Martin O'Neill celebrated a year in charge at Sunderland with an important victory over Reading that lifts the Black Cats out of the relegation zone.

O'Neill's side got the best possible start when James McClean fired in on the turn with just three minutes gone.

And they strengthened their grip on the game when Steven Fletcher back-heeled Danny Rose's cross in from eight yards.

Martin O'Neill says Sunderland's win over Reading is 'a relief'

Sunderland's dominance continued and Stephane Sessegnon's finish added a fitting late flourish to their night.

Exactly a year ago, O'Neill oversaw a 2-1 home win over Blackburn in his first game as Sunderland boss - the first of seven victories in 10 games that convinced Black Cats fans they had found the ideal man to restore their flagging fortunes.

The general feeling at the Stadium of Light in the aftermath of this result - just a fifth win in 30 games - will be less one of unbridled optimism and more one of relief as their side claimed just a second home league win of the season to move up to 15th in the table.

However, the Sunderland support will also take heart from a performance that showcased the kind of desire and positivity their side have been lacking over a 10-month period that has left them little better off now in terms of league position than they were 365 days ago.

"Brian McDermott will be very concerned. His team were very lacklustre and didn't threaten until the last 10 minutes. 3-0 is a deserved result, with Sunderland by far the better team. It was that early goal that was key, relieving the pressure on the team and the manager."

O'Neill's side demonstrated attacking intent from the off - something they were rewarded for in the third minute with McClean's neat finish from just inside the box after Royals keeper Adam Federici had punched away Adam Johnson's corner - and maintained their commitment to the cause during the rare periods Reading came back into the contest.

Fletcher's seventh goal of the season - an improvised finish as Rose's cross reached him with his back to goal - proved to be the game's decisive moment as it provided the home side with a lead too great to be overhauled by an industrious but blunt Reading side.

The game could have been over as a contest at the break had Sebastian Larsson or Sessegnon shown a touch more accuracy with their shooting from range or Fletcher been able to keep his header from a corner down.

It could have been a different story had Alex Pearce not put his shot from close range past the post with the score at 1-0 or had Nicky Shorey not been denied by Simon Mignolet with a 20-yard free-kick in the second half that would have set home nerves jangling.

Brian McDermott says Reading 'have to stick together'

The visitors only other significant chance came in the closing stages when Noel Hunt's close-range header from a corner was clawed away by the Sunderland keeper just minutes before Sessegnon ran clear of the Royals defence and rounded Federici before finishing.

Instead, Royals boss Brian McDermott is left to reflect on a fifth straight league defeat and a return of just two points from nine away games that leaves his side six points from safety.

Reading chairman John Madejski has already rejected as "totally absurd" the suggestions that McDermott will be sacked but unless the 51-year-old unearths some quality to match his side's effort he will be overseeing their return to the Championship in May.

Thanks in part to their superior budget, Sunderland possess the requisite talent to keep them in this division but if O'Neill is to make more progress in his second year than his first the Black Cats board may need to fulfil his wish for further additions in January.

Lineup, Bookings (3) & Substitutions (4)

Sunderland

  • 22 Mignolet
  • 16 O'Shea
  • 24 Cuellar
  • 03 Rose Booked (Vaughan - 69' )
  • 07 Larsson
  • 08 Gardner
  • 14 Colback
  • 21 Johnson (Bardsley - 46' )
  • 23 McClean
  • 28 Sessegnon
  • 26 Fletcher Booked

Substitutes

  • 20 Westwood
  • 02 Bardsley (Bramble - 75' )
  • 12 Kilgallon
  • 19 Bramble
  • 15 Vaughan
  • 09 Campbell
  • 10 Wickham

Reading

  • 01 Federici
  • 03 Shorey
  • 05 Pearce
  • 06 Mariappa Booked
  • 24 Cummings
  • 08 Leigertwood
  • 11 McAnuff
  • 16 Tabb
  • 09 Le Fondre
  • 10 Hunt
  • 12 McCleary (Samuel - 72' )

Substitutes

  • 41 Taylor
  • 02 Gunter
  • 17 Gorkss
  • 23 Harte
  • 26 Gunnarsson
  • 37 Obita
  • 44 Samuel
Ref: Swarbrick
Att: 37,723

Match Stats

Shots

16 12

On target

11 5

Corners

6 8

Fouls

8 11

Live Text Commentary

90:00 +5:14 Full time

Full Time The game is over, as the referee blows his whistle.

90:00 +4:46

Shot by James McClean. Adam Federici makes a save.

90:00 +4:28

Shaun Cummings sends in a cross, clearance by Titus Bramble.

90:00 +3:13

Assist on the goal came from Carlos Cuellar.

90:00 +3:13 Goal scored

Goal! - Stephane Sessegnon - Sunderland 3 - 0 Reading Stephane Sessegnon fires in a goal from inside the penalty box low into the middle of the goal. Sunderland 3-0 Reading.

