Sunderland have had a dream start to the 2021/22 campaign with back-to-back wins under Lee Johnson’s stewardship. After beating Wigan 2-1 on the opening day of the League One season, the Black Cats progressed through to the next round of the League Cup with a 2-1 win over Port Vale on Tuesday night.
Josh Hawkes and Aiden O’Brien scored the goals for Sunderland to put them 2-0 up in the second half, with Jamie Proctor pulling one back for Vale with just over 20 minutes to go. Johnson’s side were able to see out the match without any major drama, sealing their spot in the draw for the second round.
Whilst attention may have been drawn to debutant Alex Pritchard’s performance, with an assist for the ex-Norwich playmaker, it was Hawkes who was able to steal the show on the night. Pritchard put in a good display, but Hawkes was outstanding throughout and took his goal brilliantly.
He latched onto the ball in the left-hand side of the box and clinically dispatched his shot into the far corner, despite the best efforts of the goalkeeper and a defender racing to the goal line. It was not an easy chance by any stretch and his sharp finish is sure to have caught a few eyes in the dugout, with Sunderland facing MK Dons away from home on Saturday.
“Showed his end product with one fine finish and one effort that drifted just wide of the far post from the best part of 25 yards. Has real quality when he gets sight of goal.”
SofaScore seemingly agreed with Smith’s assessment, as they also rated Hawkes as a 7.0/10 for his display. He completed 85% (22/26) of his passes in the game – compared to Pritchard’s 70% – which shows that he was reliable on the ball and able to find a teammate the majority of the time – rather than being wasteful in possession and causing his team to be hit on the counter-attack.
The dynamo was able to marry an impressive all-around showing with an end product to make the most of his performance. He was able to offer a threat and be a solid option for Sunderland on the ball, whilst also being able to find the back of the net when presented with the opportunity.
Johnson will be delighted with his showing.
AND in other news, Sunderland dealt blow in pursuit of second-tier striker