of the match but his tame effort was straight down the throat of Anthony Patterson in the Sunderland goal.

The home fans were calling for a red card after a crunching challenge from Mason Burstow but the forward escaped with a booking.

Millwall won a corner a minute later but Jake Cooper could not get any power behind his header and Patterson caught it with ease.

The Lions were growing into the game and with 10 minutes left of the first half, Norton-Cuffy whipped a superb ball across goal.

Zian Flemming could not get on the end of it but it was a sign of what was to come.

Ryan Leonard fired a sensational long-range effort just wide of the bottom-left post and George Saville forced Patterson into action as the hosts continued to push for the opener.

It finally came on the stroke of half-time when Nisbet tapped the ball past Patterson after another fantastic delivery from Norton-Cuffy.

Sunderland won a free-kick four minutes after half-time but they could not get a touch on Adil Aouchiche’s solid delivery.

The ball eventually fell to Abdoullah Ba but his strike went well wide of Millwall’s goal.

It could have been 2-0 in the 57th minute when confusion in the Sunderland defence set Norton-Cuffy free down the right wing but he scuffed his cut-back and the attack petered out.

The Black Cats had an excellent chance to equalise after a dangerous run from Clarke but Bradley Dack stabbed the ball wide from close range.

Patterson produced a phenomenal save moments later to deny Tom Bradshaw, whose curling effort seemed destined for the bottom-right corner.

Clarke had come alive down the left wing and just as the game seemed to be slipping away from Sunderland, he won a penalty before coolly converting it to get his side back on level terms.

Bradshaw could have restored Millwall’s lead after being put through on goal but another top-quality stop from Patterson kept the score at 1-1.

He finally found the back of the net at the third time of asking but the forward was judged to have been offside and both sides had to settle for a point.

Norwich boss David Wagner insists he can get the struggling Canaries back on track but admits he is unable to say whether he will be given time to turn his side’s fortunes around.

Norwich’s miserable Championship run continued with a 3-1 defeat at Sunderland, meaning Wagner’s side have now won just two of their last 10 games and tumbled to 17th in the table.

The Canaries took the lead at the Stadium of Light through Hwang Ui-jo but Trai Hume and Dan Neil put the home side ahead before the break, before Jack Clarke wrapped up the win for Sunderland in the second half from the spot with his ninth goal of the season.

The defeat means Norwich are now winless in five, and Wagner accepts such form will lead to questions about his future.

“I take responsibility and I have to find solutions to change it,” he said.

“The recent form is not where we want it to be and far away from where we can be and what we’ve shown. This is a big problem for us.”

Asked whether he thinks he will be given time to turn it around, he said: “I understand the question but it is not a question I can answer.”

He did, however, insist he has full belief that he remains the man for the job.

He said: “Yeah, obviously. These are situations you face as a manager which you don’t like but these are challenges that are part of a manager’s life.

“It’s up to me to get this sorted, but how much time or if I get the time, as I said it’s not a question (I can answer).”

To get back to winning ways, Wagner says his side – particularly his senior pros – need to cut out the individual mistakes.

He said: “I think we should not shy away from this. Everyone sees who does the mistakes and at the minute they are my senior pros.

“This hurts double and it costs because these are usually the players you can lean on and give the ball in certain situations, but at the minute it’s where the problem is as well. It’s a good dressing room, they stick together.”

Home boss Tony Mowbray was delighted to end a run of three straight defeats, with Sunderland climbing to seventh in the table.

He said: “I think it was the right result for the way the game went.

“It felt a little bit ‘here we go again’ when they scored, I don’t think they’d been in our half up until that point and yet we’re a goal behind.

“We showed great character to get in front before half-time, with some really good, positive front-foot play. It was important for us, I thought it was harsh on us to have lost three games – there were some okay performances in there.

“You have to take it on the chin when you lose and what was important for us was to keep the confidence up. We showed them a lot of clips of the Leicester game and the rewards of playing on the front foot.

“We did that well today, suffocated them for long spells and it wasn’t really until the last 15 that they asked questions of us, and then in that period we could have scored more goals on the break.”

Jack Clarke scored twice as Sunderland moved up to fourth in the Sky Bet Championship with an impressive 3-1 win at Blackburn.