90:00 +2:41

Corner taken short by James McClean.

90:00 +1:22

Jay Tabb challenges Craig Gardner unfairly and gives away a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.

90:00 +0:55

Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Shaun Cummings, Titus Bramble manages to make a clearance.

90:00 +0:45

The ball is swung over by Noel Hunt, clearance by Titus Bramble.

89:34

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Jay Tabb by Stephane Sessegnon. Nicky Shorey takes the free kick.

89:21

The ball is sent over by Shaun Cummings, clearance made by Jack Colback.

88:53

Inswinging corner taken by Shaun Cummings from the left by-line, clearance made by Steven Fletcher.

88:31

Corner taken left-footed by Nicky Shorey. The ball is delivered by Jay Tabb, Titus Bramble makes a clearance.

87:57

Nicky Shorey takes a inswinging corner from the right by-line to the near post, Noel Hunt takes a shot. Save by Simon Mignolet.

87:46

Centre by Jobi McAnuff, clearance by David Vaughan.

85:04

Nicky Shorey sends in a cross, Effort from deep inside the area by Adam Le Fondre misses to the right of the target.

84:29

Jack Colback concedes a free kick for a foul on Jobi McAnuff. Jobi McAnuff restarts play with the free kick.

83:47

Centre by James McClean, Adam Federici makes a save.

81:33

Shot from 20 yards by Craig Gardner. Save by Adam Federici.

81:18

The ball is crossed by Nicky Shorey, Titus Bramble manages to make a clearance.

80:20

Free kick awarded for a foul by Craig Gardner on Noel Hunt. Adrian Mariappa takes the free kick.

78:17

The assistant referee flags for offside against James McClean. Adam Federici takes the indirect free kick.

77:24

James McClean takes a shot. Save by Adam Federici.

76:25

Stephane Sessegnon is caught offside. Adam Federici restarts play with the free kick.

72:42

The free kick is swung in right-footed by Sebastian Larsson, Noel Hunt makes a clearance. Titus Bramble takes a shot. Nicky Shorey manages to make a clearance.

72:42 Substitution

Substitution Titus Bramble comes on in place of Phil Bardsley.

72:42

Nicky Shorey challenges Stephane Sessegnon unfairly and gives away a free kick.

72:10

Indirect free kick taken by Adam Federici.

72:10 Booking

Booking Steven Fletcher goes into the referee's book.

71:55

Steven Fletcher is ruled offside.

71:13

Jack Colback takes the free kick.

71:13 Substitution

Substitution Dominic Samuel on for Garath McCleary.

71:13

David Vaughan fouled by Adam Le Fondre, the ref awards a free kick.

68:49 Substitution

Substitution David Vaughan replaces Danny Rose.

68:23

Stephane Sessegnon takes a shot. Save by Adam Federici.

67:56

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Danny Rose by Noel Hunt. Free kick taken by Simon Mignolet.

66:45

The ball is swung over by Jobi McAnuff, save by Simon Mignolet.

65:11

Inswinging corner taken by Sebastian Larsson, Mikele Leigertwood manages to make a clearance.

65:00

The ball is delivered by Danny Rose, clearance made by Adrian Mariappa.

63:45

Foul by Garath McCleary on Danny Rose, free kick awarded. Carlos Cuellar takes the free kick.

62:48

Mikele Leigertwood challenges Jack Colback unfairly and gives away a free kick. Carlos Cuellar restarts play with the free kick.

62:07

Danny Rose crosses the ball, clearance made by Garath McCleary.

59:49

The ball is sent over by Garath McCleary.

59:02

The ball is crossed by Jay Tabb, save made by Simon Mignolet.

58:14

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Jay Tabb by Stephane Sessegnon. Free kick crossed left-footed by Nicky Shorey from left channel, clearance by John O'Shea.

55:15

The ball is swung over by Steven Fletcher.

53:23

Corner taken left-footed by Nicky Shorey to the near post, Adrian Mariappa produces a header from deep inside the six-yard box which goes wide of the right-hand post.

52:29

Shot comes in from Nicky Shorey from the free kick, save by Simon Mignolet.

52:29 Booking

Booking Danny Rose goes into the book.

52:21

Danny Rose challenges Jobi McAnuff unfairly and gives away a free kick.

51:31

Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Nicky Shorey from the right by-line to the near post, clearance made by Phil Bardsley.

51:06

The ball is swung over by Sebastian Larsson, save made by Adam Federici.

50:52

A cross is delivered by James McClean.

48:11

Shot on goal by Noel Hunt from inside the box goes harmlessly over the target.

45:01

The referee starts the second half.

45:01 Substitution

Substitution Adam Johnson goes off and Phil Bardsley comes on.

45:00 +3:12 Half time

Half Time The first half comes to an end.

45:00 +2:41

Noel Hunt crosses the ball, Headed effort from deep inside the area by Jobi McAnuff misses to the left of the goal.

45:00 +2:17

Noel Hunt takes a shot. Danny Rose gets a block in.

45:00 +1:47

Jobi McAnuff takes a shot. Blocked by Steven Fletcher.

45:00 +1:13

Inswinging corner taken by Nicky Shorey, John O'Shea makes a clearance.

45:00 +0:18

The ball is sent over by Garath McCleary.

43:31

Centre by Jack Colback, Alex Pearce makes a clearance.

42:18

Inswinging corner taken by Adam Johnson from the right by-line played to the near post, Header from close in by Steven Fletcher misses to the right of the goal.

38:39

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Adam Johnson by Jobi McAnuff. Craig Gardner restarts play with the free kick.

36:56

Craig Gardner concedes a free kick for a foul on Adam Le Fondre. Free kick crossed by Jobi McAnuff, James McClean makes a clearance.

36:21

Inswinging corner taken right-footed by Sebastian Larsson, Adam Federici makes a save.

36:07

James McClean takes a shot. Blocked by Shaun Cummings.

32:19

The ball is crossed by Garath McCleary, clearance made by John O'Shea. Shot from just outside the area by Jay Tabb goes over the bar.

30:40

The ball is crossed by Jobi McAnuff, clearance made by Carlos Cuellar.

30:25

Jobi McAnuff produces a cross, Carlos Cuellar manages to make a clearance.

27:54

The assist for the goal came from Danny Rose.

27:54 Goal scored

Goal! - Steven Fletcher - Sunderland 2 - 0 Reading Steven Fletcher gets on the score sheet with a goal from inside the penalty area to the bottom left corner of the goal. Sunderland 2-0 Reading.

27:37

Centre by Stephane Sessegnon, clearance made by Alex Pearce.

25:18

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Craig Gardner by Noel Hunt. Sebastian Larsson restarts play with the free kick.

22:47

The ball is swung over by James McClean.

21:46

Effort from the edge of the penalty box by Stephane Sessegnon goes wide of the right-hand upright.

21:35

Stephane Sessegnon takes a shot. Alex Pearce gets a block in.

21:08

Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Carlos Cuellar by Noel Hunt. Carlos Cuellar restarts play with the free kick.

20:26

Steven Fletcher is adjudged to have handled the ball. Nicky Shorey takes the direct free kick.

19:28

The ball is delivered by Jobi McAnuff.

18:25

The ball is sent over by Jobi McAnuff, clearance by John O'Shea.

17:25

Foul by Sebastian Larsson on Noel Hunt, free kick awarded. Free kick crossed by Jobi McAnuff, Carlos Cuellar makes a clearance.

15:51

Steven Fletcher is penalised for handball and concedes a free kick. Direct free kick taken by Adam Federici.

15:01

Effort from 12 yards by Adam Le Fondre. John O'Shea gets a block in.

14:43

The ball is delivered by Nicky Shorey, Craig Gardner makes a clearance.

12:48

Free kick crossed left-footed by Adam Johnson from right wing.

12:48 Booking

Booking Adrian Mariappa is shown a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.

12:42

Adrian Mariappa challenges Steven Fletcher unfairly and gives away a free kick.

12:00

The assistant referee signals for offside against Noel Hunt. Simon Mignolet restarts play with the free kick.

11:06

Left-footed shot by Adam Johnson.

10:09

Craig Gardner fouled by Jobi McAnuff, the ref awards a free kick. Craig Gardner takes the free kick.

7:23

Foul by Danny Rose on Garath McCleary, free kick awarded. Centre by Nicky Shorey, Effort from inside the six-yard box by Alex Pearce goes wide right of the target.

6:23

Effort from the edge of the area by Adam Johnson goes wide of the right-hand post.

6:08

Stephane Sessegnon takes a shot. Adrian Mariappa gets a block in.

5:07

Corner taken right-footed by Sebastian Larsson from the left by-line to the near post, clearance by Noel Hunt.

4:54

Sebastian Larsson takes a shot. Adam Federici makes a save.

3:56

Nicky Shorey takes a shot. Blocked by John O'Shea. Corner taken by Jobi McAnuff from the left by-line, clearance made by John O'Shea.

2:29

Adam Johnson provided the assist for the goal.

2:29 Goal scored

Goal! - James McClean - Sunderland 1 - 0 Reading James McClean grabs a goal from just inside the penalty area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Sunderland 1-0 Reading.

2:14

Adam Johnson takes the inswinging corner, Adam Federici makes a save.

1:29

The referee gives a free kick against Adam Le Fondre for handball. Carlos Cuellar takes the free kick.

0:00

The referee gets the game underway.

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