Sunderland leap up standings
Kenwyne Jones (Gallo Images)
Sunderland - Sunderland continued their push towards the more respectable top half of the English Premier League with a well-fought 2-0 win over luckless Stoke City on Saturday.
Trinidad and Tobago forward Kenwyne Jones was pivotal on a day that saw Stoke still without a win away from home, the 24-year-old forward scoring the opener late in the second half and providing the pass for David Healy's goal in injury time.
If the first 70 odd minutes of the game was short on goals, it wasn't short of drama - with Stoke losing three players to injury, another to a red card and Sunderland having claims for a convincing penalty waved away.
Sunderland's best chance of the first half came seven minutes before half time when Steed Malbranque got on the end of a cross from Andy Reid to direct his header towards goal.
Malbranque's effort beat Stoke keeper Thomas Sorensen but the ball stayed in play thanks, apparently, to the hand of Danny Pugh with the referee waving play-on.
Pugh's gesture was indicative of the comparatively disastrous first half endured by the visitors, who had used up all three substitutes inside the first half hour.
In the 18th minute Pugh came on to replace the injured Andy Wilkinson. Seven minutes later Ryan Shawcross hobbled off the park having appeared to pull a muscle minutes earlier trying to outpace Djibril Cisse to the ball. He was replaced by Ibrahim Sonko.
Less than five minutes later Ricardo Fuller appeared to dislocate his shoulder under a challenge in the box from Danny Collins and was replaced by Henri Camara.
Injuries aside, Sunderland arguably had the lion's share of the first half chances.
The Black Cats came close to scoring inside the first 10 minutes when a left foot shot from Jones brought a good save from Sorensen, with Cisse firing the rebound high and wide.
Two minutes later an audacious overhead kick from Richard Cresswell shaved the post of Sunderland keeper Marton Fulop
If Sunderland felt hard done by over the missed opportunity to score from the spot in the 38th minute, justice was soon done.
Eighteen minutes into a rather scrappy second half, Stoke's Matthew Etherington was given a straight red card for kicking out at Collins, who was cautioned for his role in the incident.
Sunderland spoiled another good chance from Glenn Whelan's resultant free kick, Camara firing the ball far too high from only eight yards out.
The hosts, however, began to increase the pressure and Cisse came close to providing the opener in the 71st minute, firing a right-foot volley narrowly wide of Sorensen's post.
Seven minutes later Sunderland finally opened the scoring - a rather soft header from Jones breaking the deadlock.
In the fourth minute of injury time Jones, who recently committed his future to club after a big-money offer from Tottenham, forced his way into the box before unselfishly squaring for Healy, who beat Sorensen easily.