The Black Cats had to weather a ferocious early Blackburn storm, but took the lead with their first shot as Clarke won and converted a 28th-minute penalty. Harry Leonard’s header drew Rovers level, but Dan Neil struck his second goal of the season in added time to give the visitors a half-time lead.

Dilan Markanday struck the post for Blackburn, but Sunderland were much more composed than the first half and in Clarke, boasted the game’s supreme performer. He duly made the game safe 12 minutes from time, superbly creating the chance to score his fifth of the season from close range.

It capped a happy return to Ewood Park for former manager Tony Mowbray, whose side made it three successive victories.

Blackburn raced out of the traps and were close to a spectacular opener when Leonard’s volley from a narrow angle sailed just over.

They should have been ahead in the ninth minute when Anthony Patterson saved from Sammie Szmodics and the rebound fell to Andrew Moran six yards out, but Dan Ballard produced a sensational block to deny Rovers a certain goal.

The defender repeated the trick three minutes later when he headed over a Szmodics goalbound effort as Blackburn’s onslaught continued.

Somehow, it was the Black Cats who took the lead in the 28th minute after Clarke nipped in ahead of Ryan Hedges as he tried to clear the ball and he kicked the Sunderland man instead.

Clarke picked himself up and calmly slotted his penalty straight down the middle of goal.

Rovers deservedly drew level seven minutes later when Callum Brittain’s sumptuous cross was headed beyond Patterson by Leonard at the back post. Ballard was off the pitch for the goal that looked offside, leading to Tony Mowbray being booked for his protests.

But the visitors regrouped and went ahead in the first minute of first-half stoppage time when a corner fell to Neil, who took a touch before firing a low left-foot drive beyond Pears into the bottom corner.

Patterson tipped a Lewis Travis effort behind after the restart before the imperious Clarke set up a chance for Mason Burstow to shoot straight at Aynsley Pears.

Substitute Markanday was inches away from an equaliser in the 70th minute when he did well to engineer space in the box before curling for the far corner, but his effort hit the post and fell safe.

It was fitting that Clarke sealed the three points for Sunderland in the 78th minute, effortlessly cutting in from the left past three defenders and Pears before casually rolling into the bottom corner.

Southamtpon’s unbeaten start to the Championship season came crashing to an end as Russell Martin’s side were blown away 5-0 by brilliant Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland fans taunted Ross Stewart after the injured striker’s deadline-day switch to Saints as Tony Mowbray’s side built on a dream start and stunned the visitors.

Jack Clarke scored the opening goal after just 52 seconds before Pierre Ekwah added a deflected second six minutes later.

The outstanding Ekwah scored his second and Sunderland’s third on the stroke of half-time. Bradley Dack added a fourth early in the second half before 16-year-old substitute Chris Rigg rounded off a perfect afternoon with his first league goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

The win means Sunderland – who signed four players on deadline day, including Chelsea loanee Mason Burstow – are now unbeaten in three games.

In the week boss Mowbray marked his first anniversary as boss, the Black Cats delivered their best performance of his tenure so far.

A fine opening goal inside a minute set Sunderland on their way. Abdoullah Ba found Trai Hume on the right and the full-back delivered a teasing cross that was met by winger Clarke, who ghosted in at the back post to head home.

Ba was again involved in the second six minutes later. After a Jobe Bellingham cut-back, the winger, only in the team because of the injury to Patrick Roberts, who Southampton tried to sign this week, teed up Ekwah on the edge of the box and the former West Ham midfielder found the bottom corner from 25 yards.

After their nightmare start, Southampton settled down and tried to get a grip of the game. In a dominant 10 minute spell, Martin’s side had 91 per cent of possession but failed to find the goal they needed after the horror opening.

And rather than sit back and soak up pressure, Sunderland then pushed for more goals.

The third came in the 45th minute when Ekwah pounced on a mistake by Southampton debutant Mason Holgate and curled into the bottom corner from 25 yards out.

Southampton made two substitutions at the break, introducing Che Adams after his deadline-day move to Wolves fell through and Newcastle loanee Ryan Fraser. But the changes did not have the impact Martin had hoped for and within four minutes of the restart Sunderland had their fourth.

Gavin Bazuna saved well to keep out a header from Dack but the home side kept the ball alive and the former Blackburn man poked home from close range.

Sunderland put the icing on the cake in the 95th minute when Rigg headed in a cross from fellow substitute Jewison Bennette.

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