Sunderland AFC's winter of discontent has stretched well into the spring, as their chances of avoiding a double relegation down to League One took another serious blow with the 2-0 defeat to Preston North End.
It was a slow start to the proceedings before both sides had good opportunties to score through Joel Asoro and Tom Barkhuizen respectively, though it was the North Western side that seemed the most dangerous it was the home side with the half-chances through Bryan Oviedo and Adam Matthews but to no avail.
The Lilywhites came flying out of the traps in the second period with Sean Maguire opening the scoring in the 50th minute, the home side were then reduced to ten with Jake Clarke-Salter's dismissal before Callum Robinson rounded off the misery with the second. Kazenga LuaLua looked to resusitate The Black Cats with his decent set pice opportunity but damage had already been well and truly dealt.
The snowy Stadium of Light played host to two sides at opposites of the Championship spectrum with the visitors couting themselves as one of the outsiders for a possible play-off place, while the home side continued their battle against a double relegation with their fate still very much in their hands.
Play was slow to begin with as the blizzards came by, but either side could have quite easily found themselves ahead inside a minute of eachother. Ovie Ejaria looked to kick The Black Cats into gear as he broke upfield managing to get the pass off before being taken down, Asoro certainly had the pace to take it on as he looked to take it around Chris Maxwell but he got enough on it to take it behind.
The Lilywhites broke upfield almost instantaneously for a chance of their own, Robinson continued to trouble the home defence as he threaded a great ball into the feet of Barkhuizen but Lee Camp was quickly off his line to thwart the danger.
Chris Coleman's side continud to grow in cofidence as the half went on with the duo of Asoro and Josh Maja looking too hot to handle, Maja looked to cause havoc on the half hour mark as he played it out wide to Oviedo. The full-back had options in the area woith Maja creeping around the near post but his drilled effort rolled right into the arms of Maxwell.
Matthews looked to finish the half off right for Coleman's boys as he did well to gain possession before cutting inside, the full-back still had a lot to do but looked to catch out Maxwell with the outside of the boot but it is straight into the keepers arms.
Beginning of the misery
Alex Neil will have beaten it into his players the importance of the fixture in terms of their promotion ambitions, and it seemed to do the trick as they drew first blood five minutes after the restart.
The excellence of Paul Gallagher's free-kick was matched by the stupidity of Sunderland's defending, as Maguire will have felt the luck of the Irish was on his side as he ran unopposed to the back post to head home his fifth goal in four games.
Going from bad, to so much worse
Many home fans left in the ground will have feared the snowball effect like many times over the years at the Stadium of Light, and they were once again disappointed as they were reduced to ten men.
Clarke-Salter had suffered from the off having picked up a knock in the early proceedings, but he proved clueless as he grappled Alan Browne to the floor giving Darrem Bond no choice but to hand Coleman the sixth dismissal of his tenure.
The misery certainly didn't stop there as they conceded yet another needless goal, Preston couldn't believe their luck as Barkhuizen was granted all the time needed to pick out the cross where Robinson was waiting to cap off a great performance with the free header from point blank range.
LuaLua looked to inject some life back into a stadium that had long being deserted, as he lined up a free-kick with the decent effort looking towards the top corner but Maxwell had it covered the full way.