Sunderland ready to test Derby theory

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The Independent Online
Grimsby Town 0 Sunderland 4

Promotion-chasing Sunderland cut Derby's lead at the top of the First Division to six points after destroying Grimsby yesterday. Peter Reid's side were just 1-0 up at the break but crashed in three goals in the last 17 minutes to reinforce their Premiership claims.

Sunderland took a 34th-minute lead when a terrible mix-up in the Grimsby defence allowed Kevin Ball to tap in from a yard out.

They went 2-0 up after 73 minutes when the Grimsby centre-back Vance Warner and his goalkeeper Paul Crichton collided with each other to leave Craig Russell also with a simple tap- in.

Phil Gray's speculative 30-yarder caught Crichton off his line in the 89th minute and then the substitute Michael Bridges drove home the fourth during injury time.

Sunderland travel to Derby this Saturday intent on undermining Jim Smith's belief that his team can remain unbeaten for the rest of the season.

The Rams have not lost in 19 League games since a 5-1 thrashing at Tranmere in November. "Some of the players have been talking about us staying unbeaten until the end of the season," said Smith after 3-2 home victory against Huddersfield on Saturday. "That's a nice ambition but I don't know if it's realistic."

Goals: Ball (34) 0-1; Russell (73) 0-2; P Gray (89) 0-3; Bridges (90) 0-4.

Grimsby: Crichton; McDermott, Croft, Warner, Lever, Groves, Childs (Laws, 69), Butler, Forrester (Woods, 69), Livingstone, Southall. Substitute not used: Shakespeare.

Sunderland: Given; Kubicki, Scott, Bracewell, Ball, Melville, M Gray, Ord, Russell (Bridges, 88), Gray, Agnew (Hall, 63). Substitute not used: Howey.

Referee: M E Pierce (Portsmouth).

Booked: Grimsby: Warner; Sunderland: Kubicki, Ball.

Man of the match: P Gray.

Attendance: 5,318.