Jack Ross' side kept the opposition off the score-sheet with goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin impressing once again. With a number of their promotion rivals struggling for consistency, Sunderland's recent defensive record could just give them the edge in their quest for an instant return to the Championship and the 31-year old stopper looks set to play a significant part.
Source: The Chronicle via Twitter
Defence comes first for Jack Ross
Jack Ross has been working hard on the training ground to solve Sunderland's defensive problems this season and the Scot's diligence is finally paying off. The Black Cats recorded back-to-back clean sheets for the first time since December 16th 2017 when they somehow kept Premier League duo Wolves and Fulham off the score-sheet. Adam Matthews has been widely praised for his performance but it was goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin who once again proved to be the hero in South Yorkshire. Phil Smith of the Sunderland Echo described the former Hearts man as "flawless" as he made a string of vital stops to help keep the score level.
He was one of the first summer signings for Sunderland and is believed to have turned down offers from a number of Championship clubs in order to sign for the Wearside outfit. Hearts boasted the second best defensive record in the Scottish Premiership last season and McLaughlin's leadership qualities were said to have played a significant part in their success. Jack Ross has described his fellow Scot as "low maintenance" and "reliable" and has also praised his keeper's ability to stand up and be counted during crucial moments of the game.
Sunderland are rightly strong betting favourites to go up
Whilst Josh Maja's goals have been played a major role in Sunderland's positive start to the campaign, McLaughin's saves have been equally as instrumental. They began the season as clear favourites for promotion and they haven't budged from that position since. Jack Ross' side can currently be backed at 41/20 to return to the second tier and do appear to have the squad depth to get through a hectic festive period relatively unscathed. This makes them worthy favourites with Barnsley and Portsmouth next in the betting. League One outright markets are still widely available and Karamba are one of the many online sports betting sites who currently offer odds on the third tier. They have 33 different sports covered on their sportsbook and Sunderland backers can get a free £10 bet token when they sign up.
Their 1-0 success against Doncaster leaves them just five points off the summit and they are unlikely to be usurped at the top of the betting anytime soon, although that price is likely to shorten if they can continue their unbeaten run.
Source: James Hunter via Twitter
McLaughlin's heroics have led many fans to speculate that if he had joined the club twelve months earlier, Sunderland may have been able to preserve their Championship status. After a season full of goalkeeping gaffes and blunders from Lee Camp and Jason Steele, Black Cats fans are relieved to finally have a steady presence between the sticks.
It was a summer of high turnover at the Stadium of Light but the signing of McLaughlin is looking like a savvy piece of business by the club and the Edinburgh-born stopper's decision to join Sunderland appears to be paying off. There is still a long way to go but McLaughlin's early-season form has certainly caught the eye and further clean sheets are surely just around the corner.