Russell restores the Roker roar

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The Independent Online
Sunderland 1 Ipswich Town 0

Sunderland staggered back on to the Premiership trail last night, surviving a sustained Ipswich onslaught to record only their second win since early December. It was enough to nudge the Wearsiders nearer to an automatic promotion place, although Ipswich will wonder how so many goal attempts produced so little reward

The conspiracy theory doing the rounds at Roker Park suggests Sunderland do not actually want to go up this season, with their new stadium yet to leave the drawing board and still another 18 months away from opening for business.

Certainly, Peter Reid's side had done their best to blow their chances in the 10 weeks since the 6-0 mauling of Millwall which had taken them to the top of the First Division.

The nine subsequent League games had yielded just one victory, and the early indications were that match number 10 since that rare sight of the summit would also be unproductive.

Slicing through midfield with ridiculous ease, Ipswich created half a dozen decent chances inside the first 20 minutes. Sunderland's goalkeeper, Shay Given, beginning his second month on loan from Blackburn Rovers, kept out the best of them - a long-range drive from Ian Marshall and a swift shot on the turn by Mick Stockwell.

All the more galling, then, for the Ipswich manager, George Burley, that his old club should survive that battering and undeservedly sneak a 37th- minute lead through Craig Russell.

Paul Bracewell's upfield punt owed little to forward planning, but Lee Howey headed on and Russell nipped in to poke home his first League goal since the quartet he collected in that Millwall rout.

The Ipswich captain, Tony Mowbray, who had hobbled off in the closing stages of the first period, did not reappear for the second, and before long a gap accordingly appeared at the heart of the visitors' defence.

Michael Gray made straight for it, and although his 25-yarder swerved late it was well covered by Richard Wright, at 18 the younger of the two teenage goalkeepers on show.

Sunderland (4-4-2): Given; Kubicki, Melville, Ord, Hall; Cooke, Ball, Bracewell, Michael Gray; Howey, Russell. Substitutes not used: P Gray, Bridges, Aiston.

Ipswich (4-4-2): Wright; Uhlenbeek, Mowbray (Vaughan, h-t), Thomsen, Taricco; Stockwell, Sedgley, Mason, Milton; Scowcroft, Marshall (Slater, 86). Substitute not used: Gregory.

Referee: W Burns (Scarborough).