Lee Johnson was delighted to finish an excellent week for Sunderland with a 3-0 win over a Burton side who finished with 10 men after the second-half dismissal of left-back Josh Earl.
The Black Cats secured a trip to Wembley for the EFL Trophy final for the second time in three years on Wednesday with a penalty shootout victory over Lincoln.
And the following day Kyril Louis-Dreyfus became the new chairman of Sunderland after his takeover of the club was approved by the EFL.
Goals from Grant Leadbitter, Lynden Gooch and Charlie Wyke sent the Black Cats back into the play-off places as the Brewers faced an uphill task after Earl was sent off for a second yellow card following a touchline spat with Aiden O’Brien.
“To be honest I was worried about this one,” admitted Black Cats boss Johnson. “The fact they were in good form with a new manager and us changing our shape even though we did that for the right reasons.”
Johnson was forced to alter his set-up following a spate of defensive injuries that left him with only one fit centre-half.
Sunderland’s 3-4-3 formation gave Burton plenty of problems from the off and after Leadbitter had fired in on six minutes, Gooch increased Johnson’s delight with a well-taken second, firing in off the underside of the bar.
He added: “On the ball it’s a great shape and it suits us and I think it definitely caused them problems in the first half with all the interplay we had with our front players.”
Johnson was especially happy with the performance of Gooch.
“He’s a pocket dynamo isn’t he?” said the former Bristol City boss. “With Aiden O’Brien making those out-to-in runs Goochy was the perfect player if you could build one for that role, which was what we wanted today.
“We have used him and Luke O’Nien in a number of different positions already and I haven’t had that many games yet.
“I am very happy with those two but very happy with the whole squad today because it was a really professional performance and even in the second half we had to weather a bit of a storm.”
Johnson was wary of Burton’s second-half response but Wyke sealed matters with a third goal late on, following the sending-off of Earl.
He added: “Today we gained control with our energy but then the sending off became pivotal and then it was pretty much game over once we got the third.”
For Burton boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink it was a tough day as his side fell behind early on and struggled to get back into the game.
“We didn’t start well and to concede from a second phase free-kick early on is disappointing,” Hasselbaink said.
“The second goal is second phase from a corner. Even though we were not at the races in the first half an hour those set pieces need to be defended better.”
Hasselbaink saw encouraging signs early in the second half but Earl’s dismissal essentially ended the game as a contest.
He said: “We started the second half really well. I changed the system because their system meant we could not get a foothold in the game.
“We looked better but then Josh gets a second yellow card and I can’t defend him on that. Then it becomes difficult playing against a Sunderland team when we only have 10 men.
“It was always going to be hard playing against Sunderland. We lose 3-0 and I am disappointed because I expect a lot more from the game – but it is not a shame to lose 3-0 to them.”
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