Football: Phillips flourish secures the title

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The Independent Online
Barnsley 1 Sunderland 3

PETER REID began preparing Sunderland for the Premiership and the real world after clinching the Nationwide First Division championship in the smooth style that has become their trademark.

Too good for Barnsley, too good for the rest of this desperately inadequate division, they secured the title for the second time in three years on the strength of goals from Nick Summerbee, Lee Clark and Kevin Phillips.

So light was their mood that they did not even appear to mind that an old refereeing foe, Paul Danson, had been placed in charge of this momentous affair. How times have changed. Earlier this season Sunderland asked the Football Association to remove the Leicester official from their Cup tie at Lincoln, and controversially got their way.

Barnsley hold the distinction of being the only First Division side this season to inflict a home defeat on the champions, but there was never any real indication that they were capable of helping themselves to a double. Far from taking their foot off the pedal, Sunderland seemed to have it pressed all the more firmly to the floor in the first half.

While it took them almost 45 minutes to score their first, it was not because Barnsley, sponsored for the night by Group Four, adopted any high security defensive measures.

Indeed it took less than five minutes for their defence to be comprehensively breached by an impressive surge of pace from Phillips. Inexplicably for a man who is Sunderland's leading scorer, he drove wide of an upright.

That, though, set the scene for Sunderland's night of celebration. Phillips, looking ever dangerous, Barnsley forever cast as the retrievers. Clark kept everything ticking over in midfield alongside his captain and enforcer, Kevin Ball, which is why after a series of near-misses their opening goal simply had to materialise. Niall Quinn flicked on a long ball from Michael Gray and Summerbee drove in his third goal of the season.

Some catastrophic defending let in Clark to make it 2-0 in the 63rd minute and only when the game was lost did Barnsley show interest in winning it, Mike Sheron volleying in a Craig Hignett corner after 85 minutes. However, in stoppage time they were again put in their place as Phillips curled in a wonderful goal, his 23rd of the league campaign.

Barnsley (3-4-1-2): Bullock; De Zeeuw, Moses, Jones; Eaden, Richardson (Vander Laan, 90), Pirri (M Bullock, 90), Sheridan (Tinkler, h-t); Hignett; Dyer, Sheron.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Sorensen; Makin, Melville, Butler, Gray; Summerbee, Clark, Ball, Johnston; Quinn, Phillips. Substitutes not used: Craddock, Holloway, Dichio.

Referee: P Danson (Leicester).