x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Jones and Bent pile the misery on McCarthy

Two goals apiece from the strikers ensure Mick McCarthy's personal and pitiful run without a top-flight win at the ground extended to 20 games.

SUNDERLAND // He did not enjoy much good fortune in the Premier League at the Stadium of Light when he was the Sunderland manager, so there was little surprise Mick McCarthy's luck was out on his return to his former club. Despite a spirited showing from Wolves, two goals apiece from Darren Bent and Kenwyne Jones ensured McCarthy's personal and pitiful run without a top-flight win at the ground extended to 20 games.

McCarthy was all smiles in the tunnel before the game, signing autographs for the home followers, some perhaps too young to remember what happened three years ago. The Yorkshireman was sacked by Sunderland three quarters of the way through the 2005/06 season after guiding the club to just two league wins. They were eventually relegated with only 15 points. Things did not start well for McCarthy as Sunderland were awarded a debatable penalty.

Segundo Castillo, the Wolves midfielder, appeared to have got a touch on the ball before Bent tumbled over his outstretched leg. However, the referee Lee Mason was not swayed by the protests of innocence from Castillo and the Wolves players. Bent could not have been more accurate with his placement, burying it deep into the corner past Wayne Hennessy's outstretched right hand. It rounded off a busy first nine minutes for Bent. Clattered in the opening seconds, he was writhing on the floor when Kevin Doyle went on a dangerous run, but the Wolves striker's low effort flashed wide.

Bent recovered and when Hennessy's headed clearance dropped to him 20 yards out, the England striker's volley was high and wide. Steve Bruce, the Sunderland manager, said he had been concerned by how quickly Bent would settle on Wearside following his troubled time at Tottenham. But the frontman has revelled in the backing from Bruce since his summer move with seven goals in seven games. The Wolves striker Andy Keogh was inches away from connecting in the 25th minute after Dave Edwards flicked on a left-wing cross from Matt Jarvis towards the goal.

The Sunderland keeper Craig Gordon did not have a first-half save to make with a Doyle header, dropping just wide. His counterpart Hennessy did, clawing away a Jones effort and then standing tall as Bent tried to lob him. The second-half could not have started in more explosive and entertaining fashion. Two minutes had gone when Bent again went down in the box. This time there was no doubt as Christophe Berra's challenge was reckless.

It was Jones who stepped up to take the kick and sent Hennessy the wrong way. But in the mould of McCarthy himself, Wolves are fighters and amazingly hauled themselves level in the space of eight minutes. Berra made amends with a foray forward into the box and fired a shot that Gordon could only push on to the back pedalling John Mensah and into the net. Sunderland then had only themselves to blame for the equaliser when Kieran Richardson's backpass was hopelessly misdirected and Gordon had to scramble back to make a save, conceding a free-kick just six yards out.

After Karl Henry's effort had been blocked, Doyle lashed in the rebound with his left foot. Sunderland, though, did not wallow in self pity and a gem from Jones, driving in a low shot from 20 yards, and Michael Turner's thumping header left McCarthy and Wolves crestfallen. Bent grabbed his second with a deflected strike off Michael Mancienne just before the end. akhan@thenational.ae