James McClean was in top form this afternoon.
Sunderland put to bed the bad performance against Blackburn Rovers midweek with a thumping 3-1 win over Queens Park Rangers at the Stadium Of Light this afternoon, proving that horrible night at Ewood Park was nothing more than a blip.
Join us as we recap the action in it's entirety, and dish out some player ratings and other thoughts on the game...
Martin O'Neill once again made changes ahead of the FA Cup replay with Everton by leaving out completely Phil Bardsley, who took a battering at Goodison Park a week ago, and Sebastian Larsson who has been a little out of sorts lately.
John O'Shea returned to captain the side and fill in for Bardsley at right-back, while Jack Colback started in the middle, moving Craig Gardner to the wing. Stephane Sessegnon of course returned from his recent suspension, replacing Fraizer Campbell.
There was quite a quiet opening to the game, taking until the 13th minute for any notable action. This being when Sessegnon had a good run down the left hand side, playing in a low cross for Jack Colback who just couldn't make a good connection with the ball and scuffed it slowly wide.
A minute later however Colback did make a clean contact with the ball. A cross field pass was nodded back into the danger zone and the path of Colback, who adjusted his body well, but his strike could only find the outside of Paddy Kenny's post.
Sessegnon was next to apply some pressure on goal, but like Colback earlier he could only scuff wide when he had time to do better.
The most trouble Paddy Kenny actually had for best part of 40 minutes was given by himself. Falling innocuously taking a goal kick, it looked bad for the stodgy stopper, but he was able to continue after a hefty delay.
Injury drama wasn't limited to just the visitors, as John O'Shea left the game in the 26th minute with a calf injury, replaced by Fraizer Campbell, and in turn shifting Craig Gardner to right-back. Hopefully it isn't too serious, and he can play in the upcoming cup game.
Adel Taarabt fired a freekick straight into the wall from a decent position, however it was the aftermath which was much more interesting, and embarrassing for Rangers striker Bobby Zamora. He and Sotirios Kyrgiakos got in a bit of a tussle leading to both going down. Zamora felt he was fouled, the Greek that he dived, and there was a coming together. Despite the two not even touching heads, easily 6 inches between the two heads, Zamora seemed to feel something and reacted like he'd been headbutted.... Trust me Bobby, you'd have known about it if the Hellenic Hardman had done you.
The biggest moment of the half though was of course Nicklas Bendtner's opening goal, and a fairly simple one it was. McClean gets the cross in under little to no pressure, the Danish striker rose the highest and nodded into the bottom corner giving Sunderland a deserved and comfortable looking half-time lead.
The second half was all Sunderland, barring Taye Taiwo's freekick of course as chance after chance rained down on the QPR goal.
Starting almost immediately with David Vaughan's lash over the bar, swiftly followed with an absolute bullet of a freekick smashing off the underside of the crossbar in a frenetic start to the second period.
Before you could even catch your breath there was further drama as in his return to the Stadium Of Light, Djibril Cisse was shown a straight red card fora reckless lunge on Fraizer Campbell. Bad tackle, two footed, and in no way did he have any control over what he was doing. There was a mild ripple of applause from the home fans for the former hero.
With the man advantage we pressed ahead for a goal which would put the game beyond doubt. Sessegnon, lively in his comeback, turned, ran, and fired over the bar. A Gardner cross caused all kinds of trouble in the area but McClean couldn't finish.
McClean made no mistake however a moment later when he put the game beyond doubt with our second goal. Nedum Onuhoa messed up a headed clearance, which was seized upon by McClean. The Irishman made his way into the area, and after initially having his shot blocked by Anton Ferdinand, he made no mistake on the rebound.
It wasn't long before it was 3-0 either. When Campbell intercepted a back pass the crowd were on their feet, and with such backing the players seemed to raise their game. Campbell pressured Onuoha near his own area, with the ball breaking to Bendtner. One touch down the line for Vaughan, who found the only man in the box, Stephane Sessegnon, to tap in from six yards out.
Taye Taiwo pulled a goal back with a stunning freekick on 74 minutes, getting the ball up and down over the wall and into the top corner with some style, but it was too little too late as no storm of note came to weather.
James McClean showed some excellent skills to get down the line and eventually have Bendtner loop a header on to the top of the net, but after that it was all quite academic as our three goals lead to all three points in a very competent display.
Team (Ratings in brackets)
Starting XI: Mignolet (6), O'Shea (6), Turner (6), Kyrgiakos (6), Bridge (7), Gardner (7), Colback (7), Vaughan (7), McClean (8), Sessegnon (7), Bendtner (7)
Subs Used: Campbell (7), Meyler (6), Elmohamady (6)
Man Of The Match: James McClean - McClean was excellent this afternoon, and fully at the heart of anything and everything positive for us. Crosses seemed to find their man every time, he tracked back well, and was fully deserving of his goal. All our forward players did well, but McClean was the pick of the bunch for me.
And there we are, back to being the Sunderland we've come to know and love under Martin O'Neill with a highly confident and competent performance.
The lads seemed in top form, and despite missing an entire right hand side, we didn't really miss a beat. When Bardsley and Larsson come back, we're sure to only get even better. Sessegnon was excellent in his return too, and is sure to be starting against Everton, but you do wonder about Lee Cattermole as both Colback and Vaughan had good games. Thankfully it's all a happy headache.
The only bad point to come out of the game was the injury to John O'Shea, but hopefully that's nothing too serious as he left the pitch under his own strength.
Up to 8th now, and only 2 points behind Liverpool. Things are looking very good right now.
Ha'way The Lads